Lupe Fiasco’s been a polarizing character for most of the right and wrong reasons, to say the least. On one hand, he’s a lyrical guillotine and has still retained his clever wordplay while relating to more artists and listeners than the average rapper, while on the other hand, his brash, outspoken comments can stir up a firestorm within seconds of him pressing the “Enter” button on his Twitter account. The last time Lupe was in the spotlight musically for an extended amount of time, he released L.A.S.E.R.S, which some think was more of an Atlantic Records creation than his own, but Lupe’s since promised that his follow-up and current release, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album (Part 1), would be all of his own doing.
If that’s the case then it explains why the level of replay value is so high for this LP; lyrically Lupe’s still a decapitating guillotine, as he throws in clever metaphors to further his point (and not just for the sake of doing it like most). The subject matter on the album is at times seemingly too heavy for the production, but it’s yet another method that Lupe uses to successfully draw listeners in (see: “B*tch Bad”, or the Mr. Inkredible-produced “Lamborghini Angels”). That doesn’t mean that he fails to get busy on a couple, however, as he delivers a few crazy verses for “Put Em Up” and “Form Follows Function” that can easily make you hit the rewind a few times. To be honest, even the single stabs this time around are much better than L.A.S.E.R.S, with Lupe recruiting Bilal for the soulful “How Dare You” (it’ll be a shame if that doesn’t make a radio playlist soon), and Lupe’s heart is on display as he opens up about his brother’s death on “Cold War.”
However, as great as the replay value of substance and execution makes this album, Food & Liquor II is not perfect at all. Lupe unsuccessfully tries his luck with singing on “Audobon Ballroom”, but thankfully leaves that task to the plethora of guest features scattered throughout the playthrough. Unfortunately, even that fails at times, as the hook from Casey Benjamin for “Strange Fruition” takes a couple of plays to grasp due to the distortion effect used on the vocals. In addition, the “Go To Sleep” track could’ve easily been included in the normal tracklisting in the place of fillers such as “Heart Donor” and “ITAL (Roses)” [note: “Go To Sleep” is included in the deluxe iTunes edition]. Although they aren’t bad songs by any means and have great messages, they don’t flow well with the vibe of the album, and the Autotuned breakdown during “ITAL” doesn’t help defend this argument any.
Granted, some could complain about the length of the album, but that could be due to Lupe wishing this was a double album to begin with, so there had to be concessions made in that aspect. Even with its nitpicks and flaws, Lupe Fiasco delivered on his promise to make an album his fans and supports could appreciate with Food & Liquor II. It’s a lyrically strong album that is sure to spark conversations due to its content, and can easily draw in casual listeners due to the LP’s sound and presentation. Regardless of what you may think of the man due to his online antics and statements, he does indeed know how to make though-provoking music. There’s no reason to not give this a play, or to support the release.
AllHipHop Rating: 8.5 / 10