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Why Lupe Fiasco is Still My Favorite Rapper?

“A fresh cool Young Lu, Trying to cash his microphone check two one two wanna believe my own hype but it’s too untrue, the world brought me to my knees what have you brung you?”

Yes, it’s time to get into Lupe Fiasco. In the Woke Hoax I touched on artists that have a firm grasp on the culture and use their influence to educate and inspire aka real woke rappers. The only rapper I really focused on was Kendrick Lamar and my boy on Facebook called me out. “What about old Lupe?” He asked. Well, my friend, I decided to save that discussion for this article because I wanted to get into Lupe Fiasco more closely especially after his most recent release, Drogas Wave.

Now I couldn’t talk about Lupe without giving some context, I think a rapper of his caliber deserves that first. What I intend on doing afterward is directly addressing an issue my good friend brought up when discussing Drogas Wave. He stated that after the release of Lasers, he could no longer appreciate Lupe’s music. I want to challenge the mindset of trust between fans and artists because it touches on a lot of previous issues I’ve brought up like my opinions of Kanye West. Is this bond a complete delusion fans create in order to feel connected to the music they listen to or is it more sinister. Logic describes it in a YSIV freestyle when he says, “They love you on the come-up cause you ain’t tainted by fame and you still they little secret.” Then we will get into Drogas Wave and why I personally believe Lupe Fiasco is still one of the greatest rappers alive.

Eminem is the greatest rapper alive but Lupe Fiasco is my favorite. If you had me at gunpoint and threatened to pull the trigger unless I recited a song by heart, I guarantee you’d be hearing some Food and Liquor and The Cool. Kick Push has to be one of the most iconic songs of my childhood and Food and Liquor was the first album I ever purchased (legally).

Suffice it to say, I am and always will be a Lupe Fiasco fanboy. But even with all that said, I couldn’t agree more with the statement that Lasers hurt. I cried after listening to that album.

It was like my childhood was a lie. Like everything I knew was just a figment of my imagination. I felt cheated, robbed, and disappointed but unlike my friend, I didn’t let that stop me from patiently awaiting Lupe’s next releases even if they too echoed previous sentiments. I knew that something had to have gone wrong closely related to what that Logic verse was getting at. Maybe the studio pushed Lupe into it and he couldn’t kick back this time. A lot of other “woke” rappers have gotten passes for dipping into commercial radio hits.

Swimming Pools is a garbage radio banger. There I said it. But the reason Lupe’s divergence was unacceptable for so many was due to his unique ability to comment on social issues with such precision and focus as though his hand was firmly planted on the pulse of society. On top of his cultural awareness is lyrics and flow were uniquely his and of a flavor that no other lyrical chef could replicate. You had to read his lyrics after every listen, not because he mumbled but because the meaning in his words was so great that one listen could not possibly yield all of the fruit they had to offer. Yes, we put him on a pedestal because we saw in him something that shook us deep to our cores, that made us believe in ourselves and once that was stipped away it caused us to truly question who we really were.

I think Lupe realized this hence the lyric from the beginning. After Lasers, it was hard to accept anything Lupe released due to the trauma I still felt and to be fair nothing ever brought back my faith until Tetsuo and Youth.

There I was crying again, listening to Mural on repeat because finally, I felt it again. That spark that had gotten me through so many childhood humps, that made me who I am today. The rest of the album was decent, a definite homage to Lupe’s older style but Mural had me shaking with excitement for what was to come. I remember thinking the legend is back but now I’m starting to see things differently. As I’m writing this I decided to give a listen to some of my old haunts, The Cool, as I made my way up to Drogas Wave.

I eventually stumbled on Superstar where I got the opening lyric and although the words just spew out of me automatically when I hear the beat, they sounded different this time. I realized my problem. Trust between fans and artists is a delusion. There was no contract signed with my name on it. Lupe Fiasco owes me nothing. I came to this conclusion because I don’t deserve trust when I selfishly see the world in my own perspective and not the artist’s perspective. The second verse of Superstar summarizes this perfectly and even though I can recite that verse to you with my eyes closed, I missed its meaning entirely. “We want it to braid, meaning we want it to grow to mean we want it to stay like the governor called and they told him to wait, un-strap him from his chair and put him back in his cage.” To my friend, I ask this. How can an artist grow if you want him to stay the same? How can he be free to improve and make better music if you’ve put him in a cage?

And now we finally get to Lupe’s most recent installment, Drogas Wave. I have heard mixed reviews on this project primarily because some people don’t seem to get the message. The theme of this album stems from the idea that the souls of slaves called Long chains who died on slave ships were never laid to rest. They instead tried to help fellow slaves escape their bonds. It’s an interesting concept that I felt Lupe could have gone even deeper with but I enjoyed that thematic element that pulled the album together. The album was good and a must listen for everyone. This article was intended to be a review of Drogas Wave but ended up becoming another journey for me similar to my Berhana article. Go listen to the album and make your own opinions. Just learn from my mistakes and don’t approach it wishing for another The Cool or Food and Liquor. You will never get those memories back but you rob yourself from fully appreciating them if you don’t accept the fact that people change and grow. That’s how humans work. Support Lupe for the seeds he’s planted in your hearts because that is only way YOU can grow the fuck up too.

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