Review Summary: This is elder statesman conversation.
Black Thought has always been considered one of the utmost underrated to ever pick up a mic and has long had nothing to prove, but you sure as hell wouldn't know that after a listen to the blistering Streams of Thought
. In no uncertain terms, this is one of the most astounding rap performances I've ever heard, full of head spinning wordplay and countless moments of oh shit
technical mastery. Thought sounds hungrier and more dialed in than he has since The Roots slightly overlooked Rising Down, presenting a stunningly full-bodied work covering a wide variety of topics and flows. It's a beautiful marriage of style and substance, and it never stops blowing your mind.
Streams of Thought
storms out of the gate instantly with "Twofifteen", marrying a beat of funk guitar and boom bap drums with a breathless masterclass from Thought, filled to the brim with effortless internal rhyme schemes and a never ending peak Nas flow. Equally as impressive is the ground he manages to cover: surprisingly heartwarming and charming anecdotes like 'The church kitchen hustlin' dinners every Saturday/pull over, let me grab a plate, I tend to gravitate/towards how fish dinners from a styrofoam platter taste/my granddaddy sported plaid Donny Hathaways/hustlin' for everything we had 'til he passed away
' sitting alongside social critique that quickly swerves to a heartbreakingly personal conclusion in 'Another soul with no name, the helicopters hunted/looks like a couple of days before the doctor comin'/but that's my little cousin, watch him for me/I think the world tryna sock it to me
'. Highlights abound on every single track here, and Black Thought absolutely owns the proceedings. That's not a knock on producer 9th Wonder; he presents hard-hitting and warmly funk-inflected beats that are engaging but ultimately unobtrusive, getting the hell out of the way so Thought can unleash another stinger like 'Self-saboteur, speaking it to my paramour/torch rappers like I'm ignitin' the aerosol/maintaining the wherewithal that embarrass y'all
'. Amidst all the showboating, Streams of Thought
even manages to pack in two guest verses, in which Rapsody and Styles P thankfully hold their own. Rapsody continues her highlight reel of cosigns from legends with a slick shit talking verse that ends with her endearingly proclaiming 'I'm Trae Young, ni**a!
'. Styles P's verse starts off as hackneyed and uninspired but emerges as the better of the two, growing more creative as it goes along, even containing one of the EP's most memorable lines in the hilarious 'I'm Hannibal on an elephant, animal but elegant
'. These guest spots don't reach the brilliant dexterity of Thought's writing, but neither do they detract from the project.
Of special mention also is possibly the best track to be found here, the sublimely generous and touching closing track "Thank You". It encapsulates everything that makes this release so impressive, riding a euphoric D'Angelo sample while the rapper lays down two relatively brief but indelible verses packed with succinct detail and uncharacteristic gratitude. It ends with Thought graciously affirming 'This unbroken token of appreciation/for frequencies and stations not keepin' the people waitin'/for players who supported, remainin' completely patient/and each and every record in the basement/listen, thank you
'. The song cuts out immediately after, not another second needed, not a word wasted. Far from a victory lap, Streams of Thought
is a vital addition to the Black Thought cannon, showcasing a multifaceted and commanding performance from one of the best to ever do it.