Lupe Fiasco: Drill Music in Zion Album Review
Sometime after 2011 Lasers, Lupe Fiasco, the ornithologist, took over the musician Lupe Fiasco. Instead of the high-concept, accessible lyrics of his early days, the rapper dropped attempts at mainstream taste, a result of fatigue from Chicago violence, label fights and artistic compromises. As of 2012 Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1, his albums became as sanctioned and unmanageable as they were musically sterile, with great ideas suffocated by mediocre performance and generic production. Essentially, the music began to resemble the necessary listening for a hard-hitting lesson plan.
Lupe cleans up Drill Music in Sion, a concise project that distills his best tendencies with a focus unseen for many years. Driven by gripping reflection, labyrinthine bar work and rhyming with a high thread, Drill Music in Sion is Lupe at its most effective. It is packed with atmospheric jazz that evokes isolation and clarity, thanks to production from Soundtrakk and Lupe himself. With 10 tracks, the LP is the shortest in his career, and the length helps: Instead of fixing on overall concepts he does not offer resolutions for, his approach is more episodic. He leans in early on in his strengths, and it saves him from the trap of monotony, convolution and self-seriousness.
Along with phonetic suspense, Lupe’s greatest skill is still his ability to weave different ideas into mosaic equations. On “Ghoti”, he connects a Christopher Columbus reference, superheroes and Neuralink technology for a broad, yet concise meditation on capitalism, morality and ethics for scientific progress. Over the soft instrumentation of “Precious Things”, Lupe becomes rude and deep, and offers a metaphor for frayed friendships and responsibilities: “Give scissors to my paper, we are not on the same page / We were bats, catchers and pitches, now you do not sometime wink. “
Lupe continues to show his ability to tell stories on «Ms. Mural, “the last entry in his” Mural “trilogy. On the track, a painter’s conversation with a condescending client becomes a pondering of Lupe’s full relationship with the music industry. It is personal, but it is also an existential study for artists everywhere.
Sometimes Lupe exchanges elaborate puns for exhibition and blunt power, with mixed success. It is most effective on the muted production of “On Faux Nem”, which provides the basis for Lupe’s simple, emphatic statement: “Rappers die too much / That’s it, that’s the verse”. From there, he unleashes bars about the culture of drill music. In a world where authenticity is typically valued everywhere, he would wish that drill artists actually lied in their lyrics.
Lupe’s conversation technique feels a bit strained on “Kiosk”, where he raps from the perspective of a difficult supplier who is trying to sell jewelry to ambitious big players. That’s fine, until he falls into a spoon-feeding third verse that goes beyond the subject. The track is part of a race of three songs (from “Precious Things” to “Ms. Mural”) where beats and tonal bends blend into each other, reproducing a sad beat of colorless sounds.
While production is in progress Drill Music in Sion is cohesive, it is not the most adventurous. It’s not the futuristic psychedelia of “Just Might Be OK” or the euphoric escapism of “Kick, Push” here, so no song matches the widespread appeal of Lupe’s best work. Nevertheless, the overall impression outweighs the lack of dynamism; the underrated tracks give his intricate puzzles room to breathe and Drill Music in Sion gives Lupe’s humanity and language proficiency plenty of room to breathe.
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