Lupe Fiasco’s last album “Lasers” supposedly suffered from creative differences with Atlantic Records. Fiasco recently announced he will retire after his current record contract with his label expires, which raises anticipation for his upcoming albums.
Lupe Fiasco’s fourth studio album, “Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part 1,” was released today. The album was originally intended to be one record, but was split into two parts, with Part 2 expected to come out early next year.
The two-part record is the follow up to Lupe’s beloved debut album, “Food and Liquor.” That album put Fiasco on the map for his storytelling ability and politically charged lyrics.
“Food and Liquor II” features an all-black cover and a booklet with all-black pages and no lyrics or credits. Lupe stated he wanted to release the album in that format just to see if he could actually get his record label to do it. After some battling with the label, he got approval for the controversial cover.
“Food and Liquor II” starts with a spoken word track called “Ayesha Says.” This follows the common precedent of a spoken intro track established by “Food and Liquor” and replicated on “The Cool.”
The song “ITAL (Roses)” is a criticism of the current state of hip-hop and its over-glorification of violence and other harmful images. Fiasco raps, “Pills make you stupid and liquor do the same thing / Raris’ too expensive and they way too hard to maintain.”
“Audubon Ballroom” is titled after where Malcolm X was assassinated, and the song also refers to the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Fiasco spits on the track, “Turn the glass ceiling to a glass floor / Make a trampoline out of trapdoor.” The song is about the use of the “n” word and society’s oppression of African Americans.
The single “B---- Bad” is a song that condemns the abundant use of the word in hip-hop. But ironically, he incorporates the word into the chorus of the song. He even comments about how young children do not understand how the word is used in context, so they will not understand his condemnation of the word, but the song only adds to the plethora of songs with a catchy chorus featuring the word.
“Heart Donor” features a cringe-worthy hook sung by MDMA. The artist was featured often on “Lasers” and unfortunately returns on the latest Fiasco project. It certainly does not help that he changed his name from MDMA to Poo Bear. The biggest problem is that he distracts listeners from Fiasco’s intricate rhymes with his auto tuned mess of a hook.
While this album is definitely a step up after the disappointment of “Lasers,” that is not much of a compliment. There are some standout tracks, but also a lot of disappointing ones.
“Hood Now” may be the greatest analogy for what has occurred to Lupe Fiasco and his music. The song features extremely slick production and heavy synthesizers to create a club friendly beat. Fiasco discusses serious things like the proliferation of black culture into mainstream American culture, but he does it in two bar phrases broken up by repeated lines. The old Fiasco would have just rapped for 24 bars and let the message speak for itself.
“Food and Liquor II” is a decent album with some great highlights, but also contains an unfortunate amount of lows. While the content he preaches is still there and thought provoking, sometimes the record is not enjoyable.
The record suffers from a radio friendly sound that tries to create the next great hook to garner massive fans, but this ultimately hurts the overall sound of the record. Unfortunately, in an effort to reach a wider audience, Fiasco’s message had to be dumbed down and shoved through the formula of popular music.