Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lupe Fiasco - The Cool

Lupe Fiasco - The Cool
Released December 18, 2007
Label : Atlantic / Wea

And it's finally here. My review for "The Cool". I'm sure it's a little too late because you have probably already made up your mind about the album but I still like to put in my two cents. Lupe's first album "Food & Liquor" was something that I think contemporary pop hip-hop has been needing for a long time. A bridge between the geek rap guys like myself and the mainstream community. He is someone I can talk about to a person who isn't as into hip-hop as I am. He has an appeal on all fronts. I think he has production that is appealing to the ears and a flow that feels good. I don't think he brings anything special to the lyrical table but I won't be greedy. Before I make this statement, I am not comparing him to these artists I am about to mention, it's just a comparison of social impact. Just as Talib Kweli offers a connection to projects like Madvillian through Mad Lib, Common to J Dilla, and Gnarls Barkley to DangerDoom, Lupe links you to similar projects through his mass appeal.

"The Cool" feels like a little more of a mature album than "Food & Liquor". Mature in the sense that I think he is falling a little more into who he wants to be than what he is expected to be. He is still a geek and proud of it, still matching flows like "I love Street Fighter 2; I just really hate Zangief; only Ken and Ryu; I find it hard to be Blanka", on Gold Watch, a song about rappers and there public image. This feels less like a personal album though. "Food & Liquor" was a little more about him and this seems to be a little more about...things. He runs around topics like immigration, rape, youth violence, and imbalance of wealth. I guess you are warned of this from the albums intro where a women goes on a social issue rant which still feels out of place to me and doesn't open the album well. Many times the intelligence he tried to display feels a little forced. Anymore people seem to make a political song because they feel like they should and sometimes I just want him to back to rapping about a skateboarding romance.

He doesn't have the laid back flow like he did on "Food & Liquor". More of the tracks are faster paced with heavier beats and a pushed flow. There really isn't a track like "Sunshine" or "He Say She Say". I think this album demonstrates a little more with his defense for the whole "Fiascogate" crap. He grew up listening to groups like UGK, not stuff like Tribe Called Quest, and it shows here. Where I enjoyed "Food & Liquor" more because it was a little more my style of hip-hop I think Lupe feels a little more natural in this form. It works well for him. He has a vocal emphasis in his flow on the bass counts and he feels more accustomed and adjusted to this.

I enjoyed "The Cool" thoroughly and it lived up to it's hype. But for my closing comments I have too point out my issue with the track, "Dumb it Down". Lupe isn't considered a smart rapper. You don't have to dumb it down, you don't have to simplify anything. Sorry duder, but you are no Aesop or Eyedea. It is appropriate that his worst rhymes are on that track though. "The Cool" is a good album, great for some background sound but nothing you can through on and listen to just to listen to. That said this album does have some of the best hooks I have heard for a long time. Do check out "The Coolest" mixtape though. I think it's better than the album.

***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)