There was a time that the idea of a Black Thought solo record was merely something rap fans dreamt about. Now after three Streams of Thought volumes in the last few years (a fourth volume rumored to be on the way) and the classic Cheat Codes released last summer, Thought is back this time with El Michels Affair accompanying him for The Glorious Game.
Thought’s lyrical barrage is on full display with this new project, steadily hammering you on the smooth and jazzy title track “Glorious Game,” rapping “You see light like mine, once a lifetime, when some young gun becomes an icon, somehow they’ll cut down the flight time, unless they send that heat down the pipeline” channeling his rise but underscoring it with what it takes to continue at the top. Black Thought continues the murderous pen work on “Hollow Way”: “To rob Peter to pay Paul til the debt was clear, you have to let a little lead take in the air, or probably loosen the kick drums are tighten the snares, like trying to take food from wolves or fighting with bears” he effortlessly danced on the somewhat psychedelic sound beat.
Black Thought never disappoints lyrically, a respect he’s earned with several decades of illustrious music in his catalog, but what may be even more surprising is how Leon Michels and his band El Michels Affair do an amazing job providing Thought with a truly eclectic soundscape to rhyme over. While possibly sounding the most like a Roots album, they’ve done a brilliant job making the music distinctly theirs with a beautiful fusion of soul, funk, and rock.
The biggest standout on this album for me may be the closing track “Alter Ego.” It’s a true exploration of the thoughts of a person growing older and wiser. He mentions being 35 and feeling lost, something many approaching middle age struggle with. In the end, it comes down to letting your former self — but moreso your former thoughts on what life is and was — change and evolve. This is truly another must-listen for any fan of amazing and thought-provoking music.