Lupe Fiasco – ‘Drogas Light’ (Review)

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Lupe Fiasco knows how to make an impact. The Chicago-based rapper scored a Grammy early on in his life as a solo MC with the single Daydreamin’, and has racked up no fewer than twelve Grammy nominations over the course of a career he temporarily cut short late last year amid accusations of anti-Semitism. Throw in speculation-soaked struggles with former label Atlantic Records and the announcement of a farewell trilogy of albums – of which Drogas Light is the first, to be followed by Drogas and Skulls – and you get the idea.

Lupe Fiasco is thriving amid – or perhaps because – of chaos right now. Drogas Light itself may be intended as a precursor to the full-on Drogas experience to come, its title implying the application of some dilution and holding back, but it is nonetheless a solid release.  Lupe Fiasco fans aren’t going to find themselves caught in the crossfire, forced to sip some watered-down tunes and be left waiting for something real.

Have no fear of that.

Dopamine Lit proves a sexy, bass-heavy opener; NGL tackles tough social issues head on; and Promise is all about that all-important honesty and authenticity. An awareness of hip-hop’s core concerns is not something Lupe Fiasco has lost over the years, and he takes pains to assert himself (while dissecting American culture like a ninja) on Made In The USA before dipping into surreal territory with the imaginatively plotted JUMP. Next up, City Of The Year inspired a Google search that highlighted 2016 as a dark, soberingly violent year for Fiasco’s home town of Chicago, in turn making City Of The Year that much more of a must-listen Drogas Light track.

Rising from the darkness, Lupe Fiasco chills things out with four-minute interlude HIGH, a great move pacing-wise, while Tranquillo maintains a meditative groove as Fiasco teams up with Rick Ross and BIG K.R.I.T. for another inspiring easy highlight. From its title, you’d assume KILL would tip proceedings in the opposite direction – but in reality, it’s a slow-burning late-night chiller, a languid seven-minute tale based around a Saturday night strip club. One light-hearted soulful Sunday morning section later…

…and the chilling continues with LAW, multi-layered synth pads underpinning a very different and more romantic late-night tale. For Pick Up The Phone, the pace picks up with pizzicato strings, a sudden drop into acoustic-driven folk rock, and frustrated broken-communication-themed lyrics. Party animals are guaranteed to love the funky Jamiroquai-evoking It’s Not Design, while the intellectuals commit Lupe Fiasco’s lyrics to memory; Wild Child continues in a similar vein; and closer More Than My Heart pulls back for a piano-led cut about the important things in life.

Overall, Drogas Light is set to get Lupe Fiasco fans salivating hard over the albums to come, while satisfying their lust for fresh music in the meantime. The longer it runs, the better it gets – and there are few albums out there that you can say that about. Drogas and Skulls? Bring them on.

TMMP RATING: 94% (Essential Listening!)

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Posted on 06 February 2017

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