Despite threats of retirement, Chicago’s prodigal son Lupe Fiasco returns with his sixth studio album Drogas Light. It is the first in a trilogy of albums, and is admittedly not comprised of new material. That type of publicity is enough to send folks running for the door, but there are several bright moments worth taking note of. In classic Lupe fashion he takes modern sensibilities and flips it to cater to his ultimate goal, which is enlightenment — in any shape, form or fashion.
The problem with Drogas Light is that with no narrative thread it reads like a handful of detached ideas. On one hand it’s refreshing to treat each song as its own portrait while on the other it’s a fragmented experience and difficult to listen to straight through. Lyrically he’s still got it, but whether or not it’ll relate to the next three albums and actually contribute to what a trilogy is supposed to be is still in the air. At this point it’s a bit of a stretch.
Like an angry meteor falling from the night sky, Lupe comes out of nowhere and hits the ground with deafening force. Once the smoke clears a frenetic beat emerges, darting forward at blinding speed. Following suit, he gets to work spitting game faster than your average street hustler. The ideas are in line with your standard mainstream rap, but it’s delivered with a mighty dose of sarcasm:
The beat comes raining down like falling glass and the shards are piercing the skin. He’s delving deep into his psyche so he can free himself from distraction and address more pressing concerns. On the surface it’s a standard hype song, but at the center is a raging inferno. Everyone in the game is trying to be a G, but Lupe’s pointing out the inevitable outcome of such hasty dreams:
Using their own wack style against them, Lupe shows just how redundant mumble rappers can be. He’s pointing out the hypocrisy and how they’ve reduced lyricism to nothing more than soggy misnomers, even the beat simulates the artless soundscapes that have infiltrated the scene. One could assume that he’s taking aim at Future or one of the infinite numbers of rappers out there copying his style:
Adopting a modern style and flipping it to suit his intent. Packed within the simple hook and plain-speaking verses are tidbits of alternative history; standard practice for the outspoken lyricist. Accompanying his high octane rant is a vicious beat that tears mediocrity to shreds. He’s an ambitious linguist, using multiple styles and sounds to speak to those who need it most:
A simple meeting of the minds quickly spirals out of control. It starts with one aspiring rapper linking with a producer, after hitting a bump in the road they take to the streets for some inspiration and then all hell breaks loose. For a moment it appears he’s going to get on his high horse, but he quickly shifts gears and remains steadfast. A momentary break in politicking to get buck:
Capturing the pulse of a city like Chicago is no easy task like wrangling a wild horse and expecting it to comply. Understanding what’s at stake Lupe steps back and offers an honest look, using his own experiences as a measuring stick. It’s got that magic bounce, about the same as his contemporaries. But there’s a depth to his words that’s far more enlivening than your standard shoot-em-up story:
A happy medium is struck between two opposing styles, a delicate combination of pop rap and renegade lyricism. It’s proof that you don’t have to adhere to any one particular method, that you can combine flavors and still walk away with a tasty dish. He’s maintaining his integrity while playing to the crowd, and it’s a lesson in that you don’t have to conform for anyone; mainstream or underground:
Flipping the script like a hot cake, Lupe takes all the dull themes in rap and transforms it something personal. Obscene wealth and reckless hedonism are thorns, but instead of plucking them out one by one he’s taking a more tactful approach. Using a hype beat and sharp superlatives, he opens up his inner sanctum showing the rap world his light. All this in hopes of sweeping reform:
A slow grinding stripper’s anthem that lights the club on fire. Listen hard enough and you can paint the scene: empty bottles, dense clouds of smoke and lots of skin. It’s Ty‘s show and he drifts over the sizzling beat like a melting glacier. By the time Lupe shows up folks are already stumbling to their cars. Fortunately staring at the messy stripper pole is all the inspiration he needs:
The beat rolls in on a cloud, announcing a triumphant return to form. Initially it appears he’s trying to convince a lady to come back to him, but it’s hard not to wonder if this is instead a love letter written to hip-hop. It’s got the same feel as Common‘s “I Used to Love H.E.R.” and resonates with a similar authority. It’s a commitment that goes beyond the flesh and straight to the soul:
Another running attempt at climbing over the mainstream wall. The beat is a shiny meatball, polished to the point that it’s almost blinding. He keeps the mood light, but still manages to touch upon a heartbreaking topic. Relationships fall apart and no superstar, no matter how big is immune to the sting. The lyrics are simple and easy on the stomach, a pop friendly jam made for the masses:
Paying homage to his Chicago roots, Lupe kicks it hard over a house-infused beat. It’s not exactly a throwback, but nostalgic enough to get him thinking about what once was. There’s a bitter tone injected in the heart, and he’s finally getting a chance to unleash some unresolved aggression. Being the wordsmith that he is, he doesn’t hold back. Whoever did him wrong is finally getting theirs:
From trap to power pop, Lupe shows off his dexterity as an artist. The clothes fit loosely and hang in such a way that makes him a lyrical chameleon. He’s speaking to the Top 50 audience, hoping that his message of personal enlightenment will penetrate the wall of garbage that stands between him and them. It’s a bold move and one that’ll likely lead to disappointment. Strong effort nonetheless:
No album is complete without a song for mom. Without her there is nothing, only darkness. She is his bedrock, his port in a storm and everything he’s accomplished is because of her. And because it’s for mom the beat is of course classy and tasteful, a modest and thoughtful jam with enough bump in it to appeal to mothers of all ages. It’s a heartfelt ode that captures Lupe’s main focus: love: