Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek Reflection Eternal

While lyricist Talib Kweli and producer DJ Hi-Tek are already well-respected in their respective fields, Reflection Eternal (once the group name of this duo) ranks as a huge coming out party that finally shows off all of their skills. Hi-Tek's beats for various underground acts has put his name on the lips of many heads and here he puts the full range of his talent on view. Aside from the cameo production input from jazz musician Weldon Irvine and nasty funk purveyor Rick James (really), Cincinnati-bred Hi-Tek holds down all 20 tracks, commanding minimalist body rock ("Down For The Count," with Rah Digga and Xzibit) to elegant soulful arrangements. With this fertile ground and the working title for the album having been Train of Thought, Kweli employs a variety of tactics to get the unconverted to listen. On past tracks, such as "2000 Seasons" and his collaborations with Black Star, things may have been too complex for some and perhaps cognisant of this, Kweli sometimes gets downright rudimentary ("This Means You," with Mos Def) or cloaks his smarts in the guise of club bangers ("Move Something"). These aren't concessions, though - they add to the mix as Kweli shrewdly infuses his battle rhymes with incisive commentary. "These cats drink champagne/And toast death and pain/Like slaves on a ship talkin' bout who got the flyest chain," he says on "Africa Dream," while his contemplative side continues to flourish on breathtaking entries "For Women" and "Good Mourning." Clearly irked by passivity, the urgency fuelling the album is palpable. So when he asks, "Where you the day hip-hop died?," on "Too Late," he clearly wants you to react. Ignore at your own risk. (Rawkus)