Lupe Fiasco
Samurai


4.5
superb

Review

by YoYoMancuso STAFF
June 28th, 2024 | 95 replies


Release Date: 06/28/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Don't make me resurrect up in this

Like its late muse, Lupe Fiasco’s arresting Samurai is lean, jazzy, vulnerable, and wary of the spotlight at all turns, while simultaneously clamoring for it. Lupe has pulled no punches about the album’s conceptual framework, a vibrant, elegiac tribute to singer and cultural icon Amy Winehouse that reimagines her as a roaming ronin slowly being eaten by the elements, a star that shines brighter than any other in its galaxy, an indicator that it is only coming closer to being snuffed out with each passing moment. Listeners progressing through the smoky, dimly lit labyrinth of Samurai will bear witness to this lyrically captivating juxtaposition as Lupe spits about his titular “samurai” bringing water to entire forests with her bars, an undeniable musical power that is nothing compared to the strength of her own thanatos. This incomparable, unbeatable, inscrutable genius describes herself as her “own masochist” and primed to “slash [her] wrist with a poem” over the jaw-dropping beat switch that concludes “Palaces”, just one of many instances throughout the record where one of the most gifted MCs our time densely weaves an emotionally dichotomous web of our protagonist’s palpable brilliance and inevitable self-destruction.

The cluster of overcast beats that has been assembled for Lupe to spit over sets the tone of Samurai from the jump. Its previously released title track is impressively able to capture the spirit of the best in the world at death’s door, its earworm of a lead line somehow blurring the lines between a triumphant battle entry and a funereal bagpipe march. The aforementioned “Palaces” spends its first two minutes wading through the murk of a downtempo piano dirge before ascending to a blustery spiritual plane, while the more spry examples of “Mumble Rap” and “No. 1 Headband” blend lively drum loops, scat singing, and infectious brass with spooky and foreboding progressions that seem to signal the beginning of the end. Lupe himself expertly toes the line between flexing and lamentation throughout Samurai’s runtime, dexterously weaving alliterations, allusions, and outright confrontational proclamations of his character’s (or perhaps his own) greatness alongside her cries for help. Any track on Samurai may feasibly be cited as a shining example of Lupe Fiasco’s lyrical virtuosity, but for the most salient examples, see the stunning second and third verses of “Mumble Rap” or the claustrophobic outro of “Bigfoot”, whose roots may have initially been fed in the rapper’s own psyche through his awareness of the horror of being imprisoned by the music industry.

The bulk of Samurai’s impact does not lie in any one aspect of its thematic atmosphere, whether it be the breezy jazz club and lounge beats that define the record’s instrumentals, the rapper’s intricately nested wordplay that unveils stacking layers of meaning with each effort to untangle it, his frankly impressive North London affectation that he turns to on occasion, or the parallels he manages to draw between the monstrous industry’s role in Winehouse’s decline in health and his horrific experience with Atlantic Records. A well thought-out and carefully handled concept is commendable in and of itself, but it is never enough to magically transform a subpar musical product into a worthwhile one, so thank God Samurai is Lupe Fiasco’s best collection of work in nearly a decade, independent of its rhetorical aims. The fact that the record’s overarching narrative is so fully realized and tastefully executed only serves to bolster its effect on listeners, giving rise to a brief, yet satisfying lineup of jazz-tinged jams whose layers can be progressively peeled back to reveal further artistry and finesse.



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user ratings (83)
3.7
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
June 28th 2024


19023 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This might be my AOTY, but we've got plenty of time to go before 2024 is over

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 28th 2024


6028 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

On first listen I think there's a chance this is his best album - the lean mean approach really works, all killer, no filler (check Michael Jackson - Thriller).





bighubbabuddha
June 28th 2024


1036 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the opener and the closer are unbelievable

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
June 28th 2024


19023 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Sunnyvale Yeah it really might be his best, and thank you for recommending me michael jackson - thriller



@bighubbabuddha the opener is a song of the year contender for me, it's musically and lyrically stellar

artificialbox
June 28th 2024


2064 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

never listened to Lupe before but I liked the album cover/concept so decided to check it out. Not disappointed at all, this is incredible!

PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
June 28th 2024


1624 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Yaaas been looking forward to this. Excellent review

artificialbox
June 28th 2024


2064 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mumble Rap and No. 1 Headband are defs two of my early favourites. Whole album is great tho.

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
June 28th 2024


19023 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

No. 1 Headband is such a banger

Ryus
June 28th 2024


37468 Comments


his hooks are so painful

Pikazilla
June 28th 2024


30446 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this slaps hard

Zorg
June 28th 2024


578 Comments


This is great. Already seeming like his best album since T&Y.

Slex
June 28th 2024


16789 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This rips so far

Project
June 28th 2024


5848 Comments


" Samurai is Lupe Fiasco’s best collection of work in nearly a decade, independent of its rhetorical aims."

this is Drogas Wave erasure

but also stunning review, I am so hype for this

Slex
June 28th 2024


16789 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The hooks in Cake are SO BAD but the verses are SO FIRE truly the duality of man

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
June 28th 2024


19023 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cake is probably my least favorite song here

Slex
June 28th 2024


16789 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The hooks in general on here are very bad imo, still really enjoyable tho, Drogas Wave clears hardcore

Hawks
June 28th 2024


90597 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Debut is still the only album of his I've heard but will def be czeching this.

Leeb890
June 29th 2024


84 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Never listened to a single Amy Winehouse track so this is the closest I’ll probably get.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
June 29th 2024


47774 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

beats on this are godmode, Palaces especially is just astonishing. great writeup brother

Manatea
Staff Reviewer
June 29th 2024


1971 Comments


Review rules need to check this



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