Lupe Fiasco drops 'Drogas Wave,' proves hip hop is alive and well

Lupe Fiasco drops 'Drogas Wave,' proves hip hop is alive and well

What year is it?

People are waiting on Lil’ Wayne’s new Carter album. Kanye is back to his five-beats-a-day-for-three-summers level of productivity with yet another new album supposedly dropping next week. Eminem just released his first solid album since 2002 and is back in full-on battle mode.

And now Lupe Fiasco is in the mix?! Again… what year is it?!

I feel like I’m back in high school, bumping my favorite rappers out of my piece of garbage ’96 Ford Escort sound system. And before you get on me for the choice of car, Kanye couldn’t even afford a Ford Escort, and look at him now…. married to a Kardashian.

Listen, it’s fun to look back, but I haven’t enjoy a Lupe project since those days. The Cool was nice but I bought Food & Liquor twice.

…for the record, that’s more than a deep-cut Lupe Fiasco mixtape reference. I literally lost my first Food & Liquor CD and had to buy another one. But I digress…

Food & Liquor is a top-five hip hop album for me. It’s one of those projects that’s good on first-listen but gets even better the deeper you dive. I swear, I can go back to those lyrics today and still catch something I missed. How is that possible after 12 years?

And then there was The Cool, which seemed like a perfectly-logical progression from the raw lyricism of Food & Liquor. The lyrics were still there, but with more well-rounded production and evolved storytelling. Lupe was growing and mastering his craft.

But as high I was on his first two albums, I was equally disappointed by the rest of his discography. It started with Lasers (2011). That was a tough pill to swallow for Lupe Fiasco fans, who had been waiting more three years for his follow-up to The Cool. It also stood as his critical low-point, echoing the sentiment of hip hop heads.

But even with Tetsuo & Youth (2015) – the album that received the most critical acclaim since F&L – there was something missing. It just didn’t land with me. Artistically impressive? Sure. Something I wanted to listen to more than once? Not really.

Well now we’re here! Drogas Wave dropped this morning, a week earlier than expected, and I absentmindedly clicked on the first track. After all the joy Lupe had brought to a young Nick Rizner, his projects at least deserve one listen. And you’ll never believe what happened next:

It was good. Like good, good.

I thought “Drogas” and “Manilla” were solid. I texted a couple friends saying I was cautiously optimistic about the album by the time I got to “WAV Files”. And by “Stonger,” I had thrown caution to the wind and become a full-out Lupe fan boy again. Where has this dude been for the past decade?!

“Aluminum illuminated to a hail bomb ice, then hold onto it like the Elron device / Then pass the audition, to the poor hands sided in Maelstrom’s position / Street sales in comparison pale to the Scottsdale bail bonds commissions / it’s like trappin’ out the pawn shop.”

I mean pardon my language, but holy shit! And that was just a random line from a hundred other viable options. Truly. This entire album boasts that same level of density and intellect throughout. And most importantly, it sounds good.

These are entertaining songs that make you want to throw the album on loop and listen again. The lyrical brilliance has always been there for Lupe, but if you aren’t encouraged to revisit a project based on the music, itself, you’ll never stick around long enough to appreciate that brilliance.

By the very nature of this being a Lupe Fiasco album, there’s no way I’ll be able to absorb the full project in one day. According to the iTunes description, Drogas Wave is “a novel of an album” about the ghosts of slaves who patrol the seas trying to fight off other slave ships. So clearly, there’s a lot left to unpack and I plan on exploring it all in due time.

But for now, I’m just listening to this album with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. He did it guys! He made his masterpiece! Lupe Fiasco is finally back and we’re all better-off for it.

And not to keep harking back to the Forbes article that trashed Kimikaze, but that headline still annoys me: “Eminem’s Clunky ‘Kamikaze’ Is A Fitting End To Rap’s Underwhelming Summer”

(9/21) Lupe Fiasco – Drogas Wave
(9/21) BROCKHAMPTON – iridescence
(9/14) Noname – Room 25
(8/31) Eminem – Kamikaze
(8/10) Nicki Minaj – Queen
(8/3) Mac Miller – Swimming
(7/18) Chance The Rapper – “I Might Need Security, Wala Cam, Work Out, 65th & Ingleside”
(7/11) Childish Gambino – Summer Pack
(6/22) Teyana Taylor – K.T.S.E.
(6/15) Nas – NASIR
(6/8) KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS
(6/1) Kanye West – ye
(5/25) Pusha T – DAYTONA
(5/25) A$AP Rocky – TESTING

Underwhelming summer? With all due respect sir, what on earth are you talking about? This is Rap’s best summer in years.

And I know those May and early-June releases technically aren’t ‘summer albums’ but I listened to them all summer, so I’m counting it. Hell, you can throw J. Cole’s KOD and Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy in there as well. Hip hop is alive and well people. I couldn’t be happier.


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