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Lupe Fiasco

  • Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor [Atlantic, 2006] A-
  • The Cool [Atlantic, 2007] A-
  • Lasers [Atlantic, 2011] *
  • Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 [Atlantic, 2012] **
  • Tetsuo & Youth [Atlantic, 2015] A-
  • Drogas Light [1st & 15th, 2017] **
  • Drogas Wave [1st & 15th, 2018] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor [Atlantic, 2006]
Why do so many rappers of the everyday come from Chicago? Fiasco follows Common, Capital D, Rhymefest and of course his homey Kanye West, who is definitely part of the explanation. Though I wish the beats were less corny-orchestral, Fiasco marks his own turf in a three-song sequence that would have led the second side back in the day. The not-quite-nightmarish "Daydreamin'," the thug-life-after-death fable "The Cool" and the free-accelerating "Hurt Me Soul," which begins with Too Short calling women bitches and ends in the geopolitical sinkhole we all inhabit, prove it isn't just realists who describe real life. And the two takes on his signature "Kick Push" hope that everyday life isn't always a sinkhole. A-

The Cool [Atlantic, 2007]
Because you can only get so much street from a skateboard, his morality emanates from too far above the asphalt this time except when he's renouncing his own sins of cool. And even so he's a major-label rapper positioned to put the "z" in "greasy," speak for a child soldier, and call himself boring before anybody else can. He makes UNKLE and Fall Out Boy sound fresher than Tricky Stewart. He's got that go go go go go go go go go go gadget flow. A-

Lasers [Atlantic, 2011]
Catchier when he's articulating his ill-informed politics than when he's making nice to the big bad record company he doesn't actually defy, now does he? ("All Black Everything," "Words I Never Said") *

Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 [Atlantic, 2012]
Veteran wannabe avers amid thousands of words that if he were a Buddhist he'd be reborn as himself ("Bitch Bad," "Hood Now [Outro]") **

Tetsuo & Youth [Atlantic, 2015]
Angry at the record company, angry at a racist society, not sure they're different, Too Smart throws up his hands and down his gantlet and generates a music-driven album in which violin interludes named after the seasons separate long stretches of associative protest poetry, detailing prison and hood sociology that's scarier than you expect because you thought you already knew that shit. The two strongest tracks begin the winter section: "Choppers," about buying filet mignon with your food stamps and healthcare from Obama, and "Delivery," about how hard it is to order crap pizza in a place where people get shot. But "Prisoner 1 & 2" could mess up your mind as well. The final interlude is called "Spring," only it's not an interlude. It's the end. Nothing follows. A-

Drogas Light [1st & 15th, 2017]
Light it is, miscellaneous too, but only dumbbells make light of his skills, and few rappers you think you like more have managed anything as tragic or comic, respectively, as its two undeniables ("NGL," "Jump") **

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-