Lupe Fiasco’s recent retirement announcement has sent a tremor throughout the Hip Hop community. Apparently Lupe is only doing three albums and then he is out. Beginning with the critically acclaimed ‘Food & Liquor’ and ending with ‘LupEnd’, it looks like the Chicago MC will be hanging up his mic for good.
Perhaps we have taken the philosophical rapper for granted since the release of his first album – as we tend to with all our favourite rappers. However Tupac, Biggie and Pun have taught us all one thing: you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone, so maybe it’s time we showed Lupe the kind of respect he deserves.
‘The Cool’ delivers as one progressive yet fluid body of work. Every track is intertwined around Lupe’s thoughts, influences and his continual exploration of ‘the Cool’. Probing deeper into himself than on ‘Food & Liquor’, lyrically, Lupe demonstrates why critics and artists alike are hailing him the saviour of Hip Hop. That is an awful lot of weight to put on any 25 year old’s shoulders and Lupe addresses these concerns throughout the album.
On ‘Superstar’ the lead single, featuring long time collaborator Matthew Santos, Lupe contemplates the notion of fame with a cynical eye. Lupe spits self-effacingly, “…wonna believe my own hype but it’s too untrue… too much of a newcomer and too uncool” over a gentle, piano-led beat. ‘The Coolest’ – a cool, contemplative track, has Lupe rhyming masterfully whilst exploring the notions of faith, destiny and humanity. Lupe reflects, “I love the Lord, but sometimes it seems like I love me more”, in what appears to be the continual struggle between his faith and his celebrity.
However differing from ‘Food & Liquor’, Lupe throws plenty of up-tempo tracks into the mix- especially for all of y’all who thought he didn’t know how to lighten up. Impressively, his flow gets slicker and his word play sharper with every track. On tracks like ‘Go Go Gadger Flow’ we see Lupe get his swagger on over an infectious, string-led beat.
Lupe is on fine form on ‘Goldwatch’, another exceptional track from the album, produced by Chris Paultrie and Derrick Braxton. On ‘Goldwatch’, Lupe instructs us to “peruse the nature of the cool”, whilst name dropping some of his eclectic influences (he sites Yohji Yamamoto, Manga, Street Fighter Two etc. for all those interested).
‘Dumb It Down’ was the taster single from the album, which didn’t quite grab the imagination of many. With it’s dark, stripped down beat produced by Soundtrack, this track stands out as one of the most subtle and thought-provoking joints on the album. Never without debate, Lupe questions the current state of Hip Hop: “those big words aren’t cool nigga” and the media’s influence over us: “you’ve been shedding too much light Lupe/ you’re making them wonna do right”.
Other stand out tracks from the album include the breezy ‘Paris- Tokyo’, the funky ‘Hi Definition’ featuring Snoop Dogg and Pooh Bear, ‘Gotta Eat’ and the chilled out ‘Hip Hop Saved My Life’.
That’s right – Lupe has done it again with this philosophical, head-banging slice of real Hip Hop. With just enough food for thought without getting too preachy, ‘The Cool’ is on a direct collision course with your ears and your brain – it will get you thinking and dancing at the same time. However don’t get too comfortable, remember he’s only doing three. Think Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects, ‘and like that… he’s gone’.
By: Michelle Adabra
01. Baba Says Cool for Thought – Lupe Fiasco
02. Free Chilly – Lupe Fiasco
03. Go Go Gadget Flow – Lupe Fiasco
04. Coolest – Lupe Fiasco
05. Superstar – Lupe Fiasco, Matthew Santos
06. Paris, Tokyo – Lupe Fiasco
07. Hi-Definition – Lupe Fiasco, Pooh Bear, Snoop Dogg
08. Gold Watch – Lupe Fiasco
09. Hip-Hop Saved My Life – Lupe Fiasco, Nikki Jean
10. Intruder Alert – Lupe Fiasco
11. Streets on Fire – Lupe Fiasco
12. Little Weapon – Lupe Fiasco, Bishop G, Nikki Jean
13. Gotta Eat – Lupe Fiasco
14. Dumb It Down – Graham Burris, Lupe Fiasco
15. Hello/Goodbye (Uncool) – Lupe Fiasco
16. Die – Lupe Fiasco
17. Put You on Game – Lupe Fiasco
18. Fighters – Lupe Fiasco, Matthew Santos
19. Go Baby – Lupe Fiasco
20. [CD-Rom Track]