Reflection Eternal: Live Last Night
By Mark Jenkins
Mainstream commercial hip-hop has moved away from old-school simplicity, and sometimes has gotten lost in the process. But there are still acts that feature only a rapper (or two) and a DJ (usually supplemented by a laptop).
Three such outfits, including Reflection Eternal, performed Monday at the 9:30 club, concluding this year's "Rock the Bells" tour. (A fourth group, Slaughterhouse, canceled.)
About to release its first album in nine years, Reflection Eternal previewed fresh material in an hour-long set that also included songs from the duo's first CD and frontman Talib Kweli's solo work. Backed by DJ Hi-Tek's samples and meaty basslines, Kweli shifted between prophetic rants and party chants, his delivery speedy enough for an auctioneer. The complex new "Revolutions per Minute" invoked both Deuteronomy and Joy Division. Yet the pair also performed such tracks as "Hot Thing," a straightforward paean to a sexy woman. That's the sort of subject mainstream hip-hop usually oversells, but Kweli's minimal showmanship made the lyric seem genuine rather than pandering.
(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)
Also on the bill were Slum Village, a Detroit duo whose tag-team rap provided the evening's most conventional moments, and freestyle rapper Supernatural. The latter's engaging performance was basically a classic variety-show act: He did impressions of famed hip-hop MCs, and improvised raps based on words or objects contributed by the audience.
Slum Village and Supernatural were backed by Pete Rock, who also DJ'ed between sets, mixing unsurprising soul and jazz snippets with such oddities as the Electric Prunes's "Holy Are You," an art-rock version of a Yom Kippur chant.
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