by Keegan King
Once, in a great long while, an album comes out that speaks to a generation. Every track, a master class in prose and lyrical ingenuity. An album with music so powerful it makes the great masters- Chopin, Mozart, Mercury, Bowie – spin in their graves so hard, the friction causes a tectonic shift that would bring the Titans to their knees.
This is not that album.
Had you goin’ for a minute, didn’t I?
Lupe Fiasco is one of my favorite emcees, and I was really excited for his new album to drop. When I saw that he was releasing DROGAS Light as the first part of a new trilogy (TRILL-ogy? Maybe? Street Cred?) I was super stoked to give it a listen. So when it dropped I downloaded it, and figured it could accompany me on a long drive across the state. I started the album and set off into the day… and four tracks later I had to check my (streaming music service that doesn’t pay me to endorse them, but I would totally sell out to) to make sure I hadn’t downloaded a different, more awful artist. Lo’ and behold I was, in fact, listening to the right album…
Okay, so maybe that’s overreacting to it; In all honesty there are a handful of tracks that are really damn good, but they alternate with some of the most boring, repetitive, garbled songs that I’ve heard in a long time. Think of the book The Grapes of Wrath, but instead of having a deep, philosophical chapter alternating with story, you have story chapters alternating with getting punched in the taint.
“NGL” and “Made in the USA” stand out as the two best songs in the first half of the album, the latter only getting a pass because its energy is high and the flow is competent. However, they are small condolences while you are stumbling around the rest of the uninspired beats and childish lyrics. The dubstep/trap style rears its ugly head once again and battles against the flow to gain the attention of the listener, ending up creating an overproduced mess. The saddest part for me is that Lupe seems to have a lot of really talented singers and guest emcees on the cuts that get lost in the translation.
Towards the end of the desert of mediocrity, we find two other oases that give us a little bit of hope. “Pick up the Phone” acts as the 2017 answer to “Payphone” and makes me reminiscent of better days with Food & Liquor back when Lupe did “Sunshine”. I’d be the first to say that it’s kinda trite at certain points, but it’s definitely nice to see Lupe growing up in his verses.
The next track “It’s Not Design” brings out the dance beats and breathes more life back into our hearts. It has a vaguely sci-fi feel to it and almost sounds like it is taking its cues from acts like Daft Punk and Deltron 3030, but only taking the best parts of the futurist 80’s synth pop combo.
Finally, the last track “More Than My Heart” should be on everyone’s playlists as a song to make you remember and respect your mother. It may seem like a little pandering, but it feels like Lupe’s version of Tupac’s “Mama”. This was probably not the purpose, but its nice to see Lupe returning to form and spitting bars about things that have a little more substance.
The Verdict: If this is the album that is suppose to make us excited for DROGAS and Skulls to come out, its a failure. It feels like (and, apparently is) a bunch of experimental B sides gumming up an almost exciting EP. DROGAS Light could have benefited from being about 9 songs lighter and worrying less about trying to be popular. While I know that mainstream Rap and Hip-Hop are going this direction, I miss the days when Lupe (and frankly, a lot of emcees) cared more about their bars than their wallets.
I’d say give the album a listen if you are looking for something that is slightly better than airport security. However, give these tracks a listen if you are looking for something that is familiar while still being original and new.
The Score: 4/10 (7/10 for the 5 song EP this should have been)