Standout Tracks: Sun God Sam & The California Drug Deals, King Nas, Alan Forever, WAV files
“Fiasco pilots Drogas Wave as a vessel of resurrection not only for the drowned slaves he speaks for but also for himself.”
Like most folks, my introduction to Lupe Fiasco was from his incredible break-out feature on Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky”. Entranced by his clever and vivid word play and mesmerizing flow I found myself replaying the track repeatedly in an attempt to catch every clever punchline and double entendre that flew from his mouth onto Just Blaze’s slick production. Less than a year later, I found myself bumping to his debut album Food and Liquor, a project that to this day is still considered by many, including myself, a masterpiece. The album’s mind-blowing first single “Kick, Push” exists in equal parts a short story, as it does a song. From there, Lupe would go on to drop The Cool, a concept album about the pleasures, sins, and virtues of hip-hop stardom through the eyes of his created character Michael Young History. The Cool was immediately regarded as a classic. Following the success of The Cool, Lupe would release an extremely successful commercial project, Lasers, whose title track would bring him as close as he could possibly get to pop stardom. However, it seemed to have come at the cost of the artistry that he had so skillfully demonstrated on his first two projects. With the success of Lasers, Lupe’s career would have reached peak popularity. This moment would have been seized any other artist, capitalizing on fame and main stream appeal. On the contrary, Lupe essentially vanished. Sure, there were projects released and singles that received radio play but none truly got the visibility or reaction that Lupe’s previous albums had received both from the general public and from Fiasco himself. It seemed like any trace of the man who was expected to be Hip-Hop’s new greatest MC had just disappeared.
Fiasco’s apparent void was with good reason. Since he had signed to Atlantic Records they had been slowly and definitively wresting creative control of Fiasco’s projects away from them. Atlantic saw the value that a pop rap sensation could bring and desperately attempted to shoe-horn Fiasco into that role. Fiasco was forced to create tracks that were meant to chart. Therefore, keeping him from engaging in the artistic endeavors he so desperately wished to. Many were unsure if the Fiasco that had appeared on Food and Liquor or The Cool would ever return. This was fueled by the immense disappointment, both critically and commercially, of the supposed sequel to Food and Liquor, Food and Liquor 2. It would be another 3 years after Food and Liquor 2’s release that Fiasco finally seemed to be returning to his full- form with a new concept album in Tetsuo and Youth. While the project ranks among Fiasco’s best (and one I actively encourage you to take a listen to) it still bore hallmarks of Atlantic’s interference. Now, at long last Fiasco freed of his contract with Atlantic released a magnum opus of a project in Drogas Wave.
Drogas Wave finds Fiasco telling the story of slaves dealing with the trials of crossing the Atlantic aboard a slave ship when, by chance, a storm strikes, throwing them overboard. However, the drowned slaves find themselves still very much alive and set out to create their own ideal society, all the while drowning any other slavers who dare to cross the Atlantic. Fiasco pilots Drogas Wave as a vessel of resurrection not only for the drowned slaves he speaks for, but also for himself. What brings Drogas Wave the powers it holds truly stems from the fact that it is absolutely Fiasco’s project. From production to lyrics, Fiasco held a commanding hand. Going as far as creating a studio in his bedroom, Lupe recorded tracks on his iPhone. Therefore, preventing outside influence that would come with recording in the studio. Fiasco’s return to creative control is well noticed and gives Drogas Wave a polish that had been missing during his time with Atlantic. While his flow and lyricism are undeniable in making the project, the most important facet is without a doubt the production. Gone are the simplistic poppy beats with repetitive drum samples that Atlantic had forced on him. In their place there’s a myriad of various samples and sounds all perfectly-tailored to match the cadence and flow he displays on any individual track. The godly talent is displayed by a man who has surpassed being a jack of all trades, by effectively becoming their master. He paints so vividly the mirrored pairing of a conceptual universe where Atlantic drowned slaves build their own utopia and his own struggles crossing with Atlantic Records. Thus, creating this fantastically clever and cohesive project, where not only do the tracks contain plenty of double entendre and meaning, but the tracks themselves are double-edged as he parallels his own personal journey with the fictional universe he has created.