Review Summary: Talib Kweli's best and most overlooked album.
The duo of emcee Talib Kweli and producer Hi-Tek met in 1997 Tek's native Cincinnati, Ohio.That same year, the two signed to the underground hip hop label Rawkus Records. In 1998, Kweli and his high school friend, fellow Rawkus Records artist Mos Def, formed Black Star, and released their first, and only album, Black Star. Hi-Tek provided production for singles "Definition" and "Respiration" as well as song "Re:Definition" "Twice Inna Lifetime" and "(K.O.S) Determination". Kweli and Hi-Tek reconnected in 2000 for the release of their debut album, Train of Thought. The album is highly acclaimed,but didn't receive a significant amount of commercial attention, despite the success of the rap hits "Move Somethin'" and "The Blast".
Fans of the Blackstar album were blown away by Talib Kweli and Mos Def's subject matter that focused on positive issues like love, knowledge, determination and pride into a witty CD that is musically enjoyable from beginning to end. The Train of Thought album continues with some of the most clever lyrics in rap combined with a cohesion of beats, rhymes and overall production that is on par with Blackstar, an album which is considered by many as the best album of all time.
In Train of Thought Hi-Tek's beats have a new age jazz feel to them that are still unique anything being created today and much more complex and enjoyable than those in the Blackstar album. The beats sync with Talib Kweli's style the way that DJ Premeir's beats did for Guru (R.I.P). Mos Def comes in for the track "This Means You", a back and forth track that sounds a lot like Definition from the Blackstar album, however this is one of the simpler beats by Hi-Tek in Train of Thought. The impressive part of this song is the clarity in which Talib Kweli and Mos Def deliver lyrics over such a fast paced beat, and of course this is done with their own trademark styles that effortlessly seem to come together.
At track 6 Too Late, the entire album takes an entirely different feel. While the first 5 tracks (4 without intro) sounded very similiar to the previous Blackstar album and typical of late 90s hip hop in general, after this point is when this album goes to new heights never seen in hip hop hitherto. Immediately the listener notices a drastic change in the sound of the beats. Such as in the song "Too Late" which uses an African drumming rhythm, an incoherent singing girl and flute to produce a song that sounds like it came on the Slave Boats out of Africa.
The next song, Memories Live is one of the few songs that is deserving of it's title. The lackadaisical beat and slowly delivered poetry filled with nostalgic lyrics will literally bring your sweet memories back to life. Impressive beat and one of the best synchronizations of lyrics with a rhythmic voice-sample ever done. Definitely one of the most impressive tracks on the album, perhaps of Talib Kweli's career.
Very gripping and dramatic lyrics throughout the entire album yet the album still has an uplifting vibe to it. It alternates between a familiar late-90's-rap sound as seen before in the Blackstar album and a much more unique sound that clearly has its roots stretching from African drum music. A very personal, poetic and brilliantly put together album. An overlooked classic.
Best Tracks in Order:
Memories Live, Down for the Count, The Blast, Love Language, Too Late, Good Mourning, African Dream, Name of the Game.
Train of Thought
Released: October 17, 2000
Billboard 200 chart position: #17
R&B/Hip-Hop chart position: #5
Singles: "Some Kind of Wonderful", "Move Somethin'"/"Good Mourning", "The Blast"/"Down For The Count"