Written by: TC
It’s been a little over ten years since Lupe dropped his debut album, Food and Liquor. That album was one of the more well-received debut hiphop album of the 2000s. He even received three Grammy nominations which is relatively unheard of for a debut release. The follow-up, The Cool, was just as well-received if not even more commercially succesful. Since those two albums, it’s been a bit of a bumpy road. While both Lasers and Food and Liquor 2 both sold relatively well, they were seen as relative letdown by critics and fans alike. As a fan myself, I had personally checked out once Lasers hit the streets. Lupe seemed to be going thru the motions, caught between his own artistic ambitions and the commercial demands of his label. Thankfully 2015’s Testuo & Youth was a return to form however and brought quite a few fans (myself included) back to the fold.
After a few on and off retirement threats and other controversies, Drogas Light has recently been released. Most of the material are either outtakes or unreleased materials, some of it dating back as far as 2012. Upon hearing the album, it’s relatively easy to discern that these are songs from the vaults. Firstly, the sound and theme are all the over place. The release starts with Lupe mining a more trap informed sound. Although he is known as a more “conscious” rapper, Lupe doesn’t sound out of place over this type of production. The record starts off well with “NGL” which is a good example of how well Lupe can navigate this sound. On this track, he is able to discuss different issues that plague the black community without being overtly preachy or judgmental which is something that people often have complaints about when it comes to Lupe’s material. Unfortunately the next three tracks don’t keep up the quality of that track. “Promise” is decent enough but it doesn’t ever go anywhere. “Made in the USA” has an interesting concept but the execution is pretty poor especially the singing that accompanies the track. “Jump” is just silly, UFOs and flying saucers…..really Lupe?? Thankfully, Lupe gets back on track with “City of the Year”. This track discusses Chicago, particulary Lu’s childhood neighborhood in K-Town, an infamous area on the West Side. Lupe talks about his adolesence and how he narrowly avoided becoming part of the gang culture that has enveloped the city. He goes into further detail about this when he notes “took away the chiefs/streets lost they mind”. He is describing how in the 90s when a lot of the older gang leaders were locked up and given football numbers which left a vacuum of leadership that has led to young combatants waging war against the opps with no guidance or any sort of rhyme or reason. To me, this track is the highlight of this record and the remainder of the release is much more of a mixed bag. “Tranquilo” is another standout track that has strong feature verses from both Rick Ross and Big K.R.I.T. All three of their style mesh pretty well together unlike some song featuring artists from different regions.
Unfortunately the remainder of the release is much more of a mixed bag. We get a strip club r&b track featuring Ty Dolla Sign (“Kill”) which takes the listener from the booty club on Saturday night to church on Sunday morning. It’s a pretty novel concept which works well for the most part besides the overly long intro. “Law” seems to be Lupe’s entry into the current trend of trap-soul. This style doesn’t really work for him. His voice and flow aren’t smooth enough to really mesh with the laidback percussion. On the flip side, “Pick Up The Phone” does work. It’s a similar type of song but has a little more of an organic feel with some tasteful acoustic guitar. He sounds a little bit more natural than on “Law”. The rest of the album ranges from dance music inspired tracks to almost early Maroon 5-ish pop rock to the obligatory Dear Mama song. As I noted previously, you can tell this is an album of odds, ends and tracks that didn’t fit other releases. Lupe himself noted this is just something to hold off his fanbase until the real Drogas is released. Overall, this release is really only for the die-hard Lupe Fiasco fans and honestly even they wouldn’t find this worthy of many listens. There are a few worthwhile songs but all in all, you wouldn’t be missing out by skipping this one.