“We got a whole song in auto-tune, but it’s 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-Hop’s rebirth in the late 90’s, one could only think, “Has it really come down to this?”
But before a follow up question seeking clarification could be asked, Reflection Eternal’s leading mouth piece burst into laughter, and remarked, “Nah I’m 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 ain’t nothing wrong with auto-tune just like there’s 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 it’s not auto-tune’s fault! I’m a fan of T-Pain’s 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 don’t believe I’m 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 NYC’s legendary Jazz club the Blue Note, Reflection Eternal took some time to give AllHipHop some insight on their new train of thought.
AllHipHop.com: It’s been nine years since the last Reflection Eternal album, what’s different about your mentalities now opposed to when y’all recorded the first album?
Hi-Tek: Musically and business wise I’ve 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 Eternal.
AllHipHop.com: Some fans have the perception that you guys haven’t been working together…
Hi-Tek: It’s a difference between “kicking it” with each and actually being in the studio together versus me just sending Kweli beats through email. It’s just not the same thing.
Talib Kweli: I agree, the process is totally different with the Reflection projects, and it’s going to reflect in the sound. I’ve 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 doesn’t [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 it’s in right now, what’s 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 album.
But things are just different now, T.I. and Lil Wayne are at the top of the game, and that’s not to disrespect them. I’m just saying the game is changed a great deal since we came out with the Black Star album. Now I‘m only interested in making timeless music. I didn’t want that early in my career, I just wanted to make you think I was the best MC.
AllHipHop.com: I heard the album is going to be self titled, why did y’all chose to do that for your 2nd album?
Talib Kweli: Actually, I don’t 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 that’s something you do for your first album.
AllHipHop.com: Is there a particular underlying theme or concept you stuck to?
Talib Kweli: I think there’s a theme in the music and sound but there isn’t 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 I’m a perfectionist.
AllHipHop.com: The 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, how’d did that record happen?
Hi-Tek: Bootsy is from my hometown of Cincinnati, and every once in a while we’ll 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, it’s 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 there’s 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 I’m happy with the response it’s receiving. It creates a discourse, and wait until you hear the next record. Then you’ll really have something to say.
AllHipHop.com: Did you guys work with Mos Def at all? Any chance we’ll ever get another Black Star album?
Talib Kweli: I would like to work with Mos on the album, but we haven’t yet…the songs decide themselves, which artists should be on them. But we don’t have a Mos Def record yet on the album, but he would be a welcome addition, and there isn’t going to be a lot of guest features.
Hi-Tek: “Yo Mos, what’s up man?” It’s your boy Hi-Tek, let’s do this man!
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.
AllHipHop.com: How 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 wouldn’t do it either, but I just can’t 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.
AllHipHop.com: Is Mr. Chapelle making any appearances this time around?
Talib Kweli: Dave’s 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, he’d 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 didn’t like this muthaf**ka! (laughs)
AllHipHop.com: What 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 he’s a huge De La fan and, we run into each other at the show, so we start chopping it up, and I’m like, “Me and you have history.” He didn’t 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; that’s Dave Chapelle.
Hi-Tek: I remember that, he was half baking us too! (laughs)
AllHipHop.com: After traveling the world, and working with an array of different artists, Kweli you’ve 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: That’s 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.
Keep your minds open...