The past two years have been an emotionally treacherous journey for Lupe Fiasco fans. In 2015 he dropped the underrated but stellar Tetsuo and Youth, and since then he has retired, come out of retirement, announced three new albums without releasing any of them, and has continued to deliver confusing and fairly reliable news about his own releases in the time since.
Finally, now, we have a full new Lupe album, DROGAS Light. Totalling 14 tracks, the quality is as inconsistent as his announcements. For now, his future remains uncertain, but full of potential.
From the very beginning, Lupe’s independence is noticeable, turning his hand to the current hip-hop trends like auto-tune, trappy beats and Ty Dolla $ign guest spots. The albums kicks off with a bang, with two hard hitting tracks Dopamine Lit and NGL immediately pushing huge energy to the fore. It’s a far cry from the more mellowed Lupe of old, but fairly similar to some of Tetsuo and Youth’s best tracks, like Deliver. NGL, the toughest track on the album, marries aggressive social commentary with a soulful Dolla $ign chorus.
Further embracing the more trendy and popular styles of today, Lupe flaunts his Future-inspired auto-tune on Promise. Catchy as hell, just like Future.
The album is not without its flaws. Made In The USA has a really annoying chorus – to a point where you can’t really make it past the first “made in the USA” chant without needing to skip the rest. High (Interlude) has a similar problem, with an extremely high-pitched, grating melody. Luckily Lupe’s flow saves the day, although the lyrics about prostitution aren’t exactly cutting edge or interesting.
DROGAS Light is more feature heavy than expected. As well as Ty Dolla, we find Bianca Sings, Gizzle, Rondo, Simon Sayz, Victoria Monet, Salim, Jake Torrey, RXMN, Rick Ross and Big K.R.I.T. all contributing to the thoroughly collaborative record.
Ross and K.R.I.T. feature on the classic drug dealer brag track Tranquillo, lyrically dope, using the drug dialogue as some kind of analogy: “I ain’t talking about them drugs, I’m talking about that love, for myself and all my n****s.”
Tranquillo is followed by the seven-minute epic Kill, again featuring Ty Dolla, and Victoria Money, in a great throwback G-Funk number. Lupe takes us back to his earlier sounds with Law, surely in place to appease The Cool fans out there. It’s not Superstar, but it works so well with the blend of electronic and hip-hop that we love him for. He pulls it off again with It’s Not Design, another heavy, impressive track that makes this album worth the wait.
The overall feel is that this record could be split into two distinct halves: the first, a trappy, forthright concept record; the second, a dance-ready, jazz-infused slice of old-school Lupe. Lupe has promised fans two more albums, recently revealing that the next one, Skulls, is “almost done”.
Drogas LIGHT is enough to tie us over for now, and there definitely are some amazing moments. It’s far from perfect, and much of the second half is almost totally skippable, begging the question, would this have been better received as two separate EPs?
Even if our opinion doesn’t matter much to you, check out this review from the man himself: yes, Lupe Fiasco reviewed his own album.