Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek: Train Spotting
We got a whole song in auto-tune, but its a like Kweli and Hi-Tek kind of auto-tune
song, says Talib Kweli,
one half of the musical duo known as Reflection Eternal. As this statement was muttered from the
lips of an MC who has contributed to underground Hip-Hops rebirth in the late
90s, one could only think, Has it really come down to this?
But before a follow up question seeking clarification could
be asked, Reflection Eternals leading mouth piece burst into laughter, and
remarked, Nah Im just f**king with you. The warm feeling of relief that shot
up my spine was almost as satisfying as when Fiddy
(Curly) greeted Tia at JFK airport.
There aint nothing wrong with
auto-tune just like theres nothing wrong with gangsta
rap, underground rap, etc. But anything that is
overdone becomes corny and everybody is doing it. All these underground Hip-Hop
fans getting mad at auto-tune, stop its not auto-tunes fault! Im a fan of
T-Pains music, and I think he gives a great lesson with what he did with his
career. But if you ask me if auto-tune is played out?
At this point, yes!, says Kweli
as he tries to explain and reiterate his previous comical statement.
Refection Eternal fans need not worry though, after keeping
the masses waiting for nearly a decade, Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek are on deck to
release their sophomore LP and put some fun and true lyricism back in the
scandal ridden and WWF-esque game known as Hip-Hop.
I dont believe Im the best rapper alive but I think I might out work and
have more ambition than a lot of the dudes who came out with me, talks Kweli from the Warner Music building. Fresh off the
international Rock The Bells tour and after rocking two consecutive nights at
NYCs legendary Jazz club the Blue Note, Reflection Eternal took some time to
give AllHipHop some insight on their new train of thought.
Its been nine years since the last Reflection Eternal album, whats different
about your mentalities now opposed to when yall recorded the first album?
Hi-Tek: Musically and business wise Ive grown a lot, but
when it comes to actually going back in the studio with Kweli,
it just feels like going back to right where we left off. I realized our sound
is one of [the] voids in Hip-Hop right now, and the game needs Reflection
Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek The Blast
fans have the perception that you guys havent been working together
Hi-Tek: Its a difference between kicking it with each
and actually being in the studio together versus me just sending Kweli beats through email. Its just not the same thing.
Talib Kweli: I agree,
the process is totally different with the Reflection projects, and its going
to reflect in the sound. Ive done plenty of records with Hi-Tek from Back Up Off Me, Work it Out,
and he did the title track on Beautiful
Struggle. And I heard people saying that Beautiful Struggle was a departure from my original sound, but every
one doesnt [know] Hi-Tek did the title track to the
album. But really this new album is about us as Reflection Eternal.
Allhiphop: With Hip-Hop in the state that its
in right now, whats the agenda you guys have with this album?
Talib Kweli: My
agenda for the first Reflection Eternal album was to prove that I was worthy
for the position I have. We were like underground Hip-Hop royalty at the time
from Rawkus and Black Star. People just acknowledged
us in a certain way because of our association with Mos
Def and Rawkus as a powerhouse and not because of our
talent. And I think we set out to prove that we had the talent with the first
But things are just different now, T.I. and Lil Wayne are at
the top of the game, and thats not to disrespect them. Im just saying the
game is changed a great deal since we came out with the Black Star album. Now Im only interested in making timeless music.
I didnt want that early in my career, I just wanted to make you think I was
the best MC.
heard the album is going to be self titled, why did yall chose to do that for
your 2nd album?
Actually, I dont know about that but it might be a good idea because actually the
correct name of our group on paper is Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek like on iTunes
or in stores. But our fans know Reflection Eternal as what we call ourselves as
a group. So that might be a great idea to do actually
Hi-Tek: I always felt like thats something you do for
your first album.
Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek Move
there a particular underlying theme or concept you stuck to?
Talib Kweli: I
think theres a theme in the music and sound but there isnt one concept that
we stuck with.
Hi-Tek: To be completely honest, we just letting the music
create itself, and I think that our chemistry makes everything just come out so
naturally between us. Even with the first album I never thought that any of
those songs would have the effect on people that they did. I mean, I always put
everything I got into the records, but I always second guess myself because Im
first song released from the album is the Bootsy Colins assisted track Internet Connection, and honestly
the sound kind of confused a lot of fans, howd did that record happen?
Hi-Tek: Bootsy is from my
hometown of Cincinnati, and every once in a while well kick it in the studio,
so we have a relationship. And I always just loved that sample, shout out to my
man Dave who came up with the concept, but we just wanted to show people how to
have fun again on records. Internet Connection shows our personalities.
Talib Kweli: The
sound of that record is exactly what Hi-Tek said it
was, its not, Oh we going to go in and make our first single, but it was
just us having fun. And I enjoy the fact that some
fans were thrown off by the record because theres a lot of pressure of having
to come up with an album as great as Train
of Thought. For me I just wanted to alleviate some of that pressure
(laughs). I just read a 50 comment argument online about the record, so Im
happy with the response its receiving. It creates a discourse, and wait until
you hear the next record. Then youll really have something to say.
you guys work with Mos Def at all? Any chance well
ever get another Black Star album?
Talib Kweli: I would like to work with Mos on the album, but we havent yet the songs decide
themselves, which artists should be on them. But we dont have a Mos Def record yet on the album, but he would be a welcome
addition, and there isnt going to be a lot of guest features.
Hi-Tek: Yo Mos,
whats up man? Its your boy Hi-Tek, lets do this
Talib Kweli: How about
that joint he just played for us last night; Mos Def,
Just Blaze, Jay Electronica, T.I., and Jay-Z on a
track together. Mos got some crazy joints about to
come out man, I promise you.
Jonell f/ Method Man Round and
Round Video (prod. by Hi-Tek)
do you guys feel about the climate of the game right now, is there room for Souljah Boy and
Reflection Eternal on the same 106 & Park countdown?
Hi-Tek: Well, our music is going to speak for itself, the marketing just has to be right. First and
foremost, we on a major label now. Like with the last album Rawkus
had major label budgets, but they still were considered an independent label
and presented themselves that way.
Talib Kweli: We
just need the balance with artists out now like Maino
and T.I., they at the top of their game. They both have huge records with
T-Pain and Rihanna, and really those records are pop
records with somebody rapping on them. And more power to them, not to say I
wouldnt do it either, but I just cant with the Reflection Eternal album
because we are creating a particular sound that makes us who we are. If we are
thinking like, In order for us to compete with Souljah
Boy, we got to make a record with a dance to go with it If we did that, that
means we lost our cause and integrity as artists.
Mr. Chapelle making any appearances this time around?
Talib Kweli: Daves going to be on the album definitely. And the reason
why he was all over the first Reflection album was because Dave was in the
studio sessions with us every single day. He was living in New York at the
time, doing little comedy clubs in the village, and before he would go do his
sets, hed come to Electric Lady [Studios] and just sit in all our sessions.
Dave is a part of that album, for real.
I remember I met Dave through this girl that I was going out
with and she had just broken up with him. He used to come over to the house
every once in a while, and they used to get into arguments, so I used to not
like him. And then one day she left me and got back with him, then I really
didnt like this muthaf**ka! (laughs)
year was this?
Talib Kweli: Right
after like Nutty Professor came out . But after all that I went to a De
La Soul Concert in Ohio in the same town that Dave lives in. And hes a huge De
La fan and, we run into each other at the show, so we start chopping it up, and
Im like, Me and you have history. He didnt even know what I meant, it
ending up being a conversation like, Oh you know her too? How? (laughs) That goes back to making the first album, two years
after meeting in Ohio, I see Dave again walking down the street in New York. I
just told him to come and kick it with us, and Dave loved it he said he always
wanted to see how an album was made. He ended up coming every day after that,
so when you hear Nelson Mandela, Rick James; thats Dave Chapelle.
Hi-Tek: I remember that, he was half baking us too! (laughs)
traveling the world, and working with an array of different artists, Kweli youve worked with artists who are so different than
you like Fabolous and Justin Timberlake. Hi-Tek, you produced joints for Estelle, and remixed artists
like Gym Class Heroes. Do you still feel the urge to half to satisfy the
backpackers and your core fan base?
Hi-Tek: Thats what this album is about, in my opinion. We
also want to teach through our music too though. I always been a hater of the
word backpacker because you got people who think they are so called Hip-Hop
purists that try to teach you what they think a record should sound like. With
this album we are just giving you Hi-Tek and Kweli, and nothing else.