How does a 47-year-old rapper keep getting better with age? We may never know, but on Black Thought’s second short album of 2018, ‘Streams of Thought Vol. 2’, we have evidence that it’s possible.
As the lead MC of the legendary Roots crew, Thought needs no introduction, but it’s surprising to recall that, 25 years into his career, these are his first solo albums. After 9th Wonder helmed production on Vol. 1, Salaam Remi handles the entirety of Vol. 2. In a sense, both projects are a continuation of Thought’s epic Funkmaster Flex freestyle that was released a year ago. There’s no question that the focus here is his rigorous, razor sharp bars. These impeccable rhymes grab you by the collar, shake out the SoundCloud daze, and remind you where the title “master of ceremonies” came from.
Black Thought’s commanding presence, energy, breath control, verbal dexterity, literary references, political activism and storytelling are all on full display. This is the major leagues of rap, folks. Ain’t no half steppin’. I could pick any lyric at random as an example – Thought is that consistent – but why not this rhyme from “Soundtrack to Confusion”: “I got more than a reason to revel like Desus and Mero / lyrical religious hero on Jesus’s level / the reason none of these heathens is even as thorough / We bare arms like Idris or Venus de Milo.” Say that out loud. The moment you realize that Idris is actor Idris Elba (who’s got crazy biceps) and that Venus de Milo is the Greek statue (with the arms broken off) has got to be the moment you tear up your little rhyme book and go back to the drawing board as an MC.
Remi’s organic production is a far cry from his famous ’90s remixes. There are moments I’d like a little more from the beats – “The New Grit” and “Long Liveth” are a little sluggish – but the stripped-down feel lets the lyrics shine and reminds us that MC’s started by rhyming over breakbeats.
Real hip-hop fans are required to check this project out, but aspiring MCs should skip it because you’ll never be this good. Don’t quit your day job, guys.