This month’s throwback features Lupe Fiasco’s sophomore album “The Cool.” Lupe’s first two major label projects are beloved my many fans, unlike his later works which has many people just plan lost.
Lupe’s style has always made him a interesting figure, either people really love him or they really can’t get into his work, probably because all the politics in his rhythms. One big reason why I loved early Lupe had to do with the fact that his work had substance. His work back then talked about social issues but it wasn’t as conspiracy theory laced and super over the top as some would say it is now.
The Cool is a concept album, and I know that term gets throw around a lot, but the whole CD was really centered around one idea. “The Cool” itself was metaphor that was used to describe the social ills of world, that oddly enough end up looking cool, so we as the public chase them. We are always chasing “The Cool.” Tracks like Intruder Alert, Gold Watch, The Die, The Coolest, and Little Weapon are get examples of Lupe talking about what the public deems as cool. Drugs are cool, money is cool, girls are cool, power is cool, guns are cool, clothes, cars, and shoes are cool. Anything from drugs, street life, materialism, and rape, to child rebel soldiers is on the menu for the Chi-Town rapper to discuss.
Lupe’s story telling ability was on full display on this album, as well as his wordplay skills. Gotta Eat, The Die, and Hip-Hop Saved My Life are just a few examples of this. I was much younger when I first bought this album, I understood the meaning but as I got older and really listened closely I saw even more meaning in the tracks.
The album did feature two big hits, “Paris, Tokyo” and “Superstar”. What I liked about these two singles were they sounded like a Lupe Fiasco song; he showed he didn’t have to change his style, and “sell out” to make a hit record. Something he was forced to do on later albums like Lasers, which he stated the label forced upon him. Fittingly enough he foreshadows that exact dilemma on this album. The 14th song on the album entitled, Dumb It Down, Lupe directly addresses the problem he has with his label wanting him to dumb down his music for the audience. He also addresses that he knows why his music may not be popping in the streets. The same people discussed earlier that can’t get with his flow probably don’t want to hear about the issues Fiasco feels is relevant. However he is not willing to change.
Overall this is a great album in my opinion. The question always gets asked “do you think Food and Liquor is better then The Cool.” I honestly don’t know. His lyrics are on point on both tapes, and while they both have hit records neither album as a whole is going to “wow” you with its poppy beats (even though I don’t think the beats are bad, they fit the direction/purpose of the album’s). The Cool, ironically, may have been a broader album in the social issues it tackled. Food and Liquor was very much a similar album in which he rapped about deep issues, but it seemed to more so focus on issues impacting inner city life in America. Either way take a walk down memory lane and give The Cool a spin, I promise you will not regret it.