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A New Revolution
by Matt Crawford on May 14, 2010
Ten years after the release of the hip hop classic Train of Thought, Hi Tek and Talib Kweli are back as Reflection Eternal with Revolutions Per Minute. The album, set for release on May 18th, picks up where the duo’s debut left off with refreshing production and lyrics — a breath of fresh air in a genre so often characterized by recycled ideas and flavor-of-the-month trends. Both are at the top of their game. Hi Tek spoke with SF Station in a phone interview from the road en route to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Catch Reflection Eternal at the Fillmore on May 24th.
SF Station (SFS): How is the tour going so far?
Hi Tek (HT): The shows are doing great. We’re getting a lot of love.
SFS:: It’s been 10 years since the last album. Can you go over the chain of events that led to Revolutions Per Minute?
HT: When we dropped the first album, I had a falling out with the label right after the album dropped. I was obligated to finish another album when we were supposed to be out on tour supporting the Reflection Eternal album, so that kind of put me in a bind. To make a long story short, business differences led to the nine-year spread.
SFS: How does it feel to be back out on the road after so long?
HT: It feels great to be able to go out and promote something that is my own. Especially for me as a producer, I could go out and produces for whomever — 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, or Common — but it’s not my record. Those are records that I’m just participating on so I’m not going out on tour with those one or two songs that I produce. To have something that is your own and being able to promote it is a great feeling.
SFS: What was the process for creating the new album?
HT: We just went at it. With me and Kweli, it’s simple: we go in the studio, and he do what he do and I do what I do. We recorded maybe 25 songs and then narrowed it down based on sound and concept.
SFS: Were you trying to keep a continuum from the first album to “Beats Per Minute”?
HT: Not really. We didn’t go at it as a sequel at all. The sequel was just us getting back together again and doing a full body of work. Other than that, we didn’t base it on the first album sonically. It was a whole different concept.
SFS: Was it easier the second time around?
HT: It was easier in experience, but complicated with scheduling.
SFS: What made it complicated?
HT: We are both professionals at this point. With Train of Thought, we were rookies in the game and we had plenty of time to work. Now, I’m working on other peoples’ projects, and he’s touring, working on his projects, and he had a label. With us, just sitting down together is kind of like going into student mode as opposed to teacher mode.
SFS: You’re on a major label now. How did that change the process?
HT: Major labels definitely have a different approach. But they let us do our thing, and we didn’t have an A&R on our back in the studio. In actuality, we had a bigger budget when we were dealing with Rawkus on the first album. These days, with the way the industry is, our budget wasn’t really big. But I think the marketing connections they have are better, and their distribution is better so we have a better opportunity to blow the record up. It’s good and bad, ups and downs.
SFS: Tell me about the “paradigm shift in music” discussed on the intro of the album.
HT: Basically, that was a little sarcastic, and playing around with the innovators that we are in music and how we are still relevant even though there was a revolution within that short time span. Being relevant after 10 years is a blessing. A lot of artists don’t stick around that long. It’s a blessing that fans still want a record from me and Talib. I feel like we have much more to give. I feel like I could go another 10 or 20 years.
Reflection Eternal perform at the Fillmore on May 24th. Tickets are $29.50. Doors open at 8pm.
by Matt Crawford on May 14, 2010
(Left) Talib Kweli and Hi Tek