Lupe Fiasco
The Cool


3.0
good

Review

by Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF
December 19th, 2007 | 109 replies | 31,476 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Surprisingly, The Cool works despite its many obvious flaws

All eyes are on Lupe Fiasco for his second album proper, The Cool, follow-up to his critically-adored debut Food & Liquor and, so he’d have us believe, the second-to-last album before he retires. Though hip hop boasts a grand tradition of artists pretending to retire so their albums will be viewed more favourably, Lupe’s own boasts seem particularly audacious. In spite the industry-wide sales decline, he’s still only a second-tier artist sales-wise, and “most blogged-about rapper of 2006” honours aside, three moderately successful releases does not a legend make.

Is Lupe really so eager to peddle below-average sweatshop footwear that he can’t take a month out every couple of years to promote a new album? Perhaps we’ll never know. Lupe’s retirement idea, predictably, isn’t so much a “retirement” as a “not retirement.” He’ll remain closely involved in the business either way, whether as a performer or an executive, but on the evidence of The Cool, he’s an artist who’d be sorely missed if he chose to leave it all behind. The Cool is an ambitious effort in its own way, an attempt by the quintessential white rapper to show there’s more to his game than mere skateboarding and MySpace rhymes.

The Cool has been touted as a concept album of sorts, though Fiasco has moved to play down this association in the run-up to its release. The concept is in fact confined to a half-dozen tracks, and a few token references elsewhere. It revolves around a character named The Cool, first introduced on the tracks ‘He Say She Say’ and ‘The Cool’ from Food & Liquor, a boy who’s abandoned by his father and instead turns to an odd couple, named The Game and The Streets respectively, for tough love and guidance. For an artist as obviously intelligent as Lupe, the concept is surprisingly awkward, and as Sesame Street as the imagery is, it still manages to confuse the hell out of your hyper-intelligent reviewer.

The five or so tracks that deal specifically with the story are quite a departure from the self-assured, bright-eyed pop that endeared Food & Liquor to just about everybody, and seemed to have carried through with the release of lead single ‘Superstar.’ Instead, tracks like ‘Put You on Game’ and ‘Streets on Fire’ see Lupe slip way out of comfort zone. Replacing the jazzy, string-soaked arrangements of the album’s first half are spare, angry tirades again all the evils of street-life. The attempt to deal with more serious issues is commendable, but completely misguided. Lupe has the technical skills, as the metronomic brilliance of ‘Go Go Gadget Flow’ demonstrates, but when he falls away from playful and melodic, as he does on ‘Streets on Fire,’ his rapid-fire flow sounds remarkably lightweight, and any impact the song could have is negated by its total dreariness.

It’s almost depressing to say it, but The Cool only really gets going when Lupe drops the pretence and concentrates on what got him noticed in the first place. The snide commentary on celebrity culture which runs through lead single ‘The Superstar’ is infinitely more engaging than any of his conceptual efforts. John Legend-clone Matthew Santos makes the first of his two vocal contributions, his sweet voice providing the infectious hook of ‘Superstar,’ singing “if you are what you say you are, a superstar / Then have no fear, the camera’s here.” Street single ‘Dumb It Down’ takes a similar (but more blunt) knife to the masterminds of hip hop’s “race to the bottom,” where status and looking the part is valued above artistic and intellectual achievement; intentionally or not, it’s fitting that the track itself could have been one of the better cuts from 50 Cent’s Curtis.

There are only a few guest vocalists on show, but it’s a case of quality over quantity, with likes of Santos, Pooh Bear, Sarah Green and Nouveau Riche frontwoman Nikki Jean in fine form. Santos’ forever-enunciated vowels in ‘Fighters’ are heaven to behold. Jean adds her smooth-like-honey tones to ‘Little Weapon’ and standout ‘Hip Hop Saved My Life.’ But it’s Pooh Bear and Snoop Dogg who team up for one of the album’s finest moments. ‘Hi-Definition’ boasts lightning-fast piano fills and a JT-aping sung chorus by the Bear (the imitation trend only affects the guys: Lupe still sounds like a more talented Kanye), while Snoop’s guest verse is one of the best he’s managed in years, kicking off with the charmingly homoerotic couplet: “Lupy, it’s Snoopy, let’s go out / Tip toe through the door, do it doggy style.” If there’s something we don’t know, it’s probably better left unsaid.

‘The Coolest’ is the only one of the concept tracks to receive the full pop treatment, and it’s miles better as a result, easily ranking among the album’s top three tracks. As Lupe refrains, “the coolest nigga, what?”, it’s as easy to engage with the story as it is to ignore it, while Chris & Drop’s string-laden arrangement swoops and swings with the aid of haunting choral vocals to give a cinematic feel to proceedings. ‘Paris, Tokyo’ calls to mind Food & Liquor’s ‘Kick, Push’ with a lazy lounge chorus. ‘Go Go Gadget Flow’ sees him pay homage to Chicago, rapping, “I’m from a city in midwest, best city in the whole wide wide world.” It’s not that good, but it may explain Patrick Stump’s production spot on ‘Little Weapon.’ Surprisingly, it works. And, surprisingly, The Cool works as an album despite its many obvious flaws: the pop tracks are as good as anything from his debut, and his attempts to branch out are at least hit and miss, with exciting tracks like ‘Little Weapon’ and ‘Dumb It Down’ breaking the monotony of his soapbox moments.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Jim
December 19th 2007



5110 Comments


yeah good review

Snoop’s guest verse is one of the best he’s managed in years, kicking off with the charmingly homoerotic couplet: “Lupy, it’s Snoopy, let’s go out / Tip toe through the door, do it doggy style.” If there’s something we don’t know, it’s probably better left unsaid.
jebus

Blindguardian
December 19th 2007



186 Comments


"quintessential white rapper"-Lupe isnt white bro

plane
Staff Reviewer
December 19th 2007



6085 Comments


I still haven't heard anything by Lupe Fiasco, so I guess I should. The reviews are favorable for this so I'll probably just get around to listening to it sometime over the break.

it still manages to confuse the hell of your hyper-intelligent reviewer.

Bahaha, good review.

AtavanHalen
December 19th 2007



17927 Comments


Dave, man, good review; but I have to ask- what exactly is a "MySpace rhyme"?

Blindguardian
December 19th 2007



186 Comments


whats this like compared to Food and Liquor?

Sunshine, Daydreamin and the Cool off that are 3 of my favorite songs in the genre

francesfarmer
December 19th 2007



1477 Comments


This is at about the same level for me as Food & Liquor.

"It’s almost depressing to say it, but The Cool only really gets going when Lupe drops the pretence and concentrates on what got him noticed in the first place."

True, great review.

iarescientists
December 19th 2007



5863 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

album's good but much too long

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
December 19th 2007



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Need.

francesfarmer
December 19th 2007



1477 Comments


'Dumb It Down' is one of the best songs all year.

AtavanHalen
December 19th 2007



17927 Comments


Rhymes about MySpace.

Ahh, right; cheers for clearing that up. Thought you were referring to modern rappers or something like that. "My bad".

Oddsen
December 19th 2007



1127 Comments


nice review. I don't really like his voice so much but this his stuff is still very cool

bobdover
December 20th 2007



5 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Alllllllright, let's begin. First of all, I'm a crazy REAL Hip Hop head. Second, YES, Dumb it Down is one of the best Hip Hop songs I'VE EVER HRRD. It is so lyrically dense, it's impossible to catch everything without listening to it dozens of times WHILE reading the lyrics from the page (www.lupefiasco.com and hit forum link)!

Third, REVIEWER, let me break this down for you....

1) Obviously you are a pretty intelligent individual. I don't doubt this fact. This album just might take a few dozen more listens, b/c some of it seems to have gone over your head. Oh, and It seems you have done ur homework on the concepts of the album and it's predecessor, but read Lupe's bio...doing half your homework never looks good when you get it back (most obvious example: "quintessential white rapper," nuff said).

bobdover
December 20th 2007



5 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

2) Concerning Lupe's "retirement"...you might want to read about Righteous Kung Fu and the whole 1st and 15th deal with Atlantic to realize he's got a lot more going on than music. He also says "I really just don't have a lot [of experiences at 25] to talk about..." We have plenty of artists who are dope but run out of material and put out an album that may even be dope, but either talks about nothing relevant/interesting, or just regurgitates old, released material (**cough cough** American Gangster **cough**).

3) "For an artist as obviously intelligent as Lupe, the concept is surprisingly awkward, and as Sesame Street as the imagery is..." First, why is it surprisingly awkward (**cough** read Lupe's Bio) and maybe the imagery isn't as "Sesame Street" as you first assumed.


bobdover
December 20th 2007



5 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

4) "Attempt to deal with more serious issues is commendable, but completely misguided." Yet again, ambiguous, therefore, I'll leave this open for you to explain/defend b/c there are some pretty relevant and serious issues presented in an attempt to at least produce a lot of concerned dialogue.

5) Dreariness? Here (Rx) take this..."Two each of Lupe's pure lyrical talent and ability and it should eliminate any symptoms of dreariness you might be experiencing."

6) Matthew Santos, a John Legend clone? Was this just the first artist to come to your mind and you decided "hey, I'll just go ahead and drop this name and change 'sounds like to me' to 'clone'..." Done.


bobdover
December 20th 2007



5 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

7) Surprisingly, the most common thread between "lacking" reviews is their praise for "Hi-Definition" as "one of the album’s finest moments." This makes me wonder if they listened to the rest of the album or just caught a wood when they saw a name they have heard before. No doubt, snoop is friggin' dope but...actually, point stated.

8) In response to one of your comments: BEST song on the album and FAVORITE are two different things, hence your statement, "my opinion tends to change based on what song I'm listening to." Best doesn't change, it's simply the best.

So...suggestions anyone? (1) Do your homework on Lupe's Bio, (2) Listen to the lyrics in more depth (or read them), and (3) Try listening to Nas - It Was Written...pretty much a classic...real hip hop, forever.

Bobby Bouche'

Tyler
Emeritus
December 20th 2007



7928 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"quintessential white rapper" doesn't imply that he's white.

You can't fault him because you like it more than he does. Most of your points don't make any sense. Like, what does a Nas album have to do with anything.

Tyler Munro' This Message Edited On 12.20.07

bobdover
December 20th 2007



5 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Nas album have to do with anything. "

Yeah, up until then, I was kinda like..."ok, to each his own"...kinda.

But umm...FIRST, Nas is pretty much Lupe's favorite emcee and he has stated that he is losely modeling his albums after "It Was Written" and a couple others. Mmmm...Bio time?

SECOND, it's everything. Understanding albums such as these, you understand artists like Nas and Lupe's absolute LOVE for the ART behind Hip Hop music....

THIRD, if I came off too condescending, which I might, I apologize; nothing against our reviewer...he took the time out of his day/life to hang out with us and present a decent review. I only mean to bring my experience and knowledge to the table as well.

Word, paz.This Message Edited On 12.20.07This Message Edited On 12.20.07

The_One
December 20th 2007



32 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

No offense, but the CD reviewer might actually want to listen to the album for more than one day before writing a review.

First of all Lupe is black. Secondly, there are myspace rhymes. If you even listened to Hip-Hop Saved My Life.

Just for your information. Have a nice day.

Iai
Emeritus
December 20th 2007



3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Hahaha this bobdover kid is nuts. If only everyone who surfed over here from metacritic was like that.

So yeah, Lupe kills every track but most of the beats here are seriously mediocre. From "Gold Watch" down to "Little Weapon" every track fails.

iarescientists
December 20th 2007



5863 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

haha, i can't believe people don't get the quintessential white rapper joke

good review sp(l)at



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