Since the beginning of hip-hop, there has always been a selected chosen that are completely invisible to the mainstream eye, yet their intellectual rhyming skills and almost flawless flow have gotten them into the great critically acclaimed history books. Not to mention a taste for the rap they want to only make, not giving a hoot about what the critics want. They were the legends, the ones that made the classic records that undoubtedly stuck with you. Then you have the mainstream movers, a chosen few that care nothing more about the fans and venture into the misogynistic realm of ridiculous wordplay that many consider "freshiz amiz". Fortunately, Chicago-born MC Lupe Fiasco isn't of the latter.
became a highly anticipated album when it hit the blog news. Many looked forward to Lupe Fiasco's enjoyable, if somewhat unoriginal, style of music. It never did gain enough appeal to be as successful as it should've been, but to those who stuck around, it definitely presented a new step in stylish concept rap. Lupe's sophomore effort, with the inspired album title coming from a song of the same name on his previous album, The Cool
, it does not disappoint. Many would argue that his religious background would hold back any potential he could've had (for example, throwing in the "F" bomb a couple of times might have made clueless critics reconsider), but somehow he manages to pull it off better than Will Smith and still keep his credibility. Although Fiasco hardly curses through the course of the album, the featured artists aren't afraid to get dirty, especially long-time collaborator GemStones as heard on Dumb It Down
The album starts with Baba Says Cool For Thought
, a view of whats cool or not in the world of drugs, crime and poverty, followed by Free Chilly
, a short if not pointless sketch about Chilly going to jail, sung by Sarah Green and GemStones. Go Go Gadget Flow
sparks a new and improved Fiasco, a much more impatient flow partially thanks to Twista, and a violin-beat strapped over deep bass hits to signal a darker, edgier sound. Although it plays out like an awkward blend of Kanye West and Jay-Z, it surprisingly works to his advantage, but unfortunately doesn't become a track worth replaying after a few listens. Superstar
, featuring the strangely accented Matthew Santos, is probably the most famous track on the album, thanks to much commercial success. Despite being overplayed like a newly found Kings Of Leon track, it keeps its balance of entertainment, Lupe's famous "social awareness" lyrics and something you can impress the radio's with. Apart from the rather obvious song title, it speaks the exact opposite as you will come to see with the rest of the album's songs. Being a superstar has its advantages and disadvantages, and who to riddle us with uneven metaphors than the great Fiasco himself...
"And you better wear your shades
The spotlights here can burn holes through the stage
Down through basement pass the Indian graves
Where the dinosaurs laid
Then out through China, nearly misses airliners
Magnified times five, 'less it's pointed at the rhymer
Ricochets off the moon and sets the forest ablaze"
Does exceedingly well at keeping both the hard core fans and curious newcomers pleased. Gold Watch
presents a different perspective on life through the eyes of himself, but then again, its very rare that you'll find an intellect MC like him writing a cheery song about his car. The production work is repetitive on the first few listens, but eventually grows on you. In this track alone, you'll find Fiasco giving a lot of emphasis on the lesser-known subjects he randomly ignites. For instance, a four-line exposure of Street Fighter
has him explaining what he thinks about the individual characters. If thats not a cry for a serious metaphor on the war in Iraq, then it just proves how laid back he can be at rhyming without effort, which makes it a worthwhile song.
You'll eventually find out that The Cool
has a split personality. There is an unfair balance of "happy sunshine-go-lucky songs a la dark and paranoia". Songs like Intruder Alert
, speaking about rape and the spread of AIDS, Hello/Goodbye (Uncool)
, the UNKLE-produced track that makes the darkness of Dimmu Borgir look like Chuck-E Cheese, and the appropriately named Little Weapon
, that is, you guessed it, about the infamous war. All of it seems like a far cry for attention, but listen closely and you'll read the music like a book, and only then will you truly appreciate all that he has to offer.
Streets On Fire
is, by far, one of the most incredible songs to hit the album. With an introduction by Matthew Santos that just screams "riot!", a drum beat that adds to the chaos and lyrics about the end of the world, once again seen through the eyes of Lupe, who predicts it will fall under the spread of an unknown disease, while at the same time referring to his fictional character "The Streets" that lends closely to the concept. The definite highlight of the entire album, and a must-listen to any fan willing to solve some puzzling metaphors.
"The stars are aligned and their path is colliding
The plan is arriving and she’s out there smiling
The fear is upon us, the skies tried to warn us
Your bedrooms are gone and no children to mourn us
It's driving me crazy, this whore is my lady
The bombs are our babies and God is amazing
The tick of the time of the slip of the rhyme
Of the pimp and the rise of your fall is where you'll find her"
In the end, The Cool
may not impress all curious listeners, especially those more inclined to listen to easy-going lyrics and not use their brain so much. Lupe is original in his own way, and perfectly suited to do such an album without the imense pressure of an enitre careers work behind him. I recommend The Cool
to those only willing to give it a shot. Its very much worth it, and closes 2007's great hip-hop year and opens into 2008 as one of the best you'll hear in a while. Although there are many flaws, its not quite as obvious as one might think, and you will find yourself overseeing it easily, because it is not something that sticks out. The Cool
is not just a Chi-town boy's mindless excuse at making some hard cash, its devoted brilliance.