Lupe Fiasco- Too Good To Be Great
Lupe Fiasco is a really good rapper. He's so good in fact, he can't be great.
This past weekend Lupe released his latest project, Drogas Wave. After getting thru all 24 tracks and comparing this body of work with his classics, Food and Liquor x The Cool, I was faced with a question. Can an artist be so good that they can't be great? I couldn't help but wonder if setting the bar at astronomical levels very early in your career could somehow be a hindrance to future success. Over the years we've seen a lot of artists come out the gate strong with their debut album only to be scrutinized into obscurity on future efforts. Are we, the fans, setting the bar at astronomical levels for artist who have shown their greatness early in their career? Are we wrong for using prior work as the measuring stick for new work?
Lupe likely hit your radar around the release of his single Kick Push, an ode to the relationship between hip-hop and skateboard culture that would later be popularized by Lil Wayne and Terry Kennedy. The track was from his debut album Food and Liquor which is a hip-hop classic. He followed up that effort with The Cool, another critically acclaimed release. Later came Lasers, Enemy of the State, Food and Liquor 2, Testuo and Youth and now Drogas Wave, all of which were met with mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. Of the later releases Lasers and Drogas Wave rank pretty high but we all, Lupe included, have been searching for that high we got when we first heard Food and Liquor. Now with over a decade in the game, Lupe brings us Drogas, a 24 track history lesson on the Atlantic Slave Trade in music form. Too many tracks, a bit on the preachy side, and low replay value riddle the otherwise solid effort from a more than capable MC.
It seems Lupe still feels he has something to prove, remember he believes his spot is where Kendrick Lamar currently resides. Therein lies the problem. Lupe, we know you can rap, we know you can put together incredible albums, we also know you're very interested in your position amongst the hip-hop elite but this album didn’t do much to solidify your position. Music with this level of depth and complexity rarely ranks high on the classic charts but once you go classic you’re expected to keep the classics coming. This album felt like he was saying “I can pimp a butterfly too” and honestly we don’t care about that. Give us music to live to, music we can instantly tie to a memory or to a feeling not a history book. Maybe I’m the exact fan I’m talking about and I hold him to too high of a standard or maybe this album just didn’t hit the mark. Only time will tell. Until later...