Written By: Fletcher Bonin
After allegedly retiring from the hip-hop scene last year, Lupe Fiasco is back with his latest album DROGAS Light. The ‘light’ aspect of this title refers to its status as a prequel to a heavier, deeper sounding DROGAS full album still to come. In a series of strange – and very typically Lupe – tweets, he reviews his own latest album. Interestingly, he gives it a score of seven out of ten. He backs up this claim with the evidence that the lyrics are perhaps simplistic. He goes on to further hint that DROGAS will be his final full studio release, citing the fact that he has taken his talent in this genre as far as it can possibly go. True or not, I find myself agreeing with Lupe’s self critique as I work my way through the fourteen tracks of DROGAS Light.
The strengths of the album prove double-edged. On the one hand, this is a very typical Lupe album with upbeat, alt-funk backbeats and a characteristically Carribbean sound. And yet on the other hand, I want something new from Lupe, some kind of added texture to his repertoire. In many ways, the early 2000’s sound of DROGAS Light feels out of place in the current rap game. Unfortunately, DROGAS Light reveals that Lupe is out of step with the experimental brand of hip hop that is characterizing 2017. Rather than challenging current attitudes of the genre or pushing hip hop ever further into experimental territory, DROGAS Light proves ultimately two-dimensional. While the music is fun and diverse in stylistic decisions, Lupe seems to have put his signature style in cruise control rather than developing his flow for the modern musical landscape.
That being said, there is much about this latest release that is redeemable taken on its own terms and ignoring comparisons to the current hip hop climate. And as a huge fan of Lupe’s quintessentially 2000s sound, perhaps I had my hopes a little too high. As ever, Lupe is able to blend his flow nicely with pumping club sounds. This is certainly drinking, party music. However you want to interpret it, DROGAS Light is filled with mainstream radio jams. Definitely check out the tracks ‘More Than My Heart’, ‘Made in the USA’, and ‘Jump’. Rick Ross saves ‘Tranquillo’ from sounding like a parody. DROGAS Light offers a lot in the way of fun jams to head bob too, but don’t expect to have your mind blown. There is no denying that this album is purely Lupe’s sound, I just wish he had pushed himself a little harder lyrically. Perhaps we will see more complexity and depth on the upcoming DROGAS album.