DAR Hip Hop: Lupe Fiasco's The Cool

1. Baba Says Cool For Thought 
2. Free Chilly 
3. Go Go Gadget Flow
4. The Coolest 
5. Superstar
6. Paris, Tokyo
7. Hi-Definition
8. Gold Watch 
9. Hip Hop Saved My Life
10. Intruder Alert 
11. Streets On Fire 
12. Little Weapon 
13. Gotta Eat
14. Dumb It Down
15. Hello/Goodbye (Uncool)
16. The Die
17. Put You On Game 
18. Fighters 
19. Go Baby

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal 
-The year was 2007. Jay had released a classic, Kanye vs 50 went down, T.I. continued a platinum streak, and Wayne rose even more in prominence through mixtapes and guest appearances. In the midst of all this, as the year came to a close, a Chicago MC would release an amazing conceptual album that would be a complete departure from his semi successful debut and take a chance that won big. I've never been the biggest fan of Lupe Fiasco, but I did really enjoy his first two albums and his most recent project. However, my favorite Lupe album remains The Cool. It is a lesson in challenging traditional sequencing and coherence in album making along with just having some great sounds and more pop sensibility without sacrificing the quality of the art. With the album nearing its 9th anniversary, we decided to all sit down and discuss the album that broke Lupe through the pop threshold and made him, for the moment at least, a superstar.

You know where I stand on this one, guys. The Cool is, depending on how I'm feeling at the moment, either Lupe's best or second-best album. I liked that he stepped outside of the comfort zones he exhibited on Food and Liquor and made an album that feels timeless, but still within a certain era.

What I mean by that is that the instrumentation tells us it's a late-2000s album that's got influence in 1990s boombap and jazz rap with a bit of alt rock influence (see "Intruder" and "Little Weapon"). However, that same instrumentation allows listeners to pick up this capsule of the times and jam to it regardless of what they're expecting.

It's an album that's equal parts nostalgic (skits, concepts, and overarching themes), cinematic, and just plain good. I mean, the man raps from the perspective of a cheeseburger and makes you want to keep listening. Who does that? Now, is the album perfect?

Eh...it's not perfect. It's damned close and one of the best albums in hip-hop history, especially from the 2000s. But, it drags a teeny tiny bit with songs like "Hi-Definition," the Snoop Dogg feature. Now, don't get me wrong. I love the album, and "Hi-Definition" is fun and breezy. But there are a few tiny pieces I'd rearrange to make it perfect to me. But, overall? You can't do much better than The Cool...unless we're talking Food and Liquor.

I've always found rappers to be the most talented in the music industry. Most write their own rhymes and knowingly or not, incorporate literary/poetic devices and do this in a coherent and engaging way. That's one reason I love the genre of hip hop so much, it's filled with some of the most intelligent and insightful artists. I have an even more profound appreciation for rappers who bring a level of intelligence and elevation to their lyrics. They can keep the cursing to a minimum, they sometimes introduce new concepts but always provide insight, wisdom and perspective that isn't always common.

Lupe Fiasco is one of those rappers. His life's story is incredible and his rise to commercial success and visibility is even better. With self initiated underground projects to being signed to a label and that ending before it even started, to gaining the attention of superstar rappers like Kanye West, Lupe seems to have gone through just about everything. When I personally discovered Fiasco, I think it was way too late. His debut album was released in 2006, but it would be some years later that I would hear of him for the first time. That's the downfall of favoring the golden era so heavily I guess.

With a discography that's only five albums deep, he definitely made a name for himself with each release and although his debut album is my favorite, coincidentally his sophomore release of "The Cool" is a close second. What fans know they can expect from Lupe is an innovative and thought provoking project and he delivers exactly that. What he did that I find incredibly brillant and a sure sign of his talent is he built "The Cool" off the track with the same name from his debut as well as made character references from other tracks from the debut as well.  This, in essence was a very solid and totally cohesive sequel. Lupe has mastered the use of personification and this album from beginning to end shows that. Of course my favorite tracks on the album also happen to be the singles as "Hip Hop Saved My Life", "Superstar" and "Paris, Tokyo" are truly amazing and the others are not far behind. Lyrically, he's complex which I appreciate. This album, more so than any other in his catalog, requires several listens to truly gain an adequate appreciation for what he's trying to convey. He's truly a master of the craft.
On the production side, much like his debut, he strays from the norm of steady beats against instrumental loops to create an expected "rap beat". He instead laces the album with a whimsical guitar infused beat that pairs well with his rock type voice. With "The Cool", Lupe manages to showcase his uniqueness, he's Lupe through and through but with a tiny dash of Tribe and Outkast!

I think this album deserves way more credit than it got and gets. He truly made 2007 a year to consider with this release. Anytime current hip hop/rap is  graced with an artist that brings intelligent subject matter and incredible lyricism, it deserves a ton of recognition. Lupe is truly a gift to the industry and such a gem and breath of fresh air amidst the decline of quality and standards we expect in the evolutionary process of the genre.

The Cool was the second album from Lupe Fiasco following up his classic effort, Food and Liquor. Continuing the story he started with his first album, Lupe uses certain tracks to tell the story with others interspersed in between as though they were commercial breaks. “The Coolest” was the first of these tracks and he continues with this story right up to the track “Put You On Game”. Overall the album to me, is just below F&L in quality, mainly because I feel F&L is a better beginning to end listen. That's not to say The Cool doesn't have dope tracks in the beginning because “The Coolest”, “Paris, Tokyo” and “Gold Watch” are dope, but the first 8 tracks have a much lighter, pop music feel other than “The Coolest” which sounds weird up there with those tracks. The album really takes off at track 9 with “Hip-Hop Saved Me” and from there, the album takes a darker turn and produces what is probably Lupe's best stretches of tracks. That 6 track run from “Hip-Hop Saved Me” to “Dumb It Down” is amazing. In that run, Lupe gives us “Hip-Hop Saved Me”, “Intruder Alert”, “Streets On Fire”, my personal two favorite tracks on the album: “Little Weapon” and “Gotta Eat” and then finishes with “Dumb It Down”.

After that we get a slight misstep with the Rock-inspired “Hello/Goodbye”, the only skip-worthy song on the album, but Lupe gets right back on track with the excellent “The Die”. Following that, is the dark, menacing “Put You On Game”, another one of Lupe's great storytelling tracks where he almost seems to rap through clenched teeth. The next track is “Fighters”, a slower track but one that still fits the darker tone of the album, at least melody wise. Ending the album is the strangely placed “Go Baby”, a track that would have been better served at the top of the album switching with “The Coolest”. Slight sequencing issues aside, Lupe Fiasco's The Cool is another example of Lupe's ability to not only tell a story, but to mash different genres together and still do what he wants to do lyrically. Personally, not a classic but a damn good album nonetheless.

Favorite Tracks
1.“Gotta Eat”
2.“Little Weapon”
3.“Put You On Game”
4.“Dumb It Down”
5.“The Die”

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal
-My love for The Cool comes from the fact that it truly drives home the story of the first album but in such a different way. It's his most daring effort and a risk to take. With the feeling of "The Cool" present in the earlier tracks, it has a natural upbeat feel and the tracks are more pop centered as mentioned, but of course that's on purpose. However, what sticks out to me in that stretch of tracks are the two songs that have the most hip hop influence in them: the dark piano driven "The Coolest" and the Tribe inspired "Paris, Tokyo". These are two of the best songs on the entire album to me, and I enjoy the sounds of both. However, there are maybe two songs that I don't necessarily enjoy, but for the most part I really appreciate the story and how he structured everything.

As far as my favorite tracks, outside of the two mentioned before, I love the hook of "Fighters", as it is extremely infectious, I also enjoy "Gotta Eat", "Hip Hop Saved My Life", and "Put You On Game" a lot. There's not much to dislike on this album and I love the sounds and varying frequencies within this album. I think Food and Liquor is probably easier to digest as a strictly hip hop fan, but The Cool is just slightly more enjoyable to me because of the risks taken on this album. This is a great album regardless, and one that could be seen as a classic or a near classic.



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