Review Summary: The Cool is one of the most original, incredible, dark, favourable and real hip-hop albums to come out in a while.
What makes a great hip-hop album? Could it be the overrated beats? Could it be the gangster talk we've all strangely come to love? Could it be the fact that we don't really know what real hip-hop is? Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Lupe Fiasco.
Once a rebel, Food & Liquor steps up beyond lyrical content and beats, showing off Fiasco's more sensitive side to hip-hop. He keeps a neat flow, a respectable producer and Titanic-deep metaphors. Also, word play is key to his almost failed distinguishable trademark style. Putting it simple, Fiasco can flip a verb ten times faster than Jamie Oliver can flip a pancake. Seeing as this is his second attempt, you can't help but notice the flaws in comparison to Food & Liquor.
For one, the beats are far less variated and feel choppy and unfinished ("Superstar", "Go Go Gadget Flow"). The second notable difference is the Titanic-deep metaphorical phrases he often uses. After listening to "Dumb It Down" for the seventh time do I really pick up the first line he cleverly sweeped up. This proves to be his strongest point in hip-hop and therefore finding uncommon ground with mainstream rappers. What we've become so advised to listen to in todays hip-hop, the speaking of drugs, cars, money and degrading women, how can we ever understand Lupe Fiasco's dark complexity?
The Cool, an extention of the song of the same name on Food & Liquor, tells the story of Michael Young History and his resurrection from the grave as a cleaned up man, no more drug dealing and psychosocial ghetto warfares. People will slip past the strong emphasis this story has on the hip-hop Nas once claimed "dead". See the metaphor now?
Fortunately (and for some, unfortunately) this is kind of how the whole album flows. Track after track speaking in a smart tone about issues concerning worldly events.
This is Fiasco's strong point. Tracks like "Streets on Fire", "Dumb It Down" & "Hip-Hop Saved My Life" are pheonomenal because it carries a strong message and still delivers unmatched beats to go with it. Also, the featured artists in these songs play a key role to its moody approach, much on the matter of "Streets on Fire" with Matthew Santos' unbelievable introduction and chorus. Truly a spectacular track. Apart from clever word play and instant genius flow, there comes the songs with no meaning at all, and feel like rushed B-sides instead of final products.
This is Fiasco's weak point. Following the tracks "Go Baby", "Go Go Gadget Flow" & "Paris, Tokyo" they seem to appeal to a much more mainstream audience. Not to say this is bad, but repetitive knowing what you thought was the best rapper ever suddenly became overplayed by your nooby twelve-year old brother. This degrades his status, but we still give him praise. Coincidence? I think not.
"Go Baby" is the closer of the album, but personally I should've felt it stop at "Fighters". Even Gemini couldn't save this track. It is refered to "....the ladies", which the only good side is that Lupe doesn't have to call them his "shawty".
Other than that, The Cool is a gem of its kind. There are songs on here that will blow away your mind, literally. Listening to Lupe's words is like opening a book of BrainTwister and attempting to answer each question in immediate response. He keeps the people gripped to his music, which little musicians have failed to achieve in their musical career..... ever. And yet, a dorky kid from Chi-town suddenly shows up, and in only two albums puts out an entire race of legendary rappers.
Not to say Lupe Fiasco is the original XD boy from down the street. On The Cool, he is constantly influenced by the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West, most notable on "Put You on Game" & "Intruder Alert". This strips a piece of his originality away, but c'mon? Is Kanye ever gonna step up to Lupe's complexity?
On the side note, the featured artists on The Cool are worth a quarter of the praise. Nikki Jean, Sarah Green and Baba's intro have incredible femme fatale feels. Bishop G, long time collaborator Gemini and the great Matthew Santos have all had their pieces of work that, without them, Lupe Fiasco would cease to exist.
Conclude, The Cool is one of the most original, incredible, dark, favourable and real hip-hop albums to come out in a while, ever since the likes of Jay-Z's "Reasonable Doubt". Its easy to find fault in his style, but that means you're not fully understanding and appreciating his music, meaning you're a noob. Its underrated, and amazes me. This is clearly Lupe's trademark album, if F&L failed to impact the music scene. Its a darn shame that his next album will be his retirement, but with a mentor like Jay-Z, its highly impossible.
1. "The Coolest"
2. "Hip-Hop Saved My Life"
3. "Streets on Fire"
4. "Dumb It Down"
5. "Put You On Game"
6. "Blackout" (Bonus Track)