I know I said lead single “Superstar” was good, and I stand by that, but the rest of Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco’ new album is, sadly, kind of disappointing. Apparently it’s a concept album featuring three competing metaphorical characters, “The Cool” vs. “The Streets” vs. “The Game,” but I’m afraid I have a hard time telling them apart or seeing how their braggadocio is any different from typical lowest-common-denominator hip-hop. Now and again we get some interesting tracks: see “Go Go Gadget Flow,” where Fiasco gives us a technically skillful if oddly robotic double-time rap, or the Gemstones-featuring “Dumb It Down” with its dramatic, buzzy electro groove. But what’s with the terrible intro poetry slam: “He thought it was cool to carry a gun in his classroom and open fire Virginia Tech Columbine stop the violence.” What? And the track featuring UK producer UNKLE, “Hello/Goodbye (Uncool),” just ends up sounding like a Linkin Park B-side, possibly in a nod to Linkin Park’s own Mike Shinoda who helped produce the album, in another bad sign.
Fiasco’s 2006 album Food & Liquor was a progressive, Kanye West-influenced treat, but on The Cool, even when Fiasco delivers thoughtful lyrics and innovative flows, he’s too often let down by the music.
Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool is out next Tuesday, December 18th on Atlantic Records, but MTV.com is streaming the whole album here.