Fresh N’ New: Reflection Eternal’s “Revolution Per Minute”

Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek also known as Reflection Eternal

On May 18th, Talib Kweli & DJ Hi-Tek, known as ‘Reflection  Eternal,’ released their new album, Revolutions Per Minute. Though they released a mixtape called The RE:Union in December 2009, this is their first colloboration in almost 10 years (their first album, Train of Thought was released in 2000). In other words, it has been way too long.

Reflection Eternal's debut album 'Train of Thought' was released in 2000
Reflection Eternal's new album, 'Revolutions Per Minute,' was released May 18, 2010

Reflection Eternal is performing this evening at Amoeba in the Haight and at The Fillmore. I am excited to have the opportunity to attend one of the performances, and will report on my experience later this week. Until then, I wanted to leave you with some of the new music videos from the new album.

The first song is called ‘Midnight Hour’ and features British songstress, Estelle. I’ve  been following Estelle’s career before she left London Town, but I’m not a big fan of this song. It’s catchy and fun, but to be honest, I’ve had enough of the 50s girl-group sound. However, I do understand the purpose of this song on the album. It’s been kissed with just enough bubblegum flavor to make Reflection Eternal’s usual raw, ‘conscious’ sound appealing to a wider audience. I’m sure this will be the album’s first single.

The black and white video for “Strangers (Paranoid)” featuring Bun B, leaves out the fluff and sticks to what we love about Reflection Eternal– a political message that’s brought to you by a tight flow and rough beat. Don’t listen to this song without listening to the lyrics (for those who are not familiar with ‘Reflection Eternal’– Homeboy who is standing with Talib Kweli and not saying anything is DJ Hi-Tek. Consider him the conductor of the music– if it wasn’t for his tight beats, there would be no symphony).

The last vide0 I am going to share is called “In this World.” As I said before, I’m pretty much over the manufactured sound of 50s girl groups– it was fun when Amy Winehouse encouraged its revival, but it’s been overdone. What I can’t get enough of, however, is a sampled soulful beat interlaced with a bold Hip Hop bass, and “In this World,” Hi-Tek creates the perfect marriage between these two sounds. Lyrically, this song addresses the continued struggle that certain communities face when it comes to poverty and survival. Kweli’s signature rhythmic flow is colloborated with a sampled chorus, thus highlighting that the struggles he is addressing is only a reverberation of past struggles within communitites of color. Something else I really appreciate about this video is the way it highlights DJ Hi-Tek at work. People often forget that Hip Hop began with a DJ (not the rapper) sampling classics, and making them into a bass-driven song, and like any other good video, this music video brings us something fresh while reminding us of  Hip Hop’s rich beginnings.

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Spankin’ (kinda) New Fridays : ‘Window Seat’ by Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu

After the video was released, Texan officials allegedly received an overwhelming amount of complaints about Erykah stripping down in the middle of a public space. Erykah has been fined $500 for this misdemeanor. In response to the controversy, Erykah said “I just wanted to bring dialogue to it. And I did. And they are still talking about it. And as long as they are talking about it, we know that they are being exposed to it… All I know is the Dallas chief of the police went to the record store last week and bought my album.”

We’ve now had almost 2 months to digest Erykah Badu’s controversial music video for ‘Window Seat,’ and I’m wondering what you think about it. To be honest, I needed some time for the video to marinate with me. I love me some Erykah, and I was excited that she was coming out with something new, but, initially, I was not seeing eye-to-eye with her latest creation. Since then, I’ve considered the  lyrics of the song in connection to  the video, and I feel like I see where Erykah is going with this… kinda.

The song itself is a bit dull and generic, but when used as a soundtrack for the music video, it boldly speaks to the issue of losing one’s individuality , or one’s artistry, in the business of flocking, or going with the crowd.

The video begins with an old recording announcing the arrival of John F.Kennedy the day he was assinated (the video was also shot in the same location of Kennedy’s assassination). When we first see Erykah, she is not in her usual ‘Spiritual Mama’ attire. Instead, she is wearing a black peacoat with a purple hoody peeking from the top,  a white T-shirt, and black sweats. Her hair, which is usually fashioned in an outa-sight-afro or brightly colored hair wrap, is covered in a black ‘cap.’ She is nothing special to look at. She is ordinary. She blends in with the crowd… until she begins to undress.

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“‘Diary'” by Wale, featuring Marsha Ambrosius

Wale

When Wale (short for Olubowale, pronounced /ˈwɑːleɪ/) first came out with “Chillin'” featuring Lady Gaga in Fall ’09, I was confused. His indie rapper vibe and decent flow didn’t match the song’s sub-par lyrics, nor did it mesh well with Lady Gaga’s bubblegum hook, or look.

Wale & Lady Gaga don’t match

Since “Chillin’,” Wale has been laying out the bubblegum in all flavors, but his newest release, “Diary” featuring ex-Floetry songstress, Marsha Ambrosius, turned me into a fan. Here is why I not only enjoy this song, but also think it stays true to  Hip Hop’s original and evolving elements while complimenting my feminist/womanist ideologies…

‘Diary’ by Wale, featuring Marsha Ambrosius

The music video and the video girl. The storyline goes a little somethin’ like this—boy sees girl; boy talks to girl (and gives her tickets to his show); boy gets rejected by girl; girl has reasons for dissin’ boy, but in the end, boy gets girl, and we viewers are left with fuzzy feelings inside. Let’s be real— the storyline is clichéd, but one of the things that is interesting about this video, is who gets to play the ‘girl.’

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In Response to the Rumored Death of Hip Hop…

I’m not sure how I would explain the current state of Hip Hop. According to Nas, and other self-proclaimed Hip Hop ‘purists,’ Hip Hop is dead. From their perspective, we might as well throw in the towel, because there will never be another Tribe Called Quest, MC Lyte or Public Enemy. I can relate to this assumption. No one can replace our uncles and aunties from the 90s, or our mommas and poppas from the late 70s and 80s. However, I’m not so quick to write my elegy to Hip Hop.

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The Original Elements of Hip Hop and Then Some…

Depending on who’s telling the creation-story of Hip Hop, the day of its birth ranges. Let’s just say that Hip Hop was born sometime between the late 70s and early 80s, and it began with a DJ, his break beats and some party people. The DJ was DJ Kool Herc, to be exact. And the party was on a block in the Bronx. Within moments after its birth, Hip Hop went from the DJ to the MC, from the break dancer to the graffiti artist, from the streets to the radio, from the Bronx to Tokyo. Since its post-disco birth not only has Hip Hop gone international, it has gone from rags to riches back to bandanas, to bling, and now, it’s… well it’s kind of a hodgepodge of skinny jeans, Bentleys, jerseys, big sunglasses, flashy jewery, and, thanks to Rhianna, the ladies are incorporating lots of leather. As we can see through its fashion, Hip Hop is in kind of a mess at the moment. But I think the eclectic make up of Hip Hop’s fashion symbolizes the multifaceted aspects of Hip Hop culture. Regardless of how often people try to place Hip Hop in limiting boxes, it proves its resilience by continuously transforming itself.

Exhibit A of the Mess: Lil' Wayne in WHITE baggy/skinny jeans and a red bandana. No shirt.
People expect me to hate Kanye West, but I like his music and his fashion, and I'll leave my explanations for another time. For now, let's check out those kicks.
Over night, Rihanna went from Pretty In Pink to Lady Dominatrix

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The 5 Elements of Real Talk; Critical Thoughts from a Hip Hop Feminist

I’ve talked about starting a blog for a few years now. But I never wanted to be that  blogger who  wrote about her day-to-day happenings— that’s the purpose of crackbook facebook. I, however, have found that some are interested in my love/hate relationship with pop culture—particularly Hip Hop culture. This is partly due to my strong feminist/ womanist ideologies. It is often assumed that there is no room for feminism in Hip Hop culture, but I cannot imagine my life without either, thus the inspiration for this blog.   As many of us know, Hip Hop has multiple elements in its culture, so I thought it would be fitting to extrapolate on what you can expect from Real Talk; Critical Thoughts through five different elements.

1. It’s a Remix… As a Black/mixed girl growing up in a white world, I often say that I learned about myself as a Black youth

Alice Walker- writer, activist and woman responsible for politicizing a young Kirsti's mind.

through the likes of Biggie and 2Pac. This ‘education’ took place while simultaneously politicizing my young mind through the crafting of Alice Walker and Terry McMillan (from the perspective of a tweenager, the author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back is somewhat of a political sista). Many assume that my two godparents- Hip Hop & Feminism- make for a contradicting partnership. Though, at times, this is true, I also think it is very possible for Hip Hop and feminism to create a remix, and it is through this blog that I will explore this collaboration.

2. It’s a Chat Room… Real Talk; Critical Thoughts is a space where I, as a Hip Hop feminist, will engage in conversation with both Hip Hop culture, and hopefully, with you. In my experience, people often disregard the complications of Hip Hop culture by placing it in a narrow box marked ‘ghetto.’ If I wrote a word for every time I heard someone blame Hip Hop culture for the fall of our youth, or for our misogynist culture, I would have a novel written—Dickensian style. I hope to disrupt and complicate such empty arguments throughout this blog, but in order to create more fruitful discussions, I need you to share your thoughts. I am but one voice, and as we know, Hip Hop has always been about collaborating.

3. It’s a Training Blog… I look at this blog as a training room for myself. Those who know me would say that music has never simply been a hobby for me. Even during my pop-culture-princess days, I engaged with popular music in ways that reached beyond my headphones and dance moves. My M.A. thesis, which was about Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, allowed for me to indulge in researching the social implications of music. I fell in love with the process of digging deep into the soul of my AuntCestors music by magnifying its historical relevancy, and after  turning in my thesis, I quickly realized my work wasn’t done. And so, here enters this blog. Before I continue my research in a PhD program (which I hope to enter in the next few years), I want to use this blog as a rough draft, or training room, for my future dissertation, which will likely discuss how contemporary Black women musicians (particularly women in Hip Hop) have contributed to protest music.

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