1 October, 2012@5:51 am
After the disappointingly pop and overly slick Lasers, Lupe Fiasco has returned with his fourth album, the somewhat ridiculously titled Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1. Does this mean there will be a Food & Liquor II: Pt. 2? That seems like a fairly ludicrous possibility. More likely, there won’t be a part two, or we’ll get a Food & Liquor III. [Editor's Note: Or perhaps Lasers 2: The Great American Rap Album Part 2: The Sequel]”
In any case, this latest effort is not entirely recent, as much of it was recorded during the production of Lasers, which was delayed several times because of artistic disputes between Lupe and Atlantic Records. With its all black everything album cover and the title referencing his arguably classic debut, it seems to be an attempt to return to the Chicago rapper’s roots.
The first half of Food & Liquor II accomplishes this with more rugged beats and provocative lyrics that we heard on Lasers. On “Strange Fruition,” Lupe comes out expressing his disillusion with America’s tattered racial past and vapid present. “Around My Way [Freedom Ain’t Free]” lifts the sample from Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),” which apparently created no shortage of ill will from Rock. Still, Lupe sounds much more comfortable on a classic track like this than on the more electronic production of his recent work. “Bitch Bad” and “Lamborghini Angels” are perhaps the highlights of the album, showing off Lupe’s excellent dexterity as a lyricist.
Food & Liquor II begins to sag in the middle, though, with a series of overcooked love-gone-wrong anthems (“Heart Donor,” “How Dare You,” “Battle Scars,” and “Brave Heart”). Not only are they repetitive but the singing on the hooks is hokey and unfortunately, this style of rap love ballad was done better earlier this by Tyga with “Love Game.” Lupe regains his footing somewhat towards the end, but this whole thing is still packed with too much soulless singing on the hooks.
When an artist releases a classic the first time out, they’re always kind of fighting against the shadow it casts. While all his work since has been solid in the bigger picture, and there are probably excellent albums buried within, Lupe’s work remains shrouded in a murky darkness.
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