Because of my many obligations such as school, work and hanging out with friends, I spend a great deal of time in the car, driving from place to place. To take some of the monotony out of the experience, I liven things up by listening to the radio. Oftentimes, I tune in to the local hip-hop/rap stations only to be assaulted with whichever bland, soulless and insipid mainstream rap that happens to be the flavor of the month. In these instances, because of an inexplicably catchy beat, I’ll allow my intelligence to be insulted as the rapper talks about how affluent he is, how much he would like to harm his fellow man and/or teach us how to do some stupid dance people just can’t seem to get enough of. Many times, I just can’t take it and immediately switch to a jazz, alternative or R&B station. In other words, any time I hear any of the mindless crap belted out by Soulja Boy or the incessantly annoying T-Pain (who appears to be on EVERY song these days). It’s not that those other genres are bad, it’s more because I’ll always be a hip-hop fan at heart, and to have to switch away from a station that plays it pains me.
So, I’ve further distanced myself from the mainstream rap that constantly plays on the radio and more towards the artists who branch out and attempt to be different. In this search, I’ve found many hip-hop artists that have captured my interest but as of late, I’ve found myself listening to the lyrical stylings of Lupe Fiasco. Of course, I’ve known about the guy for a long while, since hearing one of his debut singles “Kick Push” on the radio, but up until now, I haven’t been listening to much of his music. Having heard one of his latest singles, Superstar, played numerous times on the radio and greatly enjoying what I’d heard, while I was walking through Target early yesterday morning, I happened upon Lupe Fiasco’s “The Cool” from which “Superstar” is culled. Soon after, I was walking out of the store with the album in hand, feeling confident in my purchase.
How right I was to purchase the CD with such confidence, since The Cool is one of the best hip-hop albums I’ve ever heard.
I was stunned as I listened to “The Coolest”, the album’s namesake for the first time. The dark, haunting beat hypnotized me as Lupe’s lyrics told an equally dark story with a level of grace and style I haven’t heard in quite a while. Lupe delivers his message in rhyme with a complexity and intricacy I haven’t heard in quite a while. Before you ask, the redundancy of the previous statement is intentional. Why? Because, listening to this album was like a slap in the face, forcing me to wake up to the harsh realization of how much I had lowered my standards listening to “radio rap”. Hearing this one song was like the first breath of fresh air after being trapped underwater for far too long, except in this case, the “water” was the mediocre mainstream rap that now floods the industry.
But I digress. Lupe Fiasco’s sophomore album is filled to the brim with the same complex, meaningful rhymes his fans have come to expect but what makes this album truly stand out in my mind is the numerous sociopolitical messages strewn throughout in several of his songs. Lupe Fiasco draws a connection between video game violence and child soldiers of third world countries in “Little Weapon” produced by (of all people) Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy fame and addresses immigration in the song “Intruder Alert”. Interestingly enough, Lupe also takes shots at the masses who want rap to be “dumbed down” in “Dumb it Down” which effectively sums up how I feel about the new face of the industry.
It should be easy to tell by now that I am thoroughly impressed by this album and heartily recommend it to all fans of hip-hop who want more than just mediocre. I recommend this to people who enjoy listening to songs that carry a message about something other than guns, cars, clothes and money. The sheer complexity and thought provoking subjects of Lupe’s rhymes, coupled with his refusal to dumb himself, or his songs down to the masses, is one of the reasons I’ve come up with to explain why this CD hasn’t garnered the sales I believe it deserves. It’s a shame really, because it’s this kind of music that represents a viable future for the hip-hop industry as a whole, versus the mainstream rap the masses have taken such a shine to.
In short, hip-hop fans everywhere need to hear this album, chances are you’re going to enjoy it.