An anticipated follow up to his 2017 Billboard no. 1 rap album "Drogas Light," the 24-track new "Drogas Wave" stands alone as yet another reminder that the "brainy smurf of rap" (Pitchfork) has more to say, delivering to ravenous fans his most philosophically artistic project to date."Drogas Wave is based on a story about a group of slaves that jumped off of a slave ship transporting them from Africa," said the independent rapper. Adding, "The slaves did not drown, and instead somehow managed to live under the sea. They spent the rest of their underwater existence sinking slave ships. 'Drogas' is the Spanish word for drugs. I made it an acronym which stands for 'Don't Ruin Us God Said.'"
DROGAS Wave is a defining moment for Lupe Fiasco in his career and marks the first proper independent project released commercially to the masses. Unlike DROGAS Light which still had major record label contractual obligations that still needed to be fulfilled, DROGAS Wave is a project that will solely benefit Lupe as an artist. To say the least, this album is a symbol of Lupe’s cathartic career full of industry frustrations and internal struggles, being fully expressed and laid out on the table for the world to hear.
I find no coincidence that Lupe chose the albums main theme to be about African slavery and freedom because it also doubles as an allegory for Lupe’s release from the shackles of major music labels as an artist This is the longest album Lupe has ever released with 24 tracks running at 100 minutes of music. If people thought Tetsuo & Youth was complex and long in execution, DROGAS Wave obliterates that album with even more dense lyrics and arguably deeper themes than T&Y. Admittedly, because this album is packed with so many messages (even in just one song), it is not the easiest album to digest and listen to in one sitting. I earnestly believe Lupe made this album long and complicated with the intention to last listeners and fans a long while until his last album “Skulls” is released in the future.
This album loosely takes listeners on a trip through 400 years of African slavery covering different gamuts; from the past lives of his ancestors, to the philosophies of inspirational black figures, the on-going struggle of black lives in today’s society, and his own personal experiences as a rapper. It would take me an essay for me to fully break down even just one song on this album, but the best thing I would recommend listeners to do is to read the lyrics on genius.com as you listen to every song. While a bit disjointed at times, the concept of the album is clear in its delivery. There is an overarching narrative about a fictional group of slaves who've escaped slave ships and essentially became one with the water or "waves", but that's just sample of the complex story of what unfolds on this album.
The production is mostly handled by Lupe’s most frequent collaborator producer Soundtrakk, and I couldn’t be happier. Hardcore Lupe fans will know that Soundtrakk was an integral piece to some of Lupe’s best music, particularly his contribution to his first 2 albums Food & Liquor and The Cool. The production on this album to put it simply is just beautiful. It is always so refreshing to hear hip hop production not relying on heavy drums and bass and instead implementing nice grooves played by real instruments. Some of the production may not hit hard compared to today’s climate of trap music, but that’s very good thing in my opinion. There is so much soul, jazz and classic boom bap on this album that it just puts a big smile on my face.
Lyrically, Lupe pulls out all the stops. Just like T&Y, there are multiple songs full of double entendres and heavy metaphors. Perfect examples being “Mural Jr.”, “Sun God Sam and The California Drug Deals” “Manilla” “Cripple” and “Haile Selassie”. Lupe loves to rap with such abstract imagery that sometimes it can get confusing and frustrating at first listen, but the messages start to open up with more clarity when you pay close attention. There are also songs with their own central stories like “Jonylah Forever” and “Alan Forever” respectively. Both songs were written for 2 different deceased children who passed away through sad and unfortunate events, but live through Lupe’s stories of an alternative reality if both were given the chance to grow up and live a normal life. Download free mp3 ringtones for Android and iPhone
Lastly, I would like to commend yet another one of Lupe’s long-life collaborators, Nikki Jean. She is present on almost half of the album and every time she is featured on a track, her vocals are always a highlight for me. I particularly loved her on “Haile Selassie”, “Stronger” and “Stack That Cheese” (the sequel to Lupe’s coveted Hip-Hop Saved My Life). This album's main strength that works in Lupe's favor is the fact that this album strips away any pop sensibilities Lupe has always been plagued with in the past, which allows him to have full control of the music and its content. I know it is pretentious to say something is a masterpiece, but nothing reigns more true than DROGAS Wave. This along with F&L, The Cool and T&Y is easily Lupe’s best body of work and I couldn’t be happier for Lupe now that he is a full independent artist. F&FUP!
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