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Maybe this is just who Lupe is now...
on October 31, 2012
First, let me preface this review with my experience as a Lupe listener. I got put onto Lupe in 06 or so with some of his mixtape work. Articulate and clever. A wordsmith if there ever was one. His first release, "Food & Liquor", was more of an extension of his mixtape work. It contained several songs from those works that had already been released with a few new tracks worked in. It was great. What made Food & Liquor great was Lupe's incredible rhyme skills, his fresh perspective - a "from the streets" but not "in the streets" take on the hood - and the production. The production on his first LP was outstanding. The gritty samples, soulfully melodic instrumentals that served as the perfect balance to his less-than-gritty content.
With the abandonment of that production with his next album "The Cool", the quality suffered a bit. The beats were decent at best. But the content was not missing a thing. Lupe was still sharp and very inventive. Although, the mood of the album without that gritty, samply, hip-hop production was different.
This is why "Lasers" was so disappointing. Rumors flew about the reasons for the let down. Somewhere between the label interference and his own hangups with the project, Lasers was the most un-Lupe album ever. The production was so pop and cheesy. The rhymes were no longer razor sharp and thought provoking. It was a crossover, commercial, underachievement that none of his original followers appreciated.
Now, for those of you who became Lupe fans more recently, I can see how Food & Liquor II seems like a good album. It's basically Lasers with slightly a little more grit. But for those of us who remember the street savvy Lupe with mind-blowing rhymes and incredible production, this album is not up to par. Lupe has changed as an artist, as most artist do, and it reflects in his music.
And yes, that's a good thing. But the problem is that the new Lupe seems so embittered by the unhealthy culture within the rap game that he's become more concerned with it than making good music. He's threatened to quit a few times, only to be motivated again because he knows he's better than most rappers by far. And he is. But he's making music angrily. He's no longer just painting the picture of the hood with articulate strokes over breathtaking production. He's madly flailing the paintbrush at the canvas because he's fed up with too few people having appreciated the art he was producing. I understand that frustration. But what he's producing now isn't his best. His frustration with the game is causing him to underachieve and it's sad to see as a fan and an early adopter.
With that being said, this album is just ok. The production is ok. Not bad, not great, just ok. Like I said, if you liked Lasers, you'll probably like this one. There's no more soul left in Lupe's arsenal, and that's the most disappointing thing. Most tracks/hooks honestly sound like they could fit on a Linkin Park CD. That'd be great if this was a Linkin Park album. But it's not. I don't want this loner/new age hip-hop sound. I want the soul that got my attention in the first place.
Standout tracks? Strange Fruition, Ital, Cold War, Hood Now. Skippable tracks? Heart Donor (beat and hook are terrible), Audobon Ballroom (crossover/pop beat and hook), Unforgivable Youth (crossover/pop beat and hook).