A decade after Lupe Fiasco exploded onto the hip-hop scene with his seminal 2006 debutFood & Liquor, the Chicago native is closing the chapter on his career with his most visualized projects yet. The independent rapper, who parted ways with his former label Atlantic Records following the release of 2015's Tetsuo & Youth, hits his creative peak with a trilogy of albums –Drogas Light, Drogas and Skulls – the final curtain call on one of the most gifted lyricists and visionaries to grace the mic.
If anything, Drogas Light, the first delivery to fans arriving in early 2017, is a testament to Fiasco's artistic growth throughout the years. The 14-track LP is free of restraint, and daring by his standards: the sonic and storytelling palettes are vast and diverse, more so than ever before, traipsing genre and style with ease and touting songs to soundtrack everything from a night at the club to a quiet listen on headphones. Where Tetsuo & Youth leaned into more experimental pastures, Drogas Light is the embodiment of a musician whose foray beyond the boundaries of hip-hop feels increasingly natural, a glimpse into the genius that will be Fiasco's legacy as he inevitably walks away from the spotlight.
From the start of Drogas Light, Fiasco lays his rhyming skills bare, attacking a haunted beat accented by a screwed vocal sample on opener "Dopamine" that self-reflectively emphasizes the magnetism of the album ("Over-d off of this, but don't fall asleep ‘til the dopamine hit!" he chants). The set is dotted with several trap-inflected songs – "NGL" featuring Ty Dolla $ign is a turn-up anthem that entertains the reasons why success comes slow to many, while the Streetrunner-produced lead single "Made in the USA" catalogues the various home-grown, illicit products manufactured in the country.
Fiasco has often been pegged as a socially conscious emcee, likened to peers including Common and Nas, and he lives up to the reputation on "City of the Year," where he explores the economic disparity of Chi-town. He flexes his storytelling muscle on the hypnotic, spinning "Jump," on which he unfolds the tale of going from a "trapper to a rapper" by supplying a female adversary with a career boost. But it's when the album hits the relax button that Drogas Light coasts on cushy grooves: "Kill," also featuring Ty Dolla $ign, is an after-hours ode to women who work at gentleman's clubs, and the vamping closer "More Than My Heart" is an emotionally charged hat-tip to all the mothers who would sacrifice anything for their children.
While Drogas Light is just a taste of what he has to offer in the new year, it's yet another earmark on a track record of an artist who continually comes into new bloom