By Rashad D. Grove
(AllHipHop Opinion) 2018 is proven to be an incredible year for album releases in hip-hop. Veterans such as Jay-Z, Nas, Drake, Kanye West, Eminem, T.I. and Lil Wayne have all dropped projects. Cardi B and Jay Rock have released their highly anticipated debut albums. J. Cole, Nipsey Hustle, Wiz Khalifa, Pusha T., and many more have added to their own discographies. Even the younger generation of rappers, which has many fearful for the future of Hip-Hop, have been active as well. It’s in this climate that Lupe Fiasco reenters the game. Lupe has been preoccupied with being a clothing designer and a video game tournament champion. But with the remarkably ambitious Drogas Wave, Lupe returns as virtuoso lyricist that we’ve come to love. Without question, Lupe Fiasco is more necessary than ever before.
Drogas Wave is a sequel to Lupe's 2017 LP Drogas Light, continuing the thematic trajectory of his album making motif. Describing the creative process behind his new body of work on Twitter he says, “My function as an artist is that of a resurrectionist. So, my work will have that theme throughout in some way or another. That’s less of technical gimmick and more of a fundamental core competence.”
When Lupe Fiasco first entered the rap game 13 years ago he arrived with much fanfare. His persona as a cerebral, intellectual MC made him uncommon in relation to many of his peers in the mid-2000’s. Armed with insightful lyricism and compelling social commentary, Lupe set himself apart from others who came to prominence during the same era. The Hip-Hop community immediately regarded him as one of the great ones after being endorsed by none other than Jay-Z. His brilliance as an MC was evident in his first major guest appearance on Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky.”
After his meteoric rise, he released two back to back classics —2006’s “Food & Liquor” and 2007’s “The Cool,” a rare feat due to many MCs succumbing to the sophomore slump. In a short period of time, he mastered the art of creating critically acclaimed albums that were commercially successful. But in the next few years, his star began to dim as he fell from the spotlight.
While creative differences with his label, flirting with retirement, receiving mixed reviews on subsequent albums, facing backlash after his controversial statements, lyrics, and positions, Lupe found himself on the margins of the Hip-Hop landscape. The momentum that he had in his possession seemed to vanish over night while Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole ascended in the rap game with the same artistic aesthetic that Lupe help pioneer. For the last several years, Lupe’s career was more known for the all drama that surrounded him instead of his tremendous talent as an MC.
After facing his fair share of challenges, self-imposed or otherwise, Lupe returns to the game as a liberated man.
In a year where we witnessed the “who’s who” of rappers dropping albums, Lupe threw his hat into the ring with a vengeance, with his ambitious, conceptual project Drogas Wave.Drogas Wave tells a mythological account of slaves that jumped from slave ships that carried them as cargo throughout the Atlantic Ocean from the continent of Africa. These slaves remained under the sea, sinking oncoming slave ships. “Drogas” translated from Spanish means drugs and the acronym that Lupe created is “Don’t Ruin Us God Said.”
Drogas Wave is a sequel to Lupe's 2017 LP Drogas Light, continuing the thematic trajectory of his album making motif. Describing the creative process behind his new body of work on Twitter he says, “My function as an artist is that of a resurrectionist. So my work will have that theme throughout in some way or another. That’s less of technical gimmick and more of a fundamental core competence.”
Unlike many of the albums to come out this year that we more minimalist and condensed in terms of length, Drogas Wave is a 24 track LP, clocking in at 98 minutes. As is his custom, Lupe does not follow the current trends of the moment. In the spirit of a true artist, he seeks to transcend the popular expressions that everyone else seems to be entangled with.
With Drogas Wave, Lupe steps back into a rap scene that is strikingly different then when he made his debut. But his brand of artistry contributes to pushing the culture forward. His return signals to Hip-Hop that fighting for one’s artistic freedom against the controlling powers in music industry is worthwhile endeavor. With the combustible relationship with his former label now a thing of the past, Lupe can channel his energy into creating music on his own terms.
Hip-hop is always in need of countercultural voices who speak against the grain. Those who have the courage to offer an alternative perspective to the dominant discourse of the day. Since his emergence into the field, that’s been the calling card of Lupe Fiasco.
Lupe’s return is an indication of his acceptance of his role in Hip-Hop as an elder statesman and that he’s still vital to the culture. He’s not at all concerned with being a “superstar” (Pun intended) but to create music with authenticity and integrity. This sober, self-realization can only come with time and maturity of one who has endured much in the turbulent music industry but who has come out on the other sides as victorious. Because of that alone, Lupe’s story is apart of the greater narrative of hip-hop. Even through adversity, the great ones find a way to keep striving for their artistic vision.
This is Lupe Fiasco.