Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2018-12-21

2018-12-21

Lupe Fiasco: 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") **

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-

Lil Wayne: Tha Carter V (Young Money, 2018) No throwaway or overreach, but after all that drama not near enough fun either ("Problems," "Mess," "Mona Lisa") ***

Meek Mill: Championships (Maybach Music Group, 2018) This post-prison freedom cry is a 19-track marathon whose beats rise and fall while a solid third of its rhymes expand on Mill's unsought status as a case study in the racism of the parole system. If only it didn't also return tediously to the females he's fucked, who by actual count occasion almost 90 reps of the slurs "bitch" and "hoe," five times as many as the affectionate "shawty"/"girl"/"mami." He does at least seem to savor their bodies sometimes, which is never a given. But he sounds far more motivated pointing out that that's rapper cash not dealer cash before Jay-Z unfurls his deepest billionaire brag to date, or delivering the hard hood truths of "Oodles O' Noodles Babies." And "100 Summers" builds to a quatrain that identifies and then contextualizes the enemy within: "Grew up 'round them monsters they'll shoot you in your face / Ain't used to showin' no love that's 'cause we grew up in that hate / Live by the sword die by the sword way / Tried to make it home they shot him in the hallway." B+

Vince Staples: FM! (Def Jam, 2018) It is my sad duty to report that he's a lot better at tragedy than comedy ("Feels Like Summer," "Fun!") *

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