(Note: Yes, the album cover is completely black.)
Six years after he exploded onto the scene with his breakthrough debut album Food & Liquor, Chi-Town veteran Lupe Fiasco has finally released a sequel in the form of Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1, featuring "B*tch Bad," "Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)," "Lamborghini Angels" and "Put Em Up."
Guest appearances include Bilal, Casey Benjamin, Guy Sebastian, Jane $$$, Jason Evigan and Poo Bear.
Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1 Album Review
So while it’s not really accurate to say that Lupe’s “back”, he’s come too far to go back to anything, there’s no question that by creating a part two to his debut album, Food & Liquor, he’s looking to return to his roots. F&L2, or if you prefer the unabridged version, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1, is not the second coming of dead prez. It has its own moments of pop-leaning lightness, but there’s more than enough revolutionary material here to leave the faithful satiated.
The most commonly leveled complaint against Lupe is that he’s “preachy”, and he’s almost never taken the podium more relentlessly than on F&L 2. But the fact that preaching is considered a cardinal sin in hip-hop is proof that our priorities have become twisted beyond recognition. As long as the hook’s catchy, rappers can deliver rhymes overflowing with automatic weapons and crack sales. But even suggest that perhaps murdering another human maybe isn’t such a great idea and watch the critics descend.
So yes, Lupe may preach, but hip-hop needs a preacher. A spoken word intro aside, Lupe wastes no time getting right down to it on the excellent opening track Strange Fruition: “Now as I wander the city going mad / I see the fruits of evidence planting instead of grass.” In comparison, Bi*ch Bad, delivers its anti-misogyny message with the subtly of a hammer, but considering the bad b*tch epidemic currently sweeping hip-hop, a hammer might be exactly the right tool for the job. ITAL is similarly hammerish in its message, drawing the distinction of being the first track in rap history to advocate “fiscal responsibility,” as is Audubon Ballroom, particularly on the hook. The greatest Lupe moments, however, come when listeners are forced to unravel some mystery - I’m still decoding The Cool years later. Lamborghini Angels contains the kind of lyrical complexity that will have rap heads decoding, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for when I pick up a Lupe Fiasco album. You could criticize Lupe for preaching, for being too verbose and lyrical, but that’d be like criticizing water for being wet.
There are moments of comparative lightness though on F&L 2, as there was on the original Food & Liquor. How Dare You is the album’s most laid back and relaxed cut, though it’s more R&B/soul than pop, thanks in no small part to a hook from Bilal, and Battle Scars is an epic love-gone-bad offering in the Skylar Grey vein, although here it’s Guy Sebastian providing the vocals. And while Heart Donor may at first blush seem to fall in that same category, Lupe quasi-hijacks the verses and turns the record into a love song for his fans and followers. If radio picks up on any of these tracks great, radio could use some higher quality music. But crucially Lupe sounds determined to let radio come to him, not the other way around.
If Lupe does indeed retire after this album, as he’s threatened, then at the very least we’ll be able to say he went out on
DJBooth Rating - 4.5 Spins