First of all I went through his three Fahrenheit 1/15 mixtapes and the original Food & Liquor and it felt like a breath of fresh air to hear Lupe Fiasco rap in his youth when he wasn't exposed to the fame and wealth he has now. Lupe Fiasco was a nerd, and a damn cool one at that! Kick, Push was as smooth as always, with the Soundtrakk produced beat sounding as fresh as always. Daydreamin' was as mellow as always and the Kanye West produced track The Cool was as mesmerizing as the first listen, with the beat sending chills down my spine as Lupe rapped one of the best stories to be told in a song. I then moved on to his second album The Cool, which was a blast to listen to because most of the songs were produced by Soundtrakk giving the album a Lupe Fiasco-ish feel. The Cool remains to be one of the my favorite concept albums, with Lupe rapping from the perspective of a cheesburger to describe society and the ghetto life on the track Gotta Eat and spitting complex and intertwined quadriple entendres on his best song (in my opinion) Dumb It Down. Re-listening to these albums kinda made my perception of Lupe Fiasco switch back after his release of Lasers, Friend of the People and Food & Liquor II. When I got to those albums, everything changed.
Going through Lasers was a harder task than I expected. All of the tracks with the exception of All Black Everything felt very Pop oriented (while Beautiful Lasers and Coming Up were pop oriented, they were good songs). The album sounded very off, and then I realized that none of the songs were produced by Soundtrakk. Next up was Friend of the People and that was an easier listen lyrically but tougher listener sonically due to the intense Dubstep and Techno influence he's picked up from Soundclash. Lupe came back with Friend of the People as a sorry mixtape apologizing for the poor quality of Lasers. Lupe claimed that the reason why Lasers turned out the way it did was because of Atlantic Records' involvement and manipulation of the material. I believed that for a while and Friend of the People was a bit better so it made sense. After listening to Food & Liquor II, I welcomed it with glowing acclaim because of my disappointments with his two previous records. Food & Liquor II sounded like the old Lupe Fiasco coming back to give us (the fans) what we wanted, neigh what we needed. After 5 months of release, I kinda started to dislike his latest effort for several reasons.
With Food & Liquor II, Lupe came back lyrically. He was spitting positive lyrics that described the problems America faces these days relating to politics, economy, and social life. Throughout the album however, I noticed that Lupe didn't rap in the most charismatic flow he could. Outside of his music, he always preaches the messages he talks about but when it came to his music, he sounded less interesting. Then came the four songs that made most people (or at least me) turn off completely from this album; Heard Donor, Braveheart, How Dare You and Battle Scars. When I listen to the album and get to those songs, I think to myself "What the f**k just happened?". Not only were those songs terrible, but they felt very misplaced and the fact that they were consecutive made it worse. Then came Form Follows Function and that saved the rest of the album. So did Atlantic force him to do these songs like with Lasers? I don't think so because he said he had total creative control over this album. Also, he blamed Atlantic for the Poppy sound of Lasers while this album exhibits more Pop and Techno beats as well such as tracks like Lamborghini Angels, Put Em Up, Bitch Bad and the four other mentioned songs (Note: Bitch Bad might not have been the best example because the production on that song could've been intentional to match the message). Its clear that Lupe wanted to produce these songs they way they turned out and he has no one to blame now. Also, Lupe had no songs on this album produced by Soundtrakk with the exception of Strange Fruition (which was one of the best songs on the album). Lupe seems to have forgotten his roots and what made his music stand-out. I mean sure his lyrics and substance are still there, but the execution has declined.
Now I don't want this blog entry to make it sound like I'm bashing Lupe Fiasco to the ground. I hardly judge music based on production but the shift in musical style Lupe is doing now really bugs me. I mean there are songs on Friend of the People and Lasers I would only play once or twice, but songs like Double Burger with Cheese and All Black Everything are so genius I can replay them all day without question (I'm being dead serious, I once went into listening to Double Burger with Cheese for about 30 times in a row because of how smart the metaphor and the allusions to those movie were). Lupe's spontaneous flashes of brilliance keep me coming back and looking away from the music that isn't as strong that he puts out. As a devoted Lupe Fiasco fan, I hate to say that I don't like the direction he's taking in his career because it makes me feel like a traitor. I have loved Lupe Fiasco's character and message for years and I definitely will continue to do so forever. Food & Liquor will forever be placed in my top 5 favorite albums of all time and Lupe Fiasco will forever remain a legend for the way he took the rap game by surprise in 2006 and brought conscious Hip-Hop to the mainstream in a highly effective way. But if Lupe Fiasco really wanted to go into a Techno/Club sound like what he's doing with Soundclash, I have no right to criticize him. Artists change and that's what makes them so loveable. What I do have a problem with however is Lupe claiming he is returning to his roots but incorporating the sound he likes into it intentionally. That wouldn't be fair to his fans or the Hip-Hop genre. So Mr. Jaco, I got lots of love and respect for you, and hopefully with your 2013 untitled release and Skulls we can see what direction you want to take. Until next time, I will be continue to root for you and your music as a fan and good luck at the Grammys. For now, I leave you with this classic song that made me a fan of Lupe Fiasco's music forever:
*Note* Lupe Fiasco released the title of his upcoming album and it is Tetsuo & Youth which sounds freakin' awesome. Hopefully this is will give Lupe the respect he truly deserves.
*Note* I didn't hate Battle Scars but after the constant replay and the error in the sequence it lost its power to me, but nevertheless its still a good song on its own.
What do you think? Do you like the direction Lupe Fiasco is heading with his career? Do you think that I am wrong when it came to his latest efforts? Why? Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think!