Can Lupe Fiasco possibly justify the $110,000 of cold, hard cash that CSU students are dropping at his feet? We won’t know for sure until the concert on Oct. 5th, but listening to his latest release gives me a pretty good idea.
Released last December, “Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool” is just the second album from Mr. Fiasco, who has shown promise as a young, intelligent, force of change in hip-hop with big ideas and skills on the microphone to back them up.
Lupe doesn’t disappoint with “Hip-Hop Saved My Life” which flows on an addictive piano line and hypnotic echoes, or “Gotta Eat” which is led by a rambunctiously twangy acoustic guitar. Elsewhere, “The Cool” dabbles in synthesizers and strings, jazz percussion and military marches without missing a beat.
The production isn’t adventurous merely for the sake of being adventurous. The fame obsessed “Superstar” features clamoring crowds and snapping shutters while the macabre “Put You On Game” features gunshots.
This diversity is necessary, because Lupe’s cunning, captivating lyrics span in subject matter from frivolous boasting (“I want to believe my own hype, but it’s too untrue”) to blood-serious politics (“I am the American dream, the rape of Africa, the undying machine”) and everything in between. The fact that he does it all with rarely a miscue helps to ensure that there aren’t any outright bad songs on “The Cool.”
Those with ho-hum production (“Hi Definition”) and grating choruses (“The Coolest”) are salvaged thanks to Lupe’s charismatic delivery and flow. On the former track, he even makes his guest Snoop Dogg look like an amateur.
Lupe may have what he calls “go go gadget flow” (whatever that means), but the album itself is not so blessed. One song leads awkwardly into the next and Lupe even takes time in between to hock his blog and yet-to-be-released third album.
While this demonstrates Lupe’s business savvy, and a certain bold charm, it is also a prime example of his lack of respect for the album as an art form. Not surprisingly, this renders the half-baked storyline of “The Cool” — which is supposed to be something of a concept album — irretrievably lost amid a 70-minute, 19-track mess.
Had Lupe trimmed the fat and focused on perfecting what remained, “The Cool” could easily justify the hip-hop album of the year hype it garnered.
Instead we’re left with a bloated collection of often good, occasionally great songs that feel like they don’t belong with one another.
Thankfully, our student fees didn’t pay for “The Cool.” They paid for a concert. And at the very least, all of those extra songs will give Lupe Fiasco plenty of options to choose from when picking an encore at Moby.
Staff writer Nick Scheidies can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.