Just a writeup on [INSERT AWFULLY LONG ALBUM TITLE HERE] to tide you guys over until the official review drops. Solely opinion, not stare decisis.
I am, or was, or have been, a fan of Lupe Fiasco. Before hip hop or even music was a huge hobby of mine, I became enthralled in the vivid storytelling of “Kick, Push” and “Hip Hop Saved My Life,” the excruciatingly detailed love of fashion on “Gold Watch,” and the acerbic, middle-fingered pointing at society on “Hurt Me Soul” and “Little Weapon.” In the days of yore, Lupe made music that miraculously appealed to all audiences: fun, flashy, lyrically proficient, ponderous, critical, spiritual, and solidly Black.
And then Lasers dropped and we all hated him for yada yada yada, right? Well, it seemed as if “The Internet” hated him; the one person I knew to have fully enjoyed the album not only bought the physical copy, he knew the words and preferred the production to previous albums (WHAAH?). My spidey senses tingled after seeing the album cover alone. Something had changed, and the public grandstanding and poor singles only supported my fears.
But the thing that I find odd about the whole Lasers imbroglio is that most Lupe fans found fault mainly in the production, a component which certainly matters for hip hop, but can warrant some (not all) oversight or forgiveness when considering his ever-steady lyrical prowess dripping with political disdain and near-Public Enemy levels of anti-black paranoia. I understand and agree with the major criticisms on the album, that the production was shittier than a subway toilet and truly diminished the truth found in the lyrics. But the fact still remains that we as fans cannot fully place blame on Lupe when he clearly has an ear for baroque and aesthetically appropriate music, a la Food & Liquor and The Cool.
Nontheless, Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 now stands as THE last test to his loyalty to… himself, or us, or something. Regardless of the “Pt. 1″stubbornly lengthening the title and implying another hour of music (which may or may not be released, ahem, LupEND anyone?), people will place this under a huge magnifying glass and buy some Beats by Dre just to analyze the treble and low end.
I simply listen to Lupe as I usually do any other hip hop album, which is focus on the words and the good, bad, and ugly will reveal themselves in due time. And with F&L2, its a whole lot of of really good rhymes and much-needed intellectualism, a couple bad hooks and underwhelming beats, and an ugly lack of album cover (this is an example of a joke).
The good. Lupe has clearly only improved since his four-year hiatus, still able to pull off the occasional extended metaphor and dazzling mid-verse pocket change solely by instinct. It may be easy to find a rapper with more technical control than him, but find someone who keeps such a high standard with the pen and can rag on the U.S.’s poor military choices for four minutes straight.
He brings in his sister for her usual Black Panther poetry slam session, one that makes the world seem strictly chaotic and self-defeating: “Blood sweat and tears police batons gas masks and bullets create graffiti on corners,” then delivers “Strange Fruition,” a song far from amazing, but one that provokes some serious thought about true goverment and how systematically shackled Blacks are: “When there was nothing equal for my people in your math/You forced us in the ghetto, and then you took our dads.”
Then come songs such as the Pete Rock-jacking “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)” about, um, unfree freedom, “Bitch Bad,” which illustrates the truly vain and confusing misogyny presented by hip hop that I talk about all the time, “Lamborghini Angels,” a harrowing intersection between bad religion and descriptive storytelling, and even a tribute to a lost friend on the chilly “Cold War.” Throughout the album, Lupe keeps listeners and aware not only of their environment, but what and how they’re being told said information.
As nice as the words turned out, the production still drew out a frown or two in spots. These gripes obviously ignore “Around My Way” and “Cold War,” for those beats are superb.
This album sounds like a grab bag of various beats picked to fulfill the purpose of each song and nothing more. Granted, it’s a way better selection than Lasers, but we’ve heard better. The beat for “Audubon Ballroom” would never get considered by F&L Lupe, not to talk of the poppy kitsch underlying “ITAL (Roses)” and “Unforgivable Youth.” The album, sonically, could surpass as another mixtape of his and no one would even bat an eye, because in that context the sub-par musical quality makes sense. On this album, it sadly seems like a lack of effort in forming a sound or even giving Soundtrakk a call.
Deriving an equal amount of ire, the hooks mainly suck on this album. I don’t even care about hooks that much (read my previous reviews, I never talk about them), but come on, the person who co-signed the chorus on “Put Em Up” did ya wrong, Lu. Also, I can do without “Heart Donor” and “How Dare You,” simply because he’s so negative for the first half and then instantly snaps into smooth operator. Eh, “Paris to Tokyo” did it better.
Listen to this album, stay informed, don’t believe everything you hear (that includes this album, and this review for that matter) and be glad that music exists which doesn’t insult the intelligence, even if, sonically, it can improve. I sure am.
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