Lupe Fiasco has returned to music in the form that shot him to fame following release of his 2006 debut album Food & Liquor, rhyming words over beats in his own unique manner for the first time since The Cool. Following the epic 2011 failure L.A.S.E.R.S. the boldly titled Next Great American Rap Alubum is a step in the right direction, meandering back towards the fresh cool young Lu we all know and love.
The conscious and opinionated rapped returns to the familiar short-story rap form on F&L2, taking aim at Hip-Hop’s stance towards women in the appropriately titled Bad Bitch. Weaving a story of confusion and cultural ignorance, Lupe Fiasco demonstrates easily how damaging the use of the word bitch can be, calling out to a musical community that abuses the term continuously.
“I know what you saying, Lupe rapping ‘bout the same shit / Well, that’s cuz ain’t shit changed bitch / Please excuse my language / because I would hate for you to misrepresent the true expression of my anguish / And by this far I ain’t shocked upset or appalled, I’m ashamed bitch.”
The only problem is that Lupe can’t help himself either. The defender of females everywhere uses “bitch” twice during ITAL (Roses) only three tracks before Bad Bitch comes to save the gender. Leave it to Lupe to have the audacity to use a term he is minutes from completely condemning. Worst of all, he justifies the use with a half-assed apology accompanied by another shot of hypocrisy. Take it, bitch.
One of the strengths of the album is Around My Way, which features an old-school saxophone hook from Pete Rock & CL Smooth on the single They Reminisce Over You from 1991. Sonically the track stands out on F&L2, but I’m disappointed to say that Lupe fails to meet the standard CL Smooth set 21 years ago with the original.
Form Follows Function has promise as well, but eventually sounds preachy including a clunky Gretzky reference, demanding “that’s when we jet ski” to finish the phrase. Tragically, as Lupe Fiasco returns to form in F&L2 he also reacquaints himself with the same old flaws. A long list of featured artists, a ridiculously long title, and an unnecessary final track called “Things We Must Do For Others” that tells listeners to look under the CD tray for credit information are just a few of the frustrating aspects of the album.
After suffering through whatever L.A.S.E.R.S. was supposed to be, I guess listeners should be happy to have the old Lupe back, even if he is his same old stubborn self. Like it or not, Fiasco has returned to rapping in the same way he began his career, but he still lacks the polish to stand with other Hip-Hop heavyweights.
Given the lengthy and informative album title, one can only hope that Lupe Fiasco stays true to form while altering the function of his next effort. Without the silly title, album structure, and tired vocal harmony choruses, Food & Liquor II is indeed a great American rap album. However as a whole, Lupe Fiasco’s latest release lacks the purpose and thought that grabbed listeners’ attention several years ago, leaving room for improvement in part two of The Next Great American Rap Album.