Lupe Fiasco found it difficult to write anything worthy of remembering here, with his uninspiring rhythmic layout and lazy song structures being annoying at worst and disappointing at best.
Only two or three songs on the album had some sort of catchy line that could justify the overall stupidity that was present. Stupidity in music can actually be used well at times to sound fun and light-hearted, but in this case it came off as annoying and ugly. Pacing is exponentially more important in hip-hop than any other genre, yet it was difficult for Lupe Fiasco to string together consecutive lines that had any sort of worth throughout the album. “Promise” and “Made in the USA” were especially awful. What listeners need in this instance are solitary rhythms that can capture strength and attraction on its own. There was hardly any strong rhythmic movement here, though. Much of that is due to Fiasco’s attempt at achieving one similar-feeling sound that had the potential to appeal to a wide audience. I’m not interested in musicians selling out like that. Not every song was bereft of melodic delight, and the song “It’s Not Design” is one of the only good examples where sounding safe and appeasing actually provided a cool motive. Other than that, there were no individual lines worth remembering throughout the album. This simply doesn’t cut it.
The only big positives in the harmony were the occasional countermelodies or basslines that repeated to a nice effect, or a persistent static tone that established a groove. Not every song had recognizable elements like that to their harmony, and some further had no real structure at all. Even when the harmony was given a rare boost within the texture, as in “Pick Up the Phone” and “Law”, it had no worthwhile changes or moments that amounted to anything. Again, only the song “It’s Not Design” did it well, having life and purpose within its harmony. The rest of the songs had no important role to give to the harmony, and thus it normally sounded like an obstacle rather than a component within the music. The song “Tranquillo” is an example of harmony that may have a bit of creativity in the actual chords used, like the minor V, but they literally don’t help anything or move to anywhere worthwhile. At worst it was incredibly annoying, and at best it was mildly disappointing.
There were a few slick beats that gave some sort of cool feeling from time to time, but it was mostly a sound that lacked bravery and solidity. Fiasco gives up a lot of space in order to possibly sound more appealing, and there was no real reason to do so. Only one song, “Jump”, achieved a sound that actually moved me in some way. It’s funny that it was also one of the simplest textures and basically achieved its goal through stupidity. The last four songs on the album had quite a large turnaround in its sound, relying more on acoustic instruments like guitar and strings while giving off a happier feeling. It won’t fool me, though. One cannot simply change tone abruptly through an album and expect a change of heart from the listener. It seemed as if this change was meant to be specifically for listeners like me who weren’t entranced by the previous sound and ready to write this album off. If the instruments aren’t forming dynamic textures that enhance the experience, no matter what the instruments are, it simply won’t be effective. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though; the album did have some nice spots with synthetic textures that at least gave form and mood to the music. I tend to not feel the impact of lyrics too much when experiencing music, unless they are either extremely good or extremely bad. Well, the lyrics here are bad enough for me to take into account. They were the straw that broke the camel’s back; they ruined my experience with their obvious rhymes and idiotic circumstances. Also, can the chipmunk voice please die? Does anyone seriously enjoy that sound? Who thought that was a good idea?
Fiasco is back to his underwhelming self in this album. The lack of experimentation and grit here is very unsettling, and will surely account for this album not living on for very long. Fiasco does have the recognizable name and interesting career, so it will certainly get a healthy amount of listens and attention, especially given the fact that this was at one time a cancelled project. Musically, Fiasco doesn’t provide enough substance here to have anyone learn anything from it. I really cannot recommend this album to anyone. If anything, maybe listen once to “Jump” the next you’re at the gym or something. That’s all it’s good for to me. If this is indeed a prequel to a bigger album as he says, it doesn’t give me much to hope for. Anything can happen, though.
Final Score: 71/180