More than two years after the release of his last full-length album Tersuo & Youth back in 2015 and after several delays and push backs the Chicago wordsmith has finally released his long-awaited LP DROGAS Light. The album serves as part one in a trilogy series of three projects that Lupe Fiasco is slated to release throughout the course of the year, the other two LP’s being Drogas and Skulls respectively. Likewise, DROGAS Light also serves as Lupe Fiasco’s first independent release as a free artist since leaving Atlantic Records after a years-long bitter and contentious struggle to leave the label. Between the anticipation from fans and casual listers alike, DROGAS Light also comes amongst a flurry of rumors that the album along with the two other projects promised hereafter will be his last prior to retiring. The Chicago emcee who in the past has repeatedly teased and flirted with the prospect of retiring numerous times over the course of the past several years claims (for the time being at least) that the trilogy will serve as his final albums before ultimately retiring from the music industry.
The album which spans over the length of 14 tracks and clocking in at just over an hour features a multitude of guest features strewn throughout the project featuring the likes of, Ty Dolla $Ign, Bianca Sings, Gizzle, Rondo, Simon Sayz, Rick Ross, Big K.R.I.T., Victoria Monet, Salim, Jake Torrey & Rxmn. As well as an eclectic cross-section of producers who lend their talents to craft the album’s soundscapes. Unfortunately, this variety and a grand assortment of guest performers and producers tasked with the responsibility of aiding Fiasco on the project do little to help aid with the albums’ cohesion or likability. DROGAS Light quite frankly is a jumbled up, mish-mashed, hodge-podge patchwork of new songs and older previously unreleased material which Fiasco himself described in an indulgent self-review of his own album prior to the album’s release as a ”refinement of ‘Lasers.’ Period” material. An allusion to his 2011 album Lasers’ as well as describing the content as “from the vaults” and that there are just “a few new pieces” present throughout the album. Quite honestly that is exactly what DROGAS Light sounds like. A project comprised of throwaways and unfinished works from years ago that didn’t make the cut on previous albums along with cheap contemporary knock off imitations hastily thrown together in an effort to patch together a full-length album. And while it’s hard to get mad over a project that even the artist themselves labels as leftovers and table scraps from previous efforts, it’s also hard not to be disappointed by such a lackluster, half-hearted effort especially after breaking free from the grips of big label blackballing. Unlike projects such as Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled Unmastered which also features unused material from prior recordings, DROGAS Light, unfortunately, has the burden of baring seemingly every single throwaway left on the cutting room floor, regardless of whether said material was ever truly worthy or not for public consumption. DROGAS Light would have been barely acceptable as a free mixtape let alone a full-fledged retail studio album, which is only made that much more evident by the album’s content. The album’s helter-skelter arrangement of old and new material gel together about as well as toothpaste and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Between the clearly newer and obviously trap-inspired songs juxtaposed between dated unreleased tracks from previous albums, the project sounds and feels like two completely different albums shoved together at the last minute in order to turn in a full-fledged project. The newer trap-inspired production is boring and uninspired and frankly sounds like any generic production one can find from any given run-of-the-mill YouTube rapper vying for attention in a sea of copy cats. And the album’s older material while not quite as cringe-worthy as its contemporary counterparts still sound un-ironically dated and forgettable.
This being said, the album isn’t without its own handful of few yet fleeting stand out tracks. Songs such as ‘Tranquillo’ which features both Rick Ross and Big K.R.I.T. is easily the highlight of the entire album, with K.R.I.T. delivering what is without a doubt the best performance on DROGAS Light. While ‘It’s Not Design’ featuring Salim is a bouncy disco-esque track which clearly sticks out as one of Fiasco’s older works from the earlier 2010s featured on the album. However, these and a few select standouts are nowhere near plentiful enough to mask the fact that a majority of the album is comprised of secondary material rejected from past efforts. Again, its hard to get mad over an album where the artists themselves describes the project as, “…more of a curation of pre-existing material which shared similar properties. The majority of the album is from the vaults and only a few new pieces were actually put down to fill out the vision. Anything that challenged the ‘Light’ feel of the album overall was rejected immediately. Anything that felt too jazzy or too lyrical or conceptually dense was not used to preserve the quality and tone of the next album…”. However, self-loathing and disclosure aside, just because an artist admits that the product they ultimately put out is sub-par doesn’t make it better or any more enjoyable. In fact, if anything it just makes longtime fans and casual listeners alike wish they were listening to better previous efforts and weary of future releases after being burned by cheap lazy cash in released for the sake of releasing a project.
DROGAS Light is essentially pretty much like any other “Light” product put out into the market, empty, shallow, lackluster and far from satisfying or fulfilling in the slightest bit. After much anticipation from fans and faced with the prospect of releasing new material free of the burden of influence or interference of big label politics and clueless out of touch music execs DROGAS Light even as self-labeled throwaway release disappoints with just how little effort was seemingly put into its creation. Perhaps if these songs were released as free online downloads leading up to another album or even as a compilation of unreleased tracks and demos one could give Fiasco some leeway. But as is, to release an album and hastily put out a self-review in an effort dismiss the albums lack of originality and introspectiveness comes off as the musical and artistic equivalent to “well I wasn’t even trying anyways” to avoid deservedly harsh criticism from fans and listeners. It’s hopeful that Fiasco saved his stronger material for DROGAS and Skulls, because as is DROGAS Light serves as an exceptionally lazy and half-hearted effort from an artist that early on in their career showed much promise and potential. While DROGAS Light may appeal to the most dedicated and loyal Lupe Fiasco fans, for the rest of us we will just have to wait and see if Fiasco’s other promised projects ever materialize and if the “too jazzy or too lyrical or conceptually dense” material not used on DROGAS Light surface on his future releases. Until then, casual fans and listeners will have to wait and see what the Lu has in store for the future.
DROGAS Light is available in stores now to purchase as well as stream on Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music & iTunes.
Full Album Track Listing & Credits:
1. Dopamine Lit (Intro)
2. NGL (feat. Ty Dolla $Ign)
4. Made in the U.S.A. (feat. Bianca Sings)
5. Jump (feat. Gizzle)
6. City of the Year (feat. Rondo)
7. High (Interlude) [feat. Simon Sayz]
8. Tranquillo (feat. Rick Ross & Big K.R.I.T.)
9. Kill (feat. Ty Dolla $ign & Victoria Monet)
10. Law (feat. Simon Sayz)
11. Pick Up the Phone
12. It’s Not Design (feat. Salim)
13. Wild Child (feat. Jake Torrey)
14. More Than My Heart (feat. Rxmn & Salim)