Like a lot people, 2016 was not kind to Lupe Fiasco. The Chicago MC got himself wrapped up in controversy after controversy, from delaying albums to announcing retirement. But despite having a strange year, the ever-anticipated Drogas Light has finally arrived.
Drogas Light is Fiasco’s first studio LP since 2015’s Tetsuo and Youth, a critically acclaimed and thematically dense opus. It is also the first of three planned releases in 2017. For these reasons the expectations are high for this project—expectations that are met, but not exceeded.
What’s immediately apparent is that Drogas Light is sonically all over the map. Moving from trap beats, to disco, and then leaping to radio-friendly pop singles, it fits into Fiasco’s discography as a modernization of his previous work—somewhere between Food and Liquor and Lasers.
Lyrically, Fiasco is as varied as his beats, and he doesn’t disappoint in his newest album. Whether he’s covering topics and themes like poverty and systemic racism in America, or personal moments about his mother and other relationships, Fiasco puts a ton of effort and thought into what he wants to say and how he is going to express it.
Take the single “Jump,” for instance. It’s one of the best tracks on the album, with a head bobbing baseline that’s complimented by a gripping narrative about car chases and shootouts.
It’s almost impossible to believe you are listening to the same album when the single “Kill,”featuring Ty Dolla $ign, pops on. It’s another fantastic track, but for different reasons. It can only be described as a smooth and catchy seven-minute strip club ballad, complete with a conscious twist and a hilarious gospel outro.
However, despite the interesting and dynamic lyrics and high production values on this album, it is far from perfect. The main problem with Drogas Light is in the name: it’s a “light” album.
Fiasco himself admits this fact in a semi-joking tweet reviewing his own album, stating that he took “a very hands off approach” and that Drogas Light was more of a curation of pre-existing material. While that is not intrinsically bad, the album does suffer in quality and consistency.
This is apparent in the song ”Promise,” which sounds like a Drake rip-off with half-baked auto-tuned vocals, topped off with a throwaway string loop reminiscent of something a garage band would come up with. Another offender is the interlude track “High,” which features awfully pitched vocals that rapidly outstay their welcome.
Furthermore, Fiasco hasn’t avoided his usual pitfalls and struggles with picking hooks, not to mention featured artists. A lot of the guest vocals sound overdone and belted out. Instead of complementing the track, most of his guest singers end up sounding like participants on The Voice. The vocals on “Made in America,” for example, could have been on a top 40 country hit and no one would have been the wiser.
Ultimately, Drogas Light is a mixed bag with more highlights than failures, remaining a worthwhile standalone listen for Fiasco’s veteran fans and newcomers alike. Most importantly, it’s a statement that reads, “if you liked this get ready for what’s next.”
Drogas Light was released on Feb. 10 and is available on iTunes.