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44 of 47 found the following review helpful:
The Coolest Dec 18, 2007
"Reformed Music Addict"
If You like Hip Hop about cars and money look elsewhere but if you like intelligent Hip Hop with a thought behind look no further. Lupe Fiasco is not trying to prove any street credability, infact he grow up middle class and he's not doing anything to prove the opposite. Instead he let his lyrics do the talking. Lupe belongs to that exclusive group of rappers that don't sell records because of image but cause of what they talk about. Lupe Fiasco's debut album "Food & Liquour" that came out last year had everything you could ask for. Good lyrics that dealt with everthing from social problems to his passion for skateboards and samples from the most obscure sources that made it an amazing listening experience aswell. That is what Hip Hop is all about. On his sophmore album we find less big producers like Kanye, Neptunes and Needlz but Soundtrack who produced some songs on his debut got a big role here and is featured on 2/3 of the songs while producers Chris & Drop also made a few beats. The album is simular to his debut in sound but is a concept album partly based on the song "The Cool" from "Food & Liquour" that told the story about a gangsta that was killed and buried but got a second chance to come back to life but instead of changing his life he goes back to his old neighbourhood and makes the same mistakes again. This man called "The Cool" becomes a character here and the story is expanded with the introduction of three others. The Streets, a female and the Game both persons that steretypically represent exactly that and then the fictional up and coming rapper "Michael History". Apart from all of these fascinating conceptual stories, Lupe deals with a vast number of issues like society problems, decline of Hip Hop but also alot of positive stuff. Well, It's for you do find out!.
The album starts with a short intro called "Baba Says it's Cool Thought" where Iesha Jaco (his siter?) talk about current issues like Hurricane Katrina, Virgina Tech and gentrification of the projects. That intro is followed by another one called "Free Chilly" with Sarah Green and GemStones that kind of seques into the following song "Go Go Gadget low", finally the album starts!. Lupe raps so fast he almost sounds like Chamillionaire on this song that feature strings and a popular sample. Good start. On the somber piano sounding title track "The Coolest" the concept comes into play and Lupe's storytelling is absolutely perfect. "Superstar" is perhaps the best song and feature Matthew Santos, a budget Chris Martin singing the hook. A rather slow song where Lupe deals with his recent fame and how tough it is to be the superstar people want him to be. The Jazzy and mellow "Paris/Tokyo" is basically about travel and exploring diffrent cultures, pretty good song that alot of people will enjoy. "Hi-Defination" with guests Snoop Dogg and Pooh Bear (singer) got a nice sample and Lupe dealing with contemporary issues. Snoop raps over Pooh Bears hook but I don't understand the point with his guest verse with doesn't say much. "Gold Watch" is about fame and what happens to you when you get too much of it. The sample here can be seen as artistic cause there's a group of people talking as the source of sample but it also gets tiresome to listen to it, taking away to focus from the lyrics. The song about Michael History who dreams about becoming a rapper is called "Hip Hop Saved Mt Life" and feature Nikke Jean a Fergie clone and a slow piano melody. It's a poignant story that is simular to the story from "Hustle and Flow".
A simular sounding song is "Intruder Alert" with a welcome comeback from Sarah Green. A true highlight where Lupe deals with three outkasts of the society, a raped woman, a drug addict and a poor immigrant that hope he won't get deported. One of the best Hip Hop songs of the year. Matthew Santos is back on "Streets Of Fire" with a really good beat. Lupe talks about a desease with no cure but I'm not sure exactly what he's talking about. "Little Weapon" withh Nikki Jean again was produced by the singer from Fall Out Boy and is more rock oriented but surprisingly good. The lyrics deal with kids using weapons and he makes all kind of examples, once again Lupe shows he's both knowledgable and a great storyteller. More about the album concept on "Gotta Eat" which is very artistic with diffrent arrangements. "Dumb It Down" pokes fun of contemporary Hip Hop and is quite funny with word playing and metaphors. "Hello/Goodbye (Uncool) is Rap-Rock with hard hitting drums and Unkle (the producer) singing backround vocals. "The Die" continues the concept, and is much darker song then most others. Lupe rap fast like Chamillionaire again, More with "Put You On The Game" that sounds like 90's gangsta rap with a really tough context. "Fighters" with Santos is about archiving your dreams and Lupe sends a greeting to all his fans for the support he got and also a salute to his father that died earlier this year. "Go Baby" the closer is the song for his girl? It got a great sound to it but feel kinda un-serious though but the wordplay is funny and it further show the diversity of this album.
Overall, there is alot of complexity is this concept cause it takes several listens before you truly get the point and can put together the pieces. I still haven't been able to analyze all of the songs at this point. There's also plenty of songs that aren't incorperated into the concept which makes it all even harder to grasp. On the other hand, Lupe offers a wide variation of sounds, flows and themes and the lyrics here are some of the smartest I've heard this year. With this sophmore effort Lupe Fiasco maintain himself more then ever as one of the finest lyricists and most versatile emcee's around and the enormous multitude of sounds here make "The Cool" end up on par with Talin Kweli's "Ear Drum" and Common's "Finding Forever" as the best alternative Hip Hop albums this year. Unfortunately, Lupe Fiasco has stated that that in 2008 he will close the trilogy with an album called "LupeEnd" and then he will retire as a performer. Will see about that, but enjoy this man as long as he is around and make sure to check this one out cause it's too good to be missed.
33 of 37 found the following review helpful:
A Instant Classic.......... Dec 18, 2007
By Amparo Acosta
For better or worse, there aren't too many emcees that are remotely close in skill level to that of Lupe Fiasco. For better because of his incomparable lyricism that could draw comparisons to what Jay-Z may have been if it weren't for the drug game. The double entendres, the knack to flip his style at the drop of the dime and unique capability to tell stories all could make Lupe the "Nerd Hova". But for worse because when someone is that far ahead of the game, it is relatively difficult for the average person to catch up.
Food & Liquor was the brilliant debut that showcased the better and the worse of Lupe Fiasco. Critically acclaimed yet couldn't put a significant dent in soundscan (and wouldn't have sold what it had if it wasn't for the Kanye West and Jay-Z cosigns), it was apparent that Lupe was a tough pill to swallow. Add that to the fact that he is nothing like one would have thought him to be and you have what is called an enigma.
As complex as the makeup of Lupe Fiasco is, one must be curious if he unloaded all of his best on his debut album. A year later, a "GQ Man of the Year" nod, a Grammy nomination and a title of "the next big thing" all morph into The Cool - the 2nd of Lupe's trilogy. Is the hunger still there? Can he duplicate or exceed his debut? Or was F&L simply a fluke that can't be done again?
Expanding on the concept of the song The Cool off of F&L, Lupe Fiasco's sophomore effort is nearly flawless as a follow up to his astounding debut. Opening with his sister, Iesha Jaco, giving a spoken word piece on what some have thought to be cool and an ode to his imprisoned confidant, Chilly, Lupe blows the doors open with the double-time cadence of Go Go Gadget Flow. The gloves are off and it's evident that Lupe is on a mission. Whether you "get it" or not is none of his concern. Either join the club or join the haters. Those who side with lyricism and creativity in favor of today's "club bangers" will opt for the former.
While many artists are known to tone down their intellect to sound more Mike Tyson than Michael Eric Dyson for mass consumption, Lupe embraces his gift of gab and releases a lyrical mind titled "Dumb It Down" - which serves as the perfect song to those who think he's too smart for his own good. Take this display for example:
"Pimps C/see the wings on the underground king
Who's also Klingon, to infinity and beyond
Something really stinks, but I Sphinx/Spinks like Leon
or lying/lion in the desert
I'm flying on Pegasus, you're flying on the pheasant
Writer of the white powder, picker of the fire flowers
Spit, "hot fyah" like Dylan on Chappelle's skit
Yeah, smell it on my unicorn
Snort the white horse, but toot my own horn - sleep"
It's definitely not something that can be digested in one sitting. Lupe shows off some wicked wordplay while eerily making a reference to the late Pimp C. Efforts like this are just cause to beat your rewind button into submission.
As far as narratives go, there aren't many who can claim the same space of storytelling superiority as Fiasco. The Cool plays out like a novel filled with short stories that relate to each other in some way, shape or form.
Continuing the praise of the late Underground King, Hip Hop Saved My Life is Basically a piece of work that combines Lu's affinity for Houston emcees with an amazingly sharp tale of one's attempt at breaking into the industry. Intruder Alert features three accounts dealing with the harsh realities of life, while the Patrick Stump (of Fall Out Boy) production titled Little Weapon glows with its reference to kids in other countries who take up arms. Longtime friend and hypeman, Bishop G, excels next to Lupe as he comes correct with a verse linking video games to violence. The show stealer lyrically is Put You On Game where Lu trumps his American Terrorist effort with something that simply has to be heard to believe.
But it's not all minds and narratives - Lu knows how to have fun too. Paris, Tokyo is ironically a very Jungle Brothers like track that finds Lu spending moments with a lady. But don't think that a relaxed track such as this means Lu is taking a break from the lyrics. Making a coded reference to Jay-Z and Damon Dash's split with "They want me to leave my Dame like a fella from Marcy," it has to be realized that Fiasco's gifts are almost supernatural - as well as second nature.
Elsewhere, Gold Watch is simply the make-up of Fiasco and what makes him tick. Everything from Street Fighter II to Mont Blanc pens get referenced here and does nothing but make it even more complicated to figure him out. And I have a feeling that Lupe likes it that way.
The production provided by Soundtrakk, Chris & Drop and Ashlux makes The Cool unique yet digestible. Whether it be the snapping drums that drive Matthew Santos' vocals on the Chris & Drop produced Streets On Fire, the Linkin Park-esque vibe of the Ashlux produced and Snoop Dogg assisted Hi-Definition, or the grooving keys of Soundtrakk's Superstar, The Cool definitely fits Lupe's persona to a tee.
The only conceivable reason that The Cool is an instant classic just with a snap of a finger. After being slammed with brilliant song after innovative concept, the latter part of the album is as good as it started - although still far superior than 90% of what other emcees have put out.
We all know Lu loves rock and he goes hard with Unkle on the dark Hello/Goodbye (Uncool). Although it is by no means a bad song, it's rock vibe provides an unnecessary speed bump that causes this high octane ride to slow down a bit. The Die suffers from an average beat and an equally average guest spot from Lu prodigy, Gemstones. And while Go Baby is a solid track, Fighters may have been better suited to close the album. But these issues are infinitesimal at best and nitpicking at worst.
With Food & Liquor as his Illmatic, The Cool follows up as his It Was Written - incredibly good to make the cool a classic. But for an artist who can only compare to himself, it's quite difficult to outdo your introduction to the world. The Cool proves that Food & Liquor was no accident and it's quite possible that the best has yet to come. If L-U-P-End - the final album of the trilogy - is as good as this and he does in fact bow out, be prepared for the name "Fiasco" to be etched in the G.O.A.T. tablets in Hip Hop history. He's just that damn good.
14 of 15 found the following review helpful:
He said, "Hustler for death, no heaven for a gangsta, And...." Mar 26, 2008
By J. Highsmith
Although I heard Lupe Fiasco on Kanye West's track "Touch The Sky", it wasn't until I heard his track "Kick, Push" that I actually started paying attention to Lupe. The track wasn't groundbreaking but it was nice to hear a refreshing sound from an up and coming artist that put you back to the days of real hip hop music. Other than Little Brother, there hasn't been too many acts in these days and times to make you feel inspired about real hip hop music. Most of the time you just see yourself going back to your favorite rap CDs of the 80s and 90s to get that feeling.
When I purchased Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor, I was impressed the by overall feel of the CD. The production wasn't complex and Lupe wasn't scared to dare to be different on certain tracks on his debut CD. For instance, on tracks like "The Instrumental" and "American Terrorist", you wouldn't have got a feeling after hearing "Kick Push" and "I Gotcha" that you would come across tracks that may not have been authentic hip hop. However, you stil enjoyed songs like these, as well as, traditional hip hop tracks such as "Hurt Me Soul", "Just Might Be Ok", "He Say, She Say" and the original introduction of Michael Young History on "The Cool", which was Kanye West's only production contribution to Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor.
When I heard "Dumb It Down" on Lupe's myspace page, I knew that his sophomore CD was going to be just as nice as "Food & Liquor". Lupe talked about the theme of what most major labels want you to do nowadays. Instead of making tracks with substance, labels want you to talk about white tees, hustlin', 2 steps, silly dances, and party tracks. The 2nd single, "Superstar" features Matthew Santos, who was also featured on "American Terrorist" from "Food & Liquor". Behind this catchy track is a message to all of the up and coming and current rappers who claim that they are prepared for all of the pitfalls that come with being a rapper in the year 2008. I definitely wasn't prepared for "Go Go Gadget Flow". First of all, with the beat and the flow, I hear too much Marshall "Eminem" Mathers on the track. The more that I listened to the track, the more I liked it. It's a nice track, personally I just feel that it won't be in too many people's Top 5 tracks once they give "The Cool" a good 3 or 4 listens. "The Coolest" picks up from where the track "The Cool" left off. Lupe does a nice job of explaining things from Mike's point of view and it's a nice sequel to my favorite track from "Food & Liquor". I understand why some people would be turned off by this track because of Lupe's use of the "N" word, as reviewer "Shamontiel L. Vaughn" pointed out, but it doesn't take anything from the quality of the track, in my opinion. "Paris, Tokyo" will remind you of a track that the Native Tongues may have done back in the day. Everytime I hear this track I think of my favorite A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Jungle Brothers tracks from back in the day. That's funny considering how Lupe claims to have never paid too much attention to "Midnight Marauders", one of Tribe's best CDs, when he was growing up. "Paris, Tokyo" talks about the good times of touring and all the nice experiences that come with it. "Gold Watch" just might be my favorite track on this CD as Lupe just uses this track to get his flow on. You'll be bobbing your head back and forth everytime this track comes on. "Hip Hop Saved My Life" is another nice track from Lupe. Basically, in my opinion, Lupe gives you his definition of what hip hop means to him. At the same time, it also seems that he is also talking about the tireless themes that some of the rappers use today, instead of just using real skills to make it. Nikki Jean adds a fresh hook to the track and this definitely will be one of your favorites. "Streets On Fire" reminded me of "The Instrumental". You even hear the beginning to beat to "Straight Outta Compton" at the beginning of the track. This track will have you energized out of your mind if you are not careful. Lupe uses this track to explore more into the aspects of The Streets, who is another character that is introduced on this CD. "Little Weapon" picks up from where "Streets On Fire" left off making it a 2 part track in my opinion. Some people may be turned off by the subject matter, but since I knew a little about Michael Young History, The Streets and The Game before I listened to the CD, I get a better understanding of the tracks' subjects while I am listening to everything.
The problem with "The Cool", in my opinion, are 1) Hi-Definition w/Snoop and Pooh Bear and "Go Baby" are tracks that should have been left off the CD. It seems that the parties involved were trying too hard to make a commercial track and 2) that the tracks towards the end of the CD don't measure up to the best tracks on the CD. Don't get me wrong, "The Die" w/Lupe and Gemstones, where they talk about the death of "The Cool" is nice and "Fighters" which also features Matthew Santos is a nice track as well, but when you compare the 1st half of the CD to the 2nd half of the CD, the 1st half wins easily. This is the reason why "The Cool" isn't a 5 star CD.
Overall, I feel that Lupe Fiasco released a nice sophomore CD. There is clearly no sophomore jinx going on here. The lyrics from "Food & Liquor" are still there and while the production style is slightly different in some cases, the music doesn't take too much away from the overall quality of "The Cool", in my opinion. While Lupe continues to say that his career is "over" after 2008's "LupEnd", hopefully he will change his mind and continue to provide us with the flavor that he has brought us on his 1st 2 discs. If you enjoyed "Food & Liquor", I feel that you will also enjoy "The Cool", you will just be "fighting" with yourself trying to figure out which CD is better.
James' Top 5
1) Dumb It Down
2) Gold Watch
3) Hip Hop Saved My Life w/Nikki Jean
4) Superstar w/Matthew Santos
5) The Coolest
Streets On Fire
The Die w/Gemstones
Fighters w/Matthew Santos
Go Go Gadget Flow
Intruder Alert (Don't be turned off by the serious nature of the track)
13 of 14 found the following review helpful:
Truly torn Dec 21, 2007
By P. T. J.
Here's the thing: I would consider myself one of Lupe Fiasco's biggest fans. Recently, I had a rather unique opportunity to see Lupe Fiasco not perform, but speak, on the University of Michigan campus. I was extremely impressed. It's obvious that Lupe Fiasco is incredibly intelligent. He ran circles around the crowd of eager students with his humor and (even) philosophy, hitting upon Cornell West's "cool" philosophy during his talk. I remember how excited I was, after seeing him, for this album. "Food & Liquor" emerged onto the scene and quickly stole a spot in my heart amongst Mos Def and Talib Kweli's "Black Star," Atmosphere's "You Can't Imagine How Much Fun We're Having," and Foreign Exchange's "Connected" as one of my favorite hip hop albums of all time. Whimsical, unabashedly individual, intelligent and empathetic, there wasn't a song on the album I skipped over or didn't admire. There's something about "The Cool" that falls just short, however. I don't think that Lupe suffers from the sophomore curse, his lyrics are as on point as ever, his flow is impeccable, and a majority of the songs are beautiful and lyrical, but he gets somewhat lost in his ideas. The concept here of three personable characters - The Cool, The Game, and The Streets - gets lost; it's only seen on three or four tracks. The rest follow other storylines and characters, including himself, unnamed emcees, and the various other vices of life in the modern world, (including fast food.) The problem is, Lupe makes the critical mistake of wanting to explore every vice on this album, with dark perception, and thusly fails to unite the CD with any one common thread. Concept albums are best when they adhere to their concept. Masta Ace's "A Long Hot Summer" followed a very strict, (also, incidentally, mostly true) storyline. Jedi Mind Trick's "Violent By Design," - while so violent it's hard to listen to - certainly adheres to the question "What captures us in violence?" The Cool bears a similar question, "Why do we define what we do as cool?" However, it feels like Lupe only half-immersed himself in his concept. Honestly, I'd have enjoyed the album better probably devoid of any characters or personification, however, the idea is clever, and when employed well (as seen on "The Coolest,") is nearly breathtaking. He refers to The Streets - his personification of urban living in a seductive woman - with the line "Her eyes glow green with the logo of our dreams." Great line. Honestly, there are some real home-runs on this album. In fact, they come almost consecutively here on the album. "Hip Hop Saved My Life," "Intruder Alert," Streets On Fire," Little Weapon" and "Fighters" are all some real gems. Hands down, "Hip Hop Saved My Life" wins best song on the album, and here Lupe fires on all cylinders - the way he always has. Head nodding and melodic beat with intelligent, mind bending lyrics, strong opinionated messages, COMPELLING narrative, and good hook. So when I say this album falls just short, I mean it falls JUST short.
The problem is, after hearing not only Lupe's official releases, but all of his underground mixtape tracks, it's hard to believe he couldn't have pulled off a better sophomore release! Songs off his mixtape "Revenge of the Nerds Pt. II" blew me away. In fact, my favorite Lupe Fiasco song of all time is from this mixtape - "Glory," where his lyrics transcend almost any other intelligent hip hop song I've ever heard. I admire both his intelligence and ambition in everything he does, but can't help but feel that he tried to tackle too much here. Either do away with the concept, or strictly adhere to it. More than that though, some of Lupe Fiasco's songs actually compromise themselves for their message. "Dumb It Down" is plagued with a truly unfortunate hook of pseudo-criticisms on his intelligence. LOVE what he's saying, don't like the way he says it. Some of the songs on here cease to be real music, music that operates on melody, beats, lyrics, and message, and instead cling to one of those four qualities at the expense of the other three. Similarly, "Gotta Eat" and "Gold Watch" fall into this category. With all that said, "The Cool" still manages to be one of my favorite albums this year, partly because, now-a-days, there are only one or two quality hip hop albums released a year, and so Lupe's "The Cool" manages to stand toe-to-toe with Talib Kweli's (rather remarkable return to the scene) "Eardrum." And Lupe isn't the only intelligent rapper to fall short of his own standards this year. Mos Def's "True Magic," plagued by his war with the record company, was a bit letdown from his previous work, as was Common's "Finding Forever." I won't even begin to compare this album to mainstrem hip hop, because mainstream hip hop has been almost completely devoid of talent now for a number of years, and even before then, was plagued by stupidity and machismo. The thing I think I respect most about this CD, is Lupe's mission. He hasn't just begun to question what we define as cool, but has set out to ALTER our defintion of what IS cool. His beats on this album - only slightly more mainstream sounding than on his previous - cater to a larger audience while not compromising his message or lyrics. Lupe takes on not the hip hop industry here, but (literally) the morality of what youth and urban america considers "cool" across the board. It's the most ingenious, ambitious, and daunting task I could possibly imagine. And I think he could do it, I really do - but not in three albums.
If Lupe ever reads these reviews, I hope he reads this next bit. For a long time, Lupe Fiasco has been claiming his third album release "L-U-P-End" as his final release, after which he retires into rap history. I only hope that Lupe changes his mind. If you want to talk about rap history, even social change, with a little more focus on his craft and direction, Lupe could go down as not only one of the most talented emcees of all time, but one of the most socially relevant and impacting, but if he's resolute in releasing only 3 CDs, and one of them "The Cool," I can't help but feel that we're missing out on so much more he has to offer. Why release only three CDs? I respect the idea of preventing oneself by getting sucked into "the game," - by releasing only three albums, Lupe forces himself to put everything he has and wants to say into them without filler. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, Lupe's standard of best fell since his first album. Extend the reptoire Lupe! Four cds at least. You've got too much talent, too much intelligence, and too much to say to leave it at 3.
9 of 10 found the following review helpful:
Listen Up Dec 22, 2007
By Shamontiel L. Vaughn
"I'm boycotting Amazon's site due to them approving of racist reviewers like Abe Krieger."
In a time when songs about kool-aid and chicken noodle soup are considered hits, it's such a relief to have artists like Lupe Fiasco who refuse to "Dumb it Down" for his audience. I'm dead tired of listening to raps that aren't saying much, and if there's anybody who will bring news and relevant topics to music, it's Mr. Fiasco (along with a few others like Mos Def and Talib). Lupe talked about various issues such as child soldiers, love, women who have been raped, gentrification, crime, how hip hop saved people from the streets, and so forth. When I hear his music, I spend more time listening to the lyrics than I do listening to the chorus, minus "Paris, Tokyo," which was so catchy, it took me at least three days before I listened to what the song was about.
Cons: Thanks to some Amazon reviewers, I relistened to "The Cool" and then "The Coolest" after they explained the Michael Young story, but for the life of me, I cannot get past that chorus with the n-word. I despise the word so much that I refuse to listen to the song anymore. I understand the concept, but I'm just dead tired of hearing the word. Also, it wasn't until "Paris, Tokyo" (#6) that the album started to pick up.
Final results: As long as Lupe stays true to his beliefs and speaks intelligently, I'll always be a fan. I love how he represents for Chicago so beautifully.
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