Surprise! Welcome to the second “Week Fulla” – this time we have the great Lupe Fiasco. I had a moment of mental clarity this morning after my second day trying yoga at home, so the hope is that that moment allows me to not have a mental breakdown during the week, and I can actually finish the Week Fulla Lupe in one week, instead of splitting it in half like I did for the Week Fulla Dreamville. I’ve already talked on the first M.F.O.A.T. about how I was introduced to Lupe and his music, so let’s just right into the First Listen, shall we?
Quick Note: You can find all the “Week Fulla” stories here (the Lupe ones plus the others I’ve done and will do :))
2017: DROGAS Light
So after really, really, really long time I finally got a chance to listen to Lupe’s DROGAS Light (2017). And it was an…interesting experience.
I feel like I didn’t really necessarily experience Lupe at his best on this project. From beginning to end, it felt like everything fell short when it came to Lupe’s verses. There were some songs like “NGL” where Lupe’s bars felt a little bit corny; on top of that, there was an unfortunate underuse of Ty Dolla $ign on that track. “NGL” actually reminds me a lot of how I felt about how I felt after hearing “Parents” from Denzel Curry’s Nostalgic 64 (2013). The themes that he was talking about surrounding Black struggle are important and quintessentially Lupe. But the way that he went about it was a little underwhelming. It felt like surface level Lu, rather than a project like Tetsuo & Youth (2015) where Lupe talks about the same thing but with a little bit more finesse. And Lupe is no stranger to being able to finesse a verse. So the bars on that particular song where a little disappointing to me. There were a couple of other songs that felt like that; “Made in the USA” was one of those. That was the only song from this project that I had heard before this full listen, and I kind of liked it, but I did feel significantly less fulfilled compared to how I usually feel after listening to Lupe. There were also some places where the song felt like a parody song? It seemed like the song wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously? I don’t know, something about it didn’t sit right with me, but it’s a fine song.
Something that I also found myself thinking a lot while listening to his project was that everything around Lupe was kicking his ASS. The features, the production. It seemed like everything was at a level I would expect from Lupe…except Lupe. I love the production on “High.” “Tranquillo” and “Law” also had some amazing production. And OOH. The production on “Kill” is absolutely b l e s s e d. And the features on this project??? The features went OFF. I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t enjoying Lupe’s bars as much, but it seemed like the features on this project we’re better than the features on a lot of Lupe’s other projects. And that’s not to say that the features on those other projects aren’t good – there are some iconic features on those other projects – but I don’t think I’ve ever found myself so taken aback by how AMAZING the features are on a Lupe project like I did on this project. Usually, Lupe’s verses are the ones I remember the most. Rick Ross and Big K.R.I.T. were absolutely amazing on “Tranquillo.” It honestly could have just been a song with the two of them and Lupe on the chorus (and no verse), and I wouldn’t have had any problem with that. Same with “Kill.” Y’all know I love a Ty Dolla $ign feature, and I loved him on this track. He and Victoria Monet were phenomenal. Their voices on top of that suuuper smooth production had me in awe. I literally had to just sit and listen to the song because I just could not believe my ears LOL. I’ve never listened to Victoria Monet before, but I’ve seen pictures of her on Tumblr and every time I see those pictures I think about how much I think she looks like Megan Thee Stallion LOL. But I think it’s time to give her music a shot. “Kill” was definitely my favorite song from the entire project. The chorus is beautiful. Lupe’s adlibs give the song an entire little bit of something. The whole thing just comes together so so well. There’s nothing that I would change about this song. Even the outro won me over in the end, after having me a little confused when it first came on.
I do have to say, though, that the last four songs on the project were a no go. I have no clue what was going on with those LOL I wasn’t being completely won over by the project before, but those last four songs did NOT sit right with me at all. They gave me very much “Old School Love” (which I HATE) vibes, with a little bit of Lasers (2011). They weren’t bad songs per se, but I’m just really confused as to why they were even included. I saw in a couple places on el internet that this project was supposed to kind of be a conglomeration of a bunch of different songs that didn’t make past projects – I’ll have to do some research to see if that’s actually true. But even if that was the case, Lupe’s been making music long enough to know how to put out an album together, and these songs just did NOT need to be there. I did like “More Than My Heart,” but that was only because it’s a song about moms, and y’all know how I feel about moms. So I can’t really completely bad mouth the song because then I feel like I’d be doing a disservice to moms everywhere. But it didn’t need to be there, and it was such an unfortunate end to a project that was already pretty rocky from the start for me.
So I’m left feeling a little bit iffy after listening to this project. Lupe has been musically on the rocks for me since he dropped Lasers. It wasn’t a bad project, but in comparison to Lupe’s previous projects, didn’t even come close. Same with Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1 (2012). There were some good songs on the front part of that project, but as a whole, it really didn’t measure up to The Cool (2007) or Food and Liquor (2006). It was Lasers and FLII that had me a little bit nervous about listening to Tetsuo & Youth for the first time. I think he dropped “Adoration of the Magi” as one of the first singles from that project, and even after that, I was a little unsure. But that song ended up being one of my favorite songs from the project, and Tetsuo & Youth is still one of my favorite projects to this day. And so that project gave me a little bit more faith in Lupe – y’all know once I stop being able to be fully confident in an artist’s ability to produce a good project, I approach the rest of their music cautiously from that point on.
But even with that boost from Tetsuo & Youth, I was still a little nervous about what Lupe was going to give us with DROGAS Light. And I don’t think I was nervous for no reason. I probably will not revisit this project again (though “Kill” will be added to my Liked Tracks on Spotify). That doesn’t mean I think Lupe isn’t a great rapper anymore or that he doesn’t have the ability to create an amazing project. But it has me a little bit worried that someone who I’ve never had to worry about before could be overshadowed on his own project by his features and the production. Because honestly, those two elements were the best part about this project. If those elements weren’t at the level they’re at, this album would be a complete L to me.
I will give him props, though. I do like the different wave Lupe was on, as far as sound, on this project. I’m sure there is a reason for it – I’ll look into the background on this project some more – but y’all know I like when artists that I’ve been listening to for a while give me something different than what I’m used to hearing. This was one of those moments for Lupe. I don’t necessarily hear Lupe in my head a specific way. I think I mentioned in the M.F.O.A.T. for 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014) that that project is how J.Cole exists in my head. I don’t think I have a project like that for Lupe. But my brain files Lupe songs to the Lupe folder based on general Lupe criteria collected from years of listening. And the beats and production on this project weren’t what I would have expected from him. And I actually really enjoyed that element. Shout out to everyone who worked on those pieces of DROGAS Light, especially Ty Dolla $ign, Victoria Monet, D’Mile, Rick Ross, Big K.R.I.T., and Simon Sayz. It’s just unfortunate that the bars didn’t measure up.
I don’t usually spill the beans on what I’ll be listening to for the rest of the week, but since it’s a Week Full a Lupe, I’ll spill the beans a little bit and say that I’m planning on listening to DROGAS WAVE (2018) for the Album Look Back later on this week (on the technicality that I heard one song from it, didn’t like that song, didn’t listen to the rest, and now I’m ready to give the project another chance), and I’m not sure if I’m super excited about that after hearing this project. I was hoping that this one would be a little bit of a Tetsuo & Youth moment, where I come out of this project feeling reinvigorated about my relationship with Lupe’s music, but I’m not really feeling like that right now. Like I said, he will always be one of my favorites, and I’ll always think of him very highly (unless he does something wild lol). This project just really didn’t sit right with me. Not completely. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. It was…ok.
Hopefully DROGAS WAVE will give me something a little bit different. Until then.
Featured Image Credit: https://djbooth.net/features/2017-02-27-earl-sweatshirt-new-album
(listen to DROGAS Light on spotify by clicking the images below)
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About a week ago, Joe Budden and Lupe Fiasco went on IG Live – well, Lupe went on live and Joe Budden hopped in the conversation – and talked about the music industry. The conversation was mostly centered on a round of Oppression Olympics, where Joe continuously devalues how bad Lupe was (allegedly) mistreated by … Continue reading TAKE #8: Thoughts on the Joe Budden and Lupe Fiasco Convo from IG Live