Based on your point of view, there are many different adjectives you could use to describe Lupe Fiasco. However, I think the meaning of his government name Wasulo meaning “warrior” best describes his current demeanor and direction. Lupe has become probably the most polarizing artist in Hip-Hop today because he is essentially in an all out war for the hearts and minds of what he sees as a troubled generation. As someone looking from the outside in, the way I see it is that he is shunned, but respected and feared by many in the industry. As for the fans I think he is disliked by many who would put him in the category of “nerd rap” and with his 4th official solo album the industry still has reasons to fear him and he gives certain fans many reasons to keep on hating on him…..which makes for what I think is a fantastic album.
Hate is not a new word for Lupe though, from his debut album onwards, Lupe has always turned off a certain section of fans who despise anything containing some sort of display of intelligence. I could probably write an essay on how I think certain aspects of Hip-Hop culture (reflected on black culture as a whole) has been twisted to worship stupidity and ignorance but this is just an album review so I’ll try and stay on topic. The other thing I’ll stay away from is trying to dissect every lyric because otherwise this review will be far too long and frankly that is what something like RapGenius is for.
As you can probably tell already from my statements this album’s main focus is lyrics as it has been with all of Lupe’s albums. Many fans were disappointed with the more commercially tinged production of last years “L.A.S.E.R.S” album, this time Lupe stays away from the dub step and House influenced beats preferring this time to use production that is more reminiscent of something you would have heard on his second album ” The Cool”.
The album starts off with a poem the way the first 2 albums did, a detail which was omitted from “L.A.S.E.R.S” and then we kick into the head nodding beat of “Strange Fruition”. As I said earlier Lupe really lives up to the meaning of his government name on this album and he pretty much kicks off that declaration of war with the first bars of the album stating ….
“…now I cant pledge allegiance to your flag, cause I cant find no reconciliation with your past
When there was nothing equal for my people with your math
You forced us to the ghetto and then you took our dads…”
Boom! First of many shots fired at American culture overall. In his interviews Lupe has described this album as his artistic take on the history and state of his country, however naive it may be and from the intro onwards he slices and dices through a number of topics at the same time throwing in some joints where he justs wants to murder a mic, and in those cases the war victims are other emcees. The first few songs are definitely more on the message side. From the upbeat production of “ITAL (Roses)”, the booming drums of “Audubon Ballroom”, the abstract imagery of “Lamborghini Angels” and the controversial “Bitch Bad” Lupe delivers his view of the ills of America over some surprisingly infectious beats. If you think his lyrics are too preachy there is still much to appreciate in terms of the beats and just pure rhyming ability. However, there is no ignoring the messages he is trying to send especially when the hook on a song like “Audubon Ballroom”
“White people….you cant say N@@@a…sorry gotta take it back!”
Lupe is not messing around and he’s not letting black people or Hip-Hop itself off the hook either. The reason people don’t like this stuff is that it puts a mirror right up to them and shows them their warts. So then you will hear all the excuses about how preachy he is or how he has half-baked political ideas etc. All of which miss the point and expose many peoples insecurities about themselves. I’ll say it right now and likely receive mass amounts of hate. If you hate this album because you can’t understand it then you need to take your ass back to elementary school. Lupe ain’t trying to teach you anything, he just decided to talk about some other topics that will provide some balance to the morass of gun, car, booty and money talk. If you don’t like this album because you find issues in the execution of songs like “Bitch Bad”, or the suspect hooks that show up in some of the later songs and the inclusion of a couple of the more relationship oriented songs like “Battle Scars” then that is very understandable.
This album is far from perfect and Lupe does not shy away from being a little self-righteous
“you no they didnt, I say yes they did, when you find out what planned obselence is”
However to balance out the messages he also takes a couple tracks to display his pure rap skills and remind sucker emcees that he don’t play. Songs like the banging “Put Em Up” and “Form over Function” bring back the “Mixtape Lupe”, and songs like “Bravehearts” and “Cold War” speak more to his personal struggles rather than social commentary.
Overall, I would sum up the album this way, unlike his last album it is not going to win him any new fans but satisfies his core, potentially alienating those he picked up along the way with “L.A.S.E.R.S”. There is no hiding the fact that this is a heavy album and needs a little time to digest, but what it does do in my opinion is provide balance to much of what commercial Hip-Hop has produced this year. I do not want to hear about cars and money all the time, but at the same time I do not want to hear social commentary 100% of the time either and so this album is the counter weight. I’ll rock in some Rick Ross, Meek Mill or Big Sean as much as the next man, but when I really need something weighty, Lupe is my go-to guy and he did not disappoint with this album.
Rating – Buy 2 of them… I got the physical and the digital!