Lupe Fiasco's newest album has many listeners saying that old Lupe is back. It looks like that may in fact be the case.
Lupe Fiasco has been in a battle with Atlantic records for what seems to be forever. We all know about his discontent with Lasers and on his mixtape Friend of the People he made it clear that he wanted off the label. He did not get his wish before this album dropped, and that almost prevented us from hearing this album entirely. Lupe has done interviews in which he says the album would never come out if Atlantic Records had their way. Given the acclaim that this album has been receiving lately, that would have been a tragedy.
Fortunately, help came in the form of an online hacktivist group called Anonymous. Apparently, the group Anonymous told Atlantic Records that they would launch an attack on Atlantic executives and associates if Tetsuo & Youth was not granted a release date. Within 24 hours, Lupe Fiasco received a call from his partner Chilly, in prison, telling him that Atlantic would be tweeting the release date later that day. If this album release story fits any artist it’s definitely Lupe Fiasco. This was also Lupe’s last project on Atlantic and he’s now a free man. But anyway, let’s get into this album.
The album has four interludes, each named after a season of the year. Aside from the final track “Spring”, they each usher in a new section of the album that fits the tone set by the season. The album starts with “Summer”, a minute and a half of gentle sounds and kids playing. The songs in summer have a happier feeling than the rest of the album. One of which is the song that everyone has been talking about nonstop, “Mural”. Mural has a nice piano-laden beat that Lupe lyrically rides with what seems like an endless amount of bars. If you wanted Lupe back, this is for you.
The next song we hear is “Blur My Hands”, featuring Guy Sebastian, essentially telling us don’t worry about the haters. Take those middle fingers they give you and turn them into a signal meaning number one. Then send them right back as if to say “I think you’re number one, too.” Anyone who has seen Lupe’s twitter can see why he goes this route.
Up next is half a minute of a pretty random banjo playing. It’s played well, mind you, but when you hear the rest of “Dots & Lines”, you might wonder why the banjo was necessary. The track would be pretty much the same if hadn’t started with that. This song is another strong one lyrically (what else do you expect), and it’s the first of a few on which we’re blessed with the lovely voice of Nikki Jean. Just barely though, as her background vocals are more subtle here.
That concludes "Summer", and next we move on to "Fall", which has a lower and slower feeling to it. There are still kids playing, but the music itself isn’t quite as light-hearted, and for good reason. Lupe says these interludes serve as palate cleansers, and these tracks, like the amazing double track “Prisoner 1 & 2” are definitely a different flavor. Lupe finishes the "Fall" section with two Nikki Jean features “Little Death” and “No Scratches”. The songs are very different though, as “No Scratches” is a lot more simplistic, while “Little Death” has tons of lines you could spend all day figuring out, much like “Body of Work”.
"Winter" is the first interlude with no kids playing and a completely different sound than the others. It feels cold with the wind blowing and eerie music that gives it an insidious sound. "Winter" is where we get the coldest and grittiest tracks on the LP. The nine minute long posse cut “Chopper” is tough to the point where it almost seems out of place, but it does present a narrative that warrants its presence. Songs like “Deliver” and “Madonna” tell the stories of Chicago, and the hood in general, in a way we’re more used to hearing from Lupe, making them both very powerful.
The last two songs of the album, Lupe’s personal favorite “Adoration of the Magi” and “They.Resurrect.Over.New” both seem to lean more toward the feeling of the “Spring” interlude, which concludes the album. These two songs both sound very different from the previous three “Winter” tracks, that all have the dark tones to them. Also, “T.R.O.N.” (with its very impressive Ab-Soul feature) does follow “Spring” if you listen to the album backwards, which many people have been suggesting for one reason or another.
Lupe Fiasco has called this his least-flawed album. While that is a bold claim considering how great his first two albums were, it is true that finding weak points in this album is very difficult. Food & Liquor 2 and Lasers both had their share of easily skippable tracks, but this album is one that can be listened to all the way through many times, despite the ambitious length of some of these songs, you don't grow weary of them.