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A step backwards from Tetsuo & Youth
on February 10, 2017
Lupe Fiasco’s DROGAS Light…wow, talk about conflicted feelings. Lupe Fiasco has always been a complicated and polarizing artist ever since his Food & Liquor days. Lupe Fiasco is many things; he’s a renaissance man who has dabbled in multiple philosophies, religions, interests and political views, but to put it simply Lupe Fiasco is a conflicted artist. Lupe Fiasco has always criticized record labels (specifically Atlantic) for having too much control on what kind of music an artist makes in order to achieve monetary gain. Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers released in 2011, was a prime example of an artist having to “sell out” in order fulfill contractual obligations of a record label.
Ironically, 10 Years ago, Lupe Fiasco made a song entitled “Dumb It Down” on his 2007 The Cool, directly responding to artists and record labels alike of how he would never compromise his artistry for money. Lupe Fiasco is one of those rare MC’s in the game that can successfully make intelligent rap music easily accessible to casual listeners. In contrast, he is one of few artists who should never compromise his knowledge and subject to that of lazy pop music. Sadly, Lupe Fiasco did just that on this new record…Although Lupe Fiasco is considered to be an independent artist now, recently ending his long and exasperating relationship with his former record label Atlantic, this album just shows us fans that Lupe still has the urge to make radio friendly music while keeping his lyrical dexterity intact.
For the people who aren’t aware of Lupe’s strategy for this album, the “Light” theme is supposed to reflect the light-hearted feel of this record, also serving up as a warm-up to his next album DROGAS. While I cannot say that this record is 100% fantastic, Lupe sounds relaxed and happy again which is all a fan ever wants for their favorite artist. Right off the bat, the album starts with a hard-hitting opener entitled “Dopamine Lit” with an infectious beat and a hungry Lupe, I couldn’t ask for a better opener. The next song to follow would be NGL (N***** Gon Lose) with Ty Dolla $ign which is another great song tackling the socio-economic conditions African-Americans face on an everyday basis and are automatically born into. Lupe and Ty Dolla $ign together was definitely one of those weird collabs that sounded like a bad idea at first, but ultimately worked in the end. These two have great chemistry with one another which was also prevalent on his last album Tetsuo & Youth.
This a newly invigorated Lupe full of Zen and positivity that you can’t just help but admire. Songs like “Made in the USA” and “Jump” bring a lot of bounce and hype to the record, while songs like “Tranquilo” with Rick Ross & Big K.R.I.T. and “Kill” with Ty Dolla $ign bring a calm vibe to balance out the bangers. Where the album completely fails to resonate with me, especially as a Lupe fan, is his poor attempt to make contemporary songs that would be on the radio. “Promise” is clearly a rip-off of the trending trap music that’s popular right now thanks to the Migos, Future and Young Thug, and “Law” (originally titled Drizzy’s Law) is easily one of the worst love rap songs I’ve heard in the past decade.
If that wasn’t enough, some of the hooks on this album range from corny to flat out terrible. Some of these missteps are also due to Lupe’s choice of singers for some of these hooks. The singer on “Pick Up the Phone” is about as generic as you can get lacking any soul or distinct vocal abilities, and “Wild Child” while fun and light-hearted, sounds like a B-grade rap-pop song ready to be used on a Nickelodeon television show. The inconsistent nature of the album almost turns this project into more of a compilation as opposed to a cohesive project. Luckily the album ends on a high note with “More Than My Heart”, a sweet somber song dedicated to all mothers including his own. While the production is very radio friendly, the song is undeniably beautiful.
All in all, this album is a mess, but there are many highlights that prevent it from being a complete failure. I am a Lupe Fiasco fan who only wants to see Lupe win and make more incredible music, the only problem is that this album can't compare to that of Food & Liquor, The Cool and Tetsuo & Youth. While its not as cringy as Lasers, its definitely not a record I can recommend to first-time listeners of Lupe to fully appreciate his artistry. Lupe Fiasco is still one of the best lyricists in the game in my opinion and no matter how much his music may change, he will always be an MC who has a message for his listeners. If this album truly is just a warm-up to prepare us for his upcoming album DROGAS, than I can be more accepting of it and simply treat it as an appetizer for the main course.
1) Tranquilo (Feat. Big K.R.I.T. & Rick Ross)
2) Kill (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign & Victoria Monet)
3) More Than My Heart (Feat. Rxmn & Salim)
4) NGL (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
5) Dopamine Lit