On first listen, it’s a very ‘un-Lupe’ production. I’m not sure what this whole Drogas thing is about (is Lupe suddenly a Hispanic drug dealer?) but it’s resulted in a thumping, club-ready production that many of today’s mainstream rappers would be quite happy to get on board with- you can quite easily hear the likes of Rick Ross having a great time with this, and to Lupe’s credit, he does a good job of adjusting his style enough to not sound out of place himself.
Packed full of street raps (from the third person, interestingly), it’s a pretty solid performance, and though Lupe’s inflections and emotions aren’t exactly at peak intensity, his flow is as watertight as ever and it’s an easy to follow, uncomplicated effort, which makes for a degree of change as far as Lupe’s lyricism goes. Worth a listen, and hopefully Tetsuo and Youth isn’t far away.
On paper, this is everything an OTU fan could want. Lupe’s first single from the upcoming Tetsuo and Youth album, and a feature from longtime OTU favourite (and once interviewee, of course) Ed Sheeran.
Here’s the thing: this isn’t on paper. This will be really, really divisive.
Ed’s hook is delicate and heartfelt, and realistically that doesn’t stack up to what older Lupe Fiasco fans want from his material. Lasers proved that. On the surface, Lupe’s raps appear similarly ‘emotional’ too, and when combined with this light, easygoing beat, there will be a whole host of people immediately throwing this out. Not necessarily the best move: Lupe’s raps are more self-directed than they first appear, and act more as internal monologues than heartfelt excalamations. Equally, the soft, childlike production clearly fits with the ‘discussion’ he has with his younger self, and of course matches the old school motto in a manner somewhat different to hip-hop’s default perception of old school (hard beats, street raps and such). This is not me claiming I’m a huge fan of this though- frankly, it’s just not the best use of Lupe’s ability and at times, Sheeran’s hook holds the track together so well that it feels more like his song than Lupe’s. That being said, give it time and it might be a grower.
So unexpected is the relative flurry of recent material from Lupe, that I’m actually slipping a little with keeping on top of it. Minor problems though, and I expect this freestyle over Drake’s Pound Cake beat will be many listeners’ favourite Lupe track from the batch released in the last few months.
As I’ve not listened to Drake’s album yet (not a vendetta, just no time!), this is my first exposure to the laidback production and it’s rather impressive. Its atmospheric R&B qualities are reminsicent of various highlights from Drake’s back catalogue, and is not only very enjoyable but serves as a backdrop you wouldn’t normally associate with Lupe. It works really well for him though, with the moody, introspective beat adding a great accompaniment to Lupe’s stream of consciousness, which manifests itself as a pack of individually clever lines, and entertaining couplets. It’s all packed into a very unique flow, with the brief pauses usually found around smart points of juxtaposition, as he skillfully knots rhymes together that are equally effective when seperated- it’s a memorable delivery that’s utilised well to almost get double usage out of the most simple conjoining terms. Really worth a listen, and bestowing this the Paris, Tokyo 2 title only goes to show that this isn’t just throwaway rap- Lupe’s taken this one rather seriously. Tetsuo and Youth, coming soon.
#latepass. Lupe dropped this one off about 10 days ago, but it appears to have completely bypassed me. Expected to be the first single from the upcoming Tetsuo and Youth album, it’s 7 minutes of straight rapping that should appeal to the hip-hop heads. No hooks, no over-production, no fuss.
The beat is supremely minimal, with the only constant being four repeated piano notes, whilst thudding bass and a little extra percussion works its way in and out where required. There’s a touch of synth and sample here and there too, but it’s very minor, and doesn’t impact the overall stripped-back quality Lupe’s gone for. As for the raps, where do I begin? Analysing even the shortest of Lupe’s tracks is a heavy task, so I’ll make little attempt at taking on the punchlines, couplets and so on here- what I’ll say is that Lupe isn’t getting super ‘weird’ or overly metaphorical. He consistently hits a nice middle ground between matter-of-fact, face-value rap and double entendre-laced lyrics, with his occassionally patronising wit (let’s be honest) tempered here by a more self-confident, slightly arrogant style that works to bring his raps into a more universally absorbable delivery. It’ll take several plays to really catch everything, and at 7 minutes long it can become a bit of a chore, but it’s worth a go for sure.
Whether it’s that Kendrick verse or the fact his Tetsuo and Youth album is due in the coming months, Lupe has been on a mini-tear recently in terms of releasing material, both in terms of original work and features.
Unlike SLR 2, Lupe generally seems a little more relaxed here, coming through with his typically-intelligent and double entendre-heavy raps, but in a laidback delivery with only a couple of heightened emotional bursts. Whilst many enjoyed hearing Lupe finally step away from his perenially-easygoing style, his raps here suit the beat excellently, with frequent collaborator Soundtrakk serving up a soulful, slightly triumphant production that will certainly evoke memories of Lupe’s Food & Liquor debut; the combination of smooth percussion with the bursts of celebratory horns makes for a contemporary production with a nice vintage twist, with a soulful outcome that’ll be rightly compared to some of the beats on the aforementioned album. A very enjoyable piece, and if its an indication of what to expect on T&Y, we’re in for a good project.
Hip-hop woke up. After several months of relative stagnancy and few highlights in the mainstream scene (underground heads, put your picket signs away), Kendrick’s inflammatory verse on Big Sean’s Control not only got most music fans talking, but also provoked precisely the sort of response he would have wanted from his rapping peers.
Many responded via Twitter, video or other means, and though none of those who were namechecked have taken to the studio to put out a response, several others have taken up the baton and either delivered a worthwhile response or used the opportunity to get a little bit of media coverage. The latter statement isn’t meant disrespectfully either- hip-hop is about as prominent in ‘water cooler’ and social media discussions as it has been in a rather long time, and it’s a great chance for some acts to get their names out to a wider audience. It’s tough to be mad at that opportunism.
The dust is beginning to settle, and though there’s bound to be several other rappers who are preparing responses (Joe Budden for one), now seems a good time to offer a quick recap on those who’ve offered musical replies to Kendrick’s barbed bars. Head below for a collection of the releases thus far (in no order). → Continue Reading
The triple video release for Lamborghini Angels, ITAL (Roses), and Audobon Ballroom lands, as three of the more likeable tracks from F&L 2: The Great American Rap Album are compiled into an exceptional visual. There’s so much messaging here that I can’t possibly do it full justice in this space, so let’s try something new. Click below for my brief reviews on each of the three segments.
Lamborghini Angels displays the vices of many chasing/with fame and fortune, tessellating the material objects to emphasis their lifelessness, and their hypnotic nature. Throwing in shots of a woman alongside those items serves to show the gender’s relative objectification by the aforementioned groups, whilst the slightly warped religious imagery is a clear commentary on its current standing as far as values go.
ITAL follows with a child watching the previous video on a screen, a clear indictment on what youth are exposed to, and led to believe is of value and worth chasing. A racial element becomes apparent, as the young black child is handcuffed away, and another kid steps in to watch less glorified scenes of a seemingly more fulfilling nature- I say seemingly, as even then, the implication of control and mental programming still feels present, but with what would be viewed as a more ‘wholesome’ outcome.
Audubon Ballroom closes with adults arguing over what the child is watching, with various influential groups on children represented, displaying conflicting values with one another. Of course, rather than acting on the problems, they argue amongst one another, escalated into a heated issue that stops becoming about its original focus- it’s an explicit socio-political commentary on both adult nature and governmental in-fighting, and its place at the end of the clip essentially ties back to the first video in terms of suggesting where the root of the problem lies.
It all ends rather cleverly with Lupe’s appearance at the end as one of the characters (I won’t spoil it), that itself being a reference back to the self-damage folk of a particular race can cause (I’ve probably spoiled it). It’s an excellent triple header that follows a logical, escalating sequence with fantastic messaging throughout, and one that’s in keeping with the songs, and Lupe’s intelligent nature. One of his best video releases to date, without question.
Those MMG boys work with some quick turnaround times. Whilst Wale made the mistake of not saving this for his own album, it appears the wider MMG crew are using it as their lead single from the upcoming Self Made Vol. 3 album.
Having given it further playtime in the intervening 24 hours between releases, my stance on Lupe’s verse has only grown more positive- it might just be the novelty factor as we haven’t heard him on a mainstream feature in quite some time, but it does put into perspective how talented a lyricist he can be when juxtaposed with his peers. Similarly, it shows up Wale’s relative regression somewhat: once a rapper known for an emotive delivery, his move to MMG seems to have stunted that passionate nature in favour of a misconceived attempt at rapping ‘cool’.
The clip is an enjoyable watch, capturing the warm, mellow nature of the production well. Opening with a set of bright scenes, both Ross and Lupe rap in front of generally summery environments, Lupe’s in particular enhancing his thoughtful raps via their relative desolation. Wale goes in the other direction and closes himself off, and much like his vocal contribution, it slightly stunts the momentum in terms of taking an expansive video into a comparatively claustrophobic environment. Generally though, a fitting video for a track that could well be a hit this summer; look out for the album on 6th August.
It’s been a while since we’ve had such a hip-hop heavy day, but I’m all for it. Wale’s been today’s chief contributor in that aspect, and rather lives by the word of this title: why didn’t he save this for his album?!
It’s a very enjoyable effort, taken from MMG’s upcoming Self Made Vol. 3 (which also contains a Rockie Fresh track released today that boasts an fantastic production), and one that sees Lupe make a first-time connection with the MMG crew, unless I’m mistaken. The production has a nice mellow undercurrent, throwing soft melodies in with the crisp, head-nodding percussion, and though the latter could probably do with a touch more bass, it’s a very smooth production otherwise. Ross opens with a surprisingly interesting verse, combining his braggadocios approach with some genuine reflectiveness, and credit to him for adapting his game to this production. Lupe steps up next with the standout verse, to the surprise of no-one, with the ‘poor decisions’ topic not only being right up his lyrical alley, but his dexterity on the mic showing through with a brief switch to a rapid-fire flow that makes for the track’s highlight. Wale closes with a solid performance, approaching the track in a similar vein to Ross, though his slower flow kills the momentum slightly. Still, it’s a good all-round track, headlined by an on-form Lupe Fiasco.
Having fully intended on delivering this to you yesterday, I’m glad to drop it off today as it’s allowed time to digest a lyrical onslaught that Lupe fans will be massively into.
Borrowing Atoms for Peace’s Ingenue, Lupe’s afforded a naturally mellow, reflective soundscape upon which his relentless wordplay is laid out, with a phenomenal range of metaphors, double entendres, and various other literary devices found within. Most apparent is the clear tie-in with the similarly-titled George Orwell book, with Lupe’s constant references back to animals and/or natural factors allowing a consistent thread to run through the lyrically-intense track. The very messages within the book lend themselves to supporting the raps, and heighten the complexity further; even for lines that don’t seem directly associated with the novel, repeated listens probably unveil a connection to the plethora of socio-political messages contained within Orwell’s work, and it’s a level of thinking that both Lupe approaches many of his works with, and his fans are keen to apply. For an in-depth lyrical breakdown, head over to our friends at GWHH who have taken the time to fully dissect the piece in great detail.
Whilst I’m still not a fan of the vowel-less naming convention, it’s good to get a second release from this side project of Lupe, the first since their debut track last year.
Unlike that release, this one’s an original piece, and interestingly features Lupe delivering Autotuned vocals the whole way through. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but when you consider this is intended as an electro-pop release rather than a typical Lupe effort, it certainly operates effectively in that role and could be a contender for some club play time this summer. The production is built on interweaving synths that buzz through the soundscape, with support from sharp yet relatively understated percussion and a couple of nice key changes that segregate the verses and hook smoothly. Lupe’s vocals are efficient throughout, opting against packing each section too heavily and instead allowing gaps between each line for the production to breathe, and it’s a smart move that allows you to properly appreciate the slow growth of the beat, resulting in an explosive electro finale. An energetic bit of mainstream-friendly work that might not blow anyone away, but will make for an easy addition to several uptempo playlists.
She lives as long as we do. She will live forever. God bless your soul and the family you left behind. We Love You. Not a song but a life. Be respectful. Please keep negative comments to yourself. #lovelifechitownforever
It’s a horrible circumstance under which we’re recieving new Lupe material, and hence I’m not quite comfortable doing another “technical” audio review here, so forgive me for not doing so. For those unfamiliar with the awful story of Jonylah Watkins, head here to find out exactly why Lupe’s taken to the mic to deliver this tribute. He’s been vocal about his concerns over the violence increasingly plaguing his Chicago hometown, and this is a chance for Lupe to deliver those thoughts in verse, which he does so in a thought-provoking manner, and its an emotional effort that will really tug at your heartstrings for sure. It’s a disgusting circumstance, and whilst I expect many will suggest there are probably dozens of similar unreported cases worldwide, it doesn’t detract from what is an awful crime and a terrible occurrence. Our thoughts are with the Watkins family.
DONT MIND ME….JUST STAYING IN SHAPE…JUST PRACTICE…LIKE A PIANO PLAYER OR A GYMNAST. Not on T&Y…So pls dont say it is on your blog. Thanx.
Quite an interesting one from Lupe, who apparently wanted to get the dust off and let this go. There’s some excellent work from him in here too, alongside the typically-esoteric and leftfield sections that the longtime fans are now rather used to, not least his Benjamin Button-esque opening. The first verse is my favourite of the bunch here, with a couple of incredibly smart lines (I’m two-tiered, but no tats, and I don’t know what you call that, goes on and on like two mirrors), whilst his flow is very versatile throughout; the verses seem to be delivered in short, explosive bursts, whilst the opening and hooks are much slower. The intense electronic production adds a ton of gravitas to this one too, with the bassy and jagged backdrop being a powerful, brash accompaniment to Lupe’s smart, thought-out lyricism. One of those tracks you’ll replay several times to catch everything he says, and that’s always a good thing.
Yes please. Lupe commandeers Common’s Communism instrumental for a quick blast freestyle, designed to promote his web store (can you guess the URL?) ahead of his ‘Twitter account relaunch’ early next year.
Arguably, this is an overlooked track in Common’s stacked back catalogue, and credit to Lupe for bringing this back to the fore. Lupe’s flows are on-point throughout this, switching deliveries a couple of times to good effect, whilst not losing any of his witty wordplay. As ever, there are social commentaries, observations and plenty more in there with a couple of t-shirt plugs, and it’s a freestyle you can’t help but want more of. Parts of his recent Food & Liquor 2 album were excellent, and this is another thoroughly likeable track to add to those standouts. Lupe back?
We’ve heard various tracks from Lupe’s Food and Liquor 2 (released tomorrow in the US, 1st Oct over here), but this was arguably the one that carried signs of tangible hope, and signified a return to lyrical form to Lupe fans who had lost so much faith after Lasers. Various snippets of the lyrics were thoroughly excellent with a plethora of potential meanings, some of which Lupe takes the time to break down with Rap Genius. It’s a very insightful and worthwhile watch for current and recovering Lupe fans, not least because it shows he’s still got that penchant for detail and heavy dose of uniqueness.
There was a time when ‘rap genius’ was a title afforded to Lupe. Despite his often preachy statements on Twitter and such, rarely is Lupe better than when he’s oppressed or angry: I’ve got high hopes that his album can help restore him back to the upper echelons of hip-hop, and let’s see (if you haven’t already…) if that happens.
After part 3 of American Terrorist was released late last year, I and many others wondered where we’d missed part 2. By the look of things, it may find a home on his upcoming album as he kindly let loose an unfinished version of the track yesterday, hours after he announced his intention to ‘retire’ from hip-hop. Frankly, I’m not sure whether I believe that will actually happen but that’s one for another time.
The frenetic dubstep-style backdrop of this one is an extremely lively affair, with the multitude of chunky synth layers giving it an energy and vibrancy that you’d expect from a typical mainstream track. However, Lupe’s lyricism on the American Terrorist tracks has been enjoyable to date, and this is another example of solid work with the raps, avoiding the mainstream pitfall this beat could have lured him into and sticking to some good output. Hence, it’s one that pretty much satisfies everyone: a pulsating beat for the mainstream heads, and decent lyricism for the rest. Can’t argue with that.
Lupe’s Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album pt. 1 is edging ever closer, meaning we’re treated to track number four and video number three from the project.
Whilst this is undoubtedly more mainstream friendly than previous releases from the album, that’s not strictly a bad thing here as Lupe’s lyricism is still very much on point, and it’s merely supplemented by a powerful, rousing hook from Australian singer Guy Sebastian. Of course, the combination of a pop-centric production and a singalong hook will turn off many, but for me it’s a welcome break from the wave of lyricism that seems to be the foundation of the upcoming album, and unlike Lasers it’s mainstream-targeted work that’s actually executed well.
The video is a pretty simple one, allowing Guy to get some valuable camera time, whilst going for a very human-oriented theme via various close-ups of everyday people, with some holding up ‘labels’: admittedly, the labelling visual is a little corny and overdone, but it doesn’t particularly detract from the audio. I don’t see this on iTunes GB yet, but it’s up over on the US version here.
Long time readers of OTU will know we were huge fans of Lupe Fiasco, and you’d also know that we were horrified, HORRIFIED, by his last album, Lasers. He’s been doing well in recent months (here and here) in repairing his reputation with some very solid releases, including this track.
It’s a welcome return to the intelligent conscious rap that Lupe’s famous for, and it very much seems like his next album will be in the same vein of his superb two releases, rather than the mainstream abomination that was Lasers.
The visuals for this single are really good too. Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Part 1 comes out on September 25th.
With the 25th September date creeping nearer, here goes another release from Lupe’s Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album pt. 1.
This one’s got quite the dichotomy of styles going on. On one hand, the production is synth-heavy and fairly mainstream-ready, and I’m sure some will fear the worst on reading that. However, the lyricism is absolutely excellent, and Lupe’s back to that third-person storytelling style that was the hallmark of The Cool, dragging the production out of the style it’s probably meant for and into working appropriately for his rhymes. There are a ton of lyrical messages here, as Lupe pulls out a philosophical set of bars for the first verses that often refers to heavenly aspects, in keeping with the title, but clearly has real world meanings. The second verse begins to add more direct realism, and the third verse brings all of that together into a very open verse that references some pretty sobering acts.
It’s a great collection of verses that showcases Lupe’s humility, intelligence and command of a microphone, and if the rest of the album possesses such work, we’re in for a great project. You can and should grab this track on iTunes now.
Huge fan of the song, and mere days after releasing the second track from Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album pt. 1, Lupe comes through with visuals for the first single.
On the surface, it’s surprisingly different for a Lupe video, by virtue of appearing to be a much more youthful, typical rap video. However, when combined with some of the lyricism and visual features such as the cartoon characters, it is instead poking a little fun at the fantasy lifestyle rappers such as himself as supposed to lead: Driving fancy cars, walking around rapping in the streets, smoking weed and so on. Generally, Lupe’s disassociated himself with such stereotypes, and hence you get the impression he’s sending out a message here. The moment you realise that, the video moves back into regular Lupe territory. For fans less accquainted with Lupe, this just looks like a solid, normal hip-hop video with no underlying message, and hence its actually a prime contender for some mainstream traction whilst still satisfying the fans who ‘get it’.
Great track, smart video and I’m really looking forward to the album release on 25th September.
The second release from the upcoming Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album Pt.1, set for release on 25th September, and expectations are high following the enjoyable Around My Way.
It’s not quite as immediately-gripping as the aforementioned track, instead it’s one that packs in the kind of lyricism that needs a few listens, and is a far cry from the travesty that was Lasers. The beat has a recent-Kanye West vibe to hit, with a production that sits somewhere between mainstream acceptability and head-nodding hip-hop fare, largely held together by a hardworking, heavy bass. Lupe’s verses are a nice mix of intelligent and accessible, as he keeps the subject matter clever with a commentary on stereotypes of women (and men) inside and outside of hip-hop, in a performance that will draw comparison with the similarly-styled subjects in Dumb It Down. Likeable track that will improve with every listen.
Lupe’s back. The Friend of the People mixtape had a couple of outstanding tracks that hinted at a return to form, and this excellent first single from the upcoming Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album suggests he’s well and truly back on track.
Any hip-hop fan worth their salt will instantly recognise the production, sampling Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s legendary classic T.R.O.Y., and that instant throwback recognition sets you up well for the familiar and sorely missed sound of Lupe on form. The rest of the production needs no description: it’s simply one of the all-time great hip-hop beats, albeit a little ‘shinier’ and lacking the rough edge of the original.
In what is one of his most politically and socially charged rhymesets to date, Lupe takes the listener on a world tour of sorts as he documents and offers opinions on a range of global goings-on, demonstrating that passion, motivation and depth so sorely lacking from Lasers. The flows and wordplay are pretty solid throughout, switching through a couple of deliveries and dropping off some nice quotables throughout for a very well-rounded performance. This is about as good a lead single as Lupe could have gone for to get the hip-hop audience back on his side, and I’m thoroughly excited for more from the album. Sadly, this hasn’t hit iTunes UK yet, but keep a look out for it.
After a forced hiatus due to various other commitments, we can finally resume the latest weekly series from the OTU brain trust. I must admit, this is fast becoming my personal favourite series in OTU history, purely because it allows both yourselves and I to rediscover tracks that we either once loved or once forgot about, and that’s frankly a lot of fun.
Enough of the self-appreciation.
Click on below for another diversity-laden edition of SYFA, featuring a trio of prominent current mainstream names, alongside a couple of acts that have slipped away somewhat.
In light of “37 SHOOTINGS, 46 VICTIMS & 9 MURDERS” during Chicago’s first ‘warm’ weekend, the Trayvon travesty, 6-year old Aliyah Shell, and in honor of my cousins Ismail & Malik that were gunned down last summer…I felt as though this was the time to drop this song. Shouts to Lupe for helping me paint a vivid picture of what goes on everyday in Chicago and every other ghetto in America.
An excellent introspective effort from two of Chicago’s finest, with some fantastic reflective lyricism from both artists making for a refreshing listen in the current hip-hop climate. The instrumentation and hook work is very well suited too, and this is a well-executed track that conveys a great message and remains very listenable.
Eric Turner’s Youtube channel mentions Turner’s “stadium sound“, and that’s a rather accurate description. I’ve had this song on repeat ever since it was released a short while ago, and it’s stadium pop style is a big reason for that, making for an uplifting and engaging listen that feels suited to any listening environment.
Eric’s been involved in some big tracks with both artists in the past, as Indi’s already covered in the audio review, and their inclusion makes for a big duo of co-signs. I’m a fan of Lupe’s verse on this, with his speed and timing sliding in nicely with the production, whilst Tinie’s contribution is surprisingly enjoyable, alongside the huge Eric Turner vocals which are an excellent listen that really anchor the track.
The video has a likeable spray paint effect throughout, as the respective performers are visualised in an exciting, perpetually-moving art style that adds an unpredictability and uniqueness to the visual, in a relatively simple manner. Decent watch that brings the audio to life.
Eric Turner’s worked with both Tinie Tempah and Lupe Fiasco on separate tracks in the past, so it’s only natural these three come together for a big collaboration (keeping with the theme of transatlantic-ism!).
If you’ve heard any of Eric Turner’s collabos with urban artists from both sides of the Atlantic, then you’ll know what to expect: Very addictive vocals from Eric with a banger of a beat to match. Lupe and Tinie both come through with decent verses, but would it be fair to say that Tinie’s verse is the better of the two? These are controversial times we live in. Download below.
The SNDCLSH, the duo of DJ Lupe Fiasco & DJ Sky Gellatly, have dropped the collaborative remix of “Letting Go” with DJ Kue. They’ve pledged to donate ALL of the proceeds from their upcoming EP to kids in need.
The original was my favourite track from Lasers, and surprisingly the electro-heavy club twist put on it here does work relatively well, particularly as the hook carries over smoothly to the upbeat style. Lots of energy and a pulsating combination of synths and progressive percussion makes this one that could very easily be a club hit with the right exposure. This whole trend of removing vowels from a word though? No thanks.
I’ve not listened to his recent mixtape, but it’s fair to say his material over the last year has met a mixed response. This track, however, shows signs of recovery and is an enjoyable listen.
If Daft Punk ever decided to take a slightly Gothic twist, it would probably sound like this production. Retro electronica, a spacey atmosphere and a generally dark vibe blend surprisingly well together, complimenting Lupe’s distorted vocals, and certainly the board work deserves credit for taking a worthwhile risk in its style. Lupe’s raps are decent, occassionally threatening to burst into controversy and retreating back to a more laidback style, whilst loosely keeping a thread of story together through the verses. Not quite on par with the original American Terrorist (does part II even exist?!), but a decent listen nonetheless.