Album Reviews

Lupe Fiasco – The Cool

(Atlantic) UK release date: 21 January 2008

Lupe Fiasco may be best known mostly for his smash debut single Kick, Push but anyone expecting his follow up album to lean heavily towards that breezy, carefree vibe is in for a surprise.

Once skipping by The Cool’s opening duo, the high octane snare heavy Go Go Gadget Flow thrusts you head first into Lupe’s world. Comparable to Eminem‘s Evil Deeds it sets the bar high, and avoids veering into comic Inspector Gadget references

There is a calm RnB vibe through to Hi-Definition, unsurprisingly taking on the air of West Coast relaxation thanks to Snoop Dogg and his intermittent backing and token 32 bars. While veering towards the radio-friendly, Lupe maintains his conscious lyrics. Gold Watch is only the second sign that The Cool could be a good album.

It’s clever, slick and down-right funky. Bouncy and vibrant, despite it being a list of exclusive designers and brands from Yohji Yamamoto clothes to Mont Blanc pens it comes across as a self-reflective social critique – or some brash lyrics masked by a jazzy beat.

Intruder Alert brings another Eminem comparison, again through with the producer Soundtrakk‘s preference for snare drums and piano scores to underlay the heavily loaded lyrics. Emotive is one way to describe it, if not masterful as it sets up the The Cool’s apocalyptic direction.

After getting over the shock and confusion of finding what at first sounds like a NOS injected Moby track, Streets On Fire turns into a hip-hop classic. The power and imagery of an end world are helped with haunting backing vocals preceding and intersecting Lupe’s vision of the Four Horsemen. It doesn’t stop there.

“Now little Terry got a gun he got from the store, he bought it with the money he got from his chores/he robbed the candy store told �em lay down on the floor” patters Bishop G introducing a military drum roll. Then all hell breaks loose with a sound throwing back to the X-Ecutioners/Linkin Park collaboration spliced with the pop hook provided by Nikki Jean‘s crisp singing.

We’re left to simmer and catch breath up until Hello/Goodbye and the metal-edge that UNKLE throws in. It’s relentlessly bleak, but fast and dramatic as if it should be the backing to a big-budget action flick’s showpiece scene. It ticks all the boxes as it takes you to The Cool’s peak.

The warm-down culminates in Fighters where Lupe’s human vulnerability shines through in another emotive arrangement. Lupe Fiasco’s intelligent lyrics and strong beats keep him a comfortable arms-length away from hip-pop, without displaying any signs of the arrogance of a Kanye West, just an intelligent social awareness. It should be essential to own this album.

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More on Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco – L.A.S.E.R.S
Lupe Fiasco – The Cool