Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Lupe Fiasco: Drogas Wave [1st & 15th, 2018]
It's pretentious to complain that this musically agile, intellectually ambitious rapper has undertaken a concept trilogy that doesn't justify its pretensions. Really, why pretend there was any chance it would? Instead honor the two uncommon things this second installment does accomplish. First is a flow that never falters no matter how dense the themes--a flow that accommodates such verbiage as "conjurer" and "iridescent," "breach" and "havoc," "synonym" and "anthropomorphic," "industrialist" and "socialism." The second is that among these two dozen good-to-excellent tracks are at least four whose pitch of emotion and ambition render them something like profound: "WAV Files," which constructs a stanza from the names of slave ships, "Down," which creates a mythology of subaquatic African immortals consigned to the sea by shipwreck or their own leaps of faith, and alternate-universe biographies of two children cut down before they'd barely begun their lives, the drowned refugee "Alan Forever" and the street-slain innocent "Jonylah Forever." Fiasco should interrogate his weakness for consumer goods and study anti-Semitism's meaning as a term and history as a blight on humanity. But we're lucky the big label dumped him, and he is too. A-