If there’s one thing you know about this site, it’s that we love to remember dope albums on their anniversaries and we (most of us) are fans of Lupe Fiasco. Today, I get to do two of those things at once. December 18, 2007, 1 year and 3 months after his debut, Lupe Fiasco dropped his highly anticipated sophomore album The Cool. While there are many noteworthy things about this album, perhaps the thing this album will be remembered for most, is it being the end of the mainstream run for Lupe. After shocking the world and inspiring a new generation of nerds and backpackers with his initial major label effort, his second album would prove to be just as good, if not better than the first.
While Food & Liquor was noteworthy for being a breath of fresh air in terms of lyricism in the mainstream as well as showcasing the, at that point, seldom seen nerdy side of hip-hop, The Cool was Lupe showing off his ability to make great music. Initially conceived and teased as a concept album, expanding on the story from a song of with the same name from FNL, The Cool proved to be much more than that. It’s diverse collection of soundscapes and ventures into other genres proved Lupe was much more than just your token lyricist or backpacker, he was a legit artist. While many of his fans already knew this, the public would take notice as well.
While a song like “Superstar” showed he could crossover, tracks like “Paris, Tokyo”, “Hi-Definition” and “Gold Watch” proved he could put together great songs without being overly lyrical. And even then, he reminds us he can rap better than anyone on “Dumb It Down” and can extend a metaphor like nobody on “Gotta Eat” while rapping from the perspective of a cheeseburger. He dabbled in rock with “Hello, Goodbye”, told stories on “Hip-Hop Saved My Life” and “The Die”, all while maintaining the consciousness we expected on “Intruder Alert” and “Little Weapon”. Sandwiched between these were stories about the main characters in the concept, Michael Young History aka “The Cool”, The Streets and The Game.
In short, The Cool is a masterful album and probably is Lupe’s best work. In 2017, the album sounds as fresh as it did in 2007. I think the thing me, and most Lupe fans took for granted was just what we were witnessing. From his Fahrenheit mixtapes, through The Cool, Lupe went on a run of excellence we never thought would end. It wasn’t until FNL2 that I realized that run wouldn’t be replicated by him or anyone else any time soon. Obviously, the death of his father, the turmoil at Atlantic and pressures of running a label played a role, but Lupe also seems to have gotten tired of being a rapper. Tetsuo & Youth reminded us that Lupe can still put out great music and rap his ass off when he wants to, but it seems like that’s a rarity.
While many still debate whether or not this album is a classic (it is to me), one thing is I’ve come to realize is it’s probably his best work. Maybe the impact wasn’t there when it dropped because we were expecting this from him. Maybe FNL took off some of the shock value and we didn’t revere this album the way we should’ve. But in 2017, you can’t deny what this album was. Lupe delivered the equivalent of The Godfather II in album form, the sequel that was better than the original and he did it a year later. That’s something few rappers have done, regardless of the time frame. Even if Lupe never puts out another album, he’s given us plenty. From the mixtapes to the albums, very few can touch his pen and even those that can probably wouldn’t admit to it.