Lupe Fiasco: DROGAS Light

Can the veteran rapper stay out of his own way long enough to nail down a good record?

- There once was a time in which a younger me would be certifiably creaming myself over the news and subsequence release of new material from Chicago born and bred emcee Lupe Fiasco. Lupe's first two records were charming and overtly likeable, Fiasco able to deftly weave the old with the new while finding ways to commercialise his art without falling into trashy, sell-out, pop-rap territory. Most importantly those were both fully fledged and realised records that still hold up and feel relevant today.

These days, thoughts of Lupe bring up feelings of the rap equivalent of mild PTSD. His third record, Lasers, I would love to refer to as a hot mess, but it was simply a messy musical turd of a record that took all his collective goodwill and flushed it down the toilet, straight out of my life. Records four and five both showed signs of improvement, but I've got this rule of thumb where, if you're going to include a Guy Sebastian feature on your rap record, it's gunna be an uphill climb (sorry Guy!).

Full length number six, DROGAS Light has seen the interest in my old friend go from tepid to downright lukewarm; his advanced offerings actually find Lupe Fiasco in the best form in absolutely years. Upon subsequent listens of the record these first impressions are mostly solidified and it doesn't take the sketchy rap veteran long to prove he still has a some aural fire left percolating somewhere deep within his once empty belly.    

A common occurrence on just about every single Lupe record to date, DROGAS Light suffers from being just a tickle too long, a tad overblown; it also follows his more recent trend in being stylistically all over the shop. After a strong start the tail end of the album feels like a confronting game of musical Russian roulette. Even with his most recent uptick in quality control, there's still a couple of cringeworthy stinkers in the hour long track time, the fourteen songs here could have had just a touch of the fat trimmed, Lupe himself admits that a chunk of the music here was taken "from the vaults" and that DROGAS Light as a whole is simply the prequel for DROGAS, a fully fledged record and second in a proposed trilogy of upcoming releases. That's an idea that sounds like a poor excuse for a slightly scattershot collection of music and an intriguing prelude for Lupe's next outing in equal measure.

Despite its obvious flaws, DROGAS Light remains Lupe Fiasco’s most complete and well rounded collection of music in what seems like an eternity. Its bombastic reach can feel slightly unfocused but it's got this bizarrely satisfying meld of production and styles that work more than they don’t. It's slightly cheesy in a charming way and sometimes the aural pivots don't hit the mark, but these moments are luckily relatively few and far between. Despite himself, Lupe deserves some credit in helping steady whatever shakey ship he's been captaining lately. I’m happy to give him the benefit of the doubt while he re-finds his feet, though with that being said, if DROGAS proper doesn’t deliver, I’m putting this Fiasco on ice forever.

- Jay Edwards.


Album Details

Album Title: DROGAS Light
Artist: Lupe Fiasco
Record Label: (1st & 15th / Sony)