A decade after Lupe Fiasco exploded onto the hip-hop scene with his seminal 2006 debut Food & Liquor, the Chicago native is closing the chapter on his career with his most visualized projects yet. The independent rapper, who parted ways with his former label Atlantic Records following the release of 2015's Tetsuo & Youth, hits his creative peak with a trilogy of albums-Drogas Light, Drogas and Skulls-the final curtain call on one of the most gifted lyricists and visionaries to grace the mic.
If anything, Drogas Light, the first delivery to fans arriving in early 2017 via 1st & 15th/Thirty Tigers, is a testament to Fiasco's artistic growth throughout the years. The 14-track LP is free of restraint, and daring by his standards: the sonic and storytelling palettes are vast and diverse, more so than ever before, traipsing genre and style with ease and touting songs to soundtrack everything from a night at the club to a quiet listen on headphones. Where Tetsuo & Youth leaned into more experimental pastures, Drogas Light is the embodiment of a musician whose foray beyond the boundaries of hip-hop feels increasingly natural, a glimpse into the genius that will be Fiasco's legacy as he inevitably walks away from the spotlight.
From the start of Drogas Light, Fiasco lays his rhyming skills bare, attacking a haunted beat accented by a screwed vocal sample on opener "Dopamine" that self-reflectively emphasizes the magnetism of the album ("Over-d off of this, but don't fall asleep 'til the dopamine hit!" he chants). The set is dotted with several trap-inflected songs-"NGL" featuring Ty Dolla $ign is a turn-up anthem that entertains the reasons why success comes slow to many, while the STREETRUNNER-produced lead single "Made in the USA" catalogues the various home-grown, illicit products manufactured in the country.
Fiasco has often been pegged as a socially conscious emcee, likened to peers including Common and Nas, and he lives up to the reputation on "City of the Year," where he explores the economic disparity of Chi-town. He flexes his storytelling muscle on the hypnotic, spinning "Jump," on which he unfolds the tale of going from a "trapper to a rapper" by supplying a female adversary with a career boost. But it's when the album hits the relax button that Drogas Light coasts on cushy grooves: "Kill," also featuring Ty Dolla $ign, is an after-hours ode to women who work at gentleman's clubs, and the vamping closer "More Than My Heart" is an emotionally charged hat-tip to all the mothers who would sacrifice anything for their children.
While Drogas Light signifies the beginning of the end for Fiasco, it represents how far he's come since he first entered the game and merely accents the intellectual breadth of the discography he'll leave behind. At the onset of career, rappers including Jay Z and Kanye West regarded him as the future of hip-hop, with the latter tapping him for a standout guest verse on "Touch the Sky" after Fiasco remixed West's hit "Diamonds from Sierra Leone." His debut album Food & Liquor earned him three Grammy nominations and a win for the Jill Scott-assisted "Daydreamin'," which netted the trophy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in 2008.
In the years since, he evolved from the backpack rap of his debut with a string of classics including 2007's Lupe Fiasco's The Cool and 2011's Lasers, a prelude to the following year's Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1. While Drogas Light is just a taste of what he has to offer in the new year, it's yet another earmark on a track record of an artist who continually comes into new bloom.
1. Dopamine Lit (Intro)
2. NGL (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
4. Made In The USA (feat. Bianca Sings)
5. Jump (feat. Gizzle)
6. City Of The Year (feat. Rondo)
7. High (Interlude) (feat. Simon Sayz)
8. Tranquillo (feat. Rick Ross and BIG K.R.I.T)
9. Kill (feat. Ty Dolla $ign and Victoria Monet)
10. Law (feat. Simon Sayz)
11. Pick Up The Phone
12. It's Not Design (feat. Salim)
13. Wild Child (feat. Jake Torrey)
14. More Than My Heart (feat. RXMN and Salim)