Lupe Fiasco has been quite vocal in his displeasure with his label’s interference on “Lasers,” his last album which was released in March. In the meantime, however, Fiasco put together his new, official mixtape titled “Friend of the People,” which dropped over the weekend.
Part of the problem with “Lasers” was that it was over-produced and club-friendly; the product of a label’s desire to make an album as accessible as possible to the public. That’s not Fiasco’s forte, however, as his verses often carry an air of intelligence not found in much mainstream hip-hop.
“Friend of the People,” while arguably also over-produced with its heavy dubstep influence, is at least a step in the right direction for Fiasco.
The mixtape’s hot “single” (if you could call it that) is “Lightwork,” featuring Bassnectar and Ellie Goulding. The track is guns-a-blazin’ dubstep, and Fiasco’s lyrics aren’t his most profound, but it still makes for a relatively easy, fun listen. “SNDCLsH In Vegas” featuring electronic heavyweights Kaskade and Skrillex, tackles some heavier issues, even name-dropping Jerry Sandusky.
“The End of the World” samples M83 and is probably the most aurally appealing piece of the tape. The mixtape peaks with its title track, which is unfortunately cut short at two-and-a-half minutes long. Fiasco’s references to Mordor (from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy) on top of the track’s hard beat and raging instrumentals provide what should be the entire mixtape’s its identity, even if much of the rest of it struggles to find one. “Joaquin Phoenix,” featuring Travis Barker, channels a similar feel — one that needed to be more prevalent on the tape.
The mixtape’s lead track, “Super Cold,” retains some of the dance feel from “Lightwork” but with a tamer dubstep drop. The lyrics are somewhat vapid, but like “Lightwork,” it’s easy on the ears. Fiasco strips it down in “Life, Death & Love From San Francisco,” rapping on top of smooth jazz in what is possibly the most interesting track on the mixtape, which is a shame because the track feels punctuated like it was intended to serve as an interlude.
“WWJD He’d Prolly LOL Like WTF!!” — yes, that’s what it’s called — features one of the musically apt tracks on the mixtape. It’s electronic-jam-band-meets-rap, and it’s all the better for it. “Double Burger With Cheese” starts off like something from Boyz II Men, and is, for all intents and purposes, nothing more than an ode to the 1989 film about street hustlers, “Menace II Society.”
Fiasco dives head-first into the Occupy movement with “Lupe Back,” which starts off with samples from newscasts about Occupy protestors. Strangely enough, Fiasco doesn’t explore the movement in his lyrics, and instead, “Lupe Back” serves as more dubstep fluff.
“SLR,” which supposedly stands for “Super Lupe Rap,” stands as a passable track, which, apart from a silky hook, succeeds more as a jab at Soulja Boy than anything.
“Friend of the People” isn’t Fiasco’s best, but after the divisive “Lasers,” it’s at least an earnest attempt at recreating past success. Fiasco’s newfound affinity for dubstep is a nice change-up, even if it forces Fiasco’s lyrics — which also aren’t his best — to be an afterthought.
“Friend of the People” is good. It’s just not great.