Trilogies are notoriously difficult to master. A journey that sets out with a strong identity can often stagnate under the weight of a disappointing, irrelevant sequel, or a finale that inevitably fails to live up to its hype. But if DROGAS Light, the first of Lupe Fiasco’s three-part passion project, is expecting to avoid the trilogy trap, then it has got off to a terrible start.
In a somewhat anti-semitic dispute with Atlantic Records over the management of his music career, Wasalu Muhammad Jaco has ventured into independent label territory. The resulting album hints at a fragmented, tortured soul, lost in the wilderness of remaining relevant in a constantly changing genre.
At best, it’s unadventurous and uninspiring; at worst, it’s boring, lethargic, regressive, and disjointed. ‘Jump’ is a highlight, using an intriguing vocal sample and booming bass line- similar to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Rigamortus’ – to create a drive and pace that the rest of the album sadly cannot match.
And then it all suddenly changes. The excessive two minute outro of the otherwise contained ‘Kill’ introduces bluegrass and gospel vibes in an evolution that is anything but natural. What was previously a poorly hatched example of bearable trap, becomes a baffling exploration of over-commercialised hip-hop. The cheesy chorus of ‘Pick Up The Phone’ is utterly dry, and the groovy Daft Punk-esque overtones of ‘It’s Not Design’ are compelling, but so out of place that they leave you wondering whether you’re still listening to the same album. Painfully tagged on, the finale of DROGAS Light’s only redeeming factor is that it makes you forget the disappointment of the songs that preceded it.
Jaco’s vocal ability and dexterous technique is evident, but overshadowed by strange surroundings. Let’s hope the rest of the trilogy picks up before it gets any worse.