“Come! These are the tales of the cool
Guaranteed to go and make you fail from your school
And seek unholy grails like a fool
And hang with the players of the pool, fast talkin on the hustle
No heaven up above you, no hell underneath ye
And no one will receive thee
So, shed no tear, when we’re not here
And keep your faith, as we chase, the cool”

Last time out on “Food & Liquor,” Lupe Fiasco distinguished himself from an overcrowded field of up-and-coming MC’s through his intricately constructed lyrics paired with musical backing not only far superior to most debuting rappers but to most of his peers with an album that year. The title may have been a little misleading to some since Fiasco doesn’t rap about eating caviar or drinking champagne that much. Fiasco left that fiasco to much more boring contemporaries who obsess about their status amongst the nouveau riche, trying to prove the kid from the hood made good and now gets dap from Donald Trump and Diddy. Lupe Fiasco also avoided the pitfalls of the anti-jiggy backpackers, relentlessly obsessed with not showing off material wealth to the point they often sound like jealous have-nots. Instead Lupe Fiasco chose his own path, rolling down the street “KAKUNK KAKUNK KAKUNK” on four wheels with no rims, as he went “Kick Push” on a skateboard that rolled straight to success. When faced with going left or right, Fiasco went under or over, in search of a new rap that spoke to something “real” – not really dope, really fat, really hip or really trendy – just real experiences from real life.

“The Cool” picks up right where “Food & Liquor” left off, once again using his Muslim background and Chi-Town sensibilities to inform his perspective without being rigidly bound by either. The word that best seems to describe Lupe Fiasco’s rap is “transcendent” as he writes rap songs that could speak to anybody from any walk of life. Fiasco is the modern day Bob Dylan of hip-hop without being cursed with Dylan’s now incomprehensible delivery. In fact Fiasco’s breath control and lyric writing ability you would think he had released as many major label albums as Jay-Z, when in fact “The Cool” is only his second official record to hit stores. Fiasco has noted in interviews to largely being fed up with the music industry after having spent so many years to get on just to get where he is now, but songs like “Hip-Hop Saved My Life” will make one hope he thinks twice about retirement:

“He said – I write what I see
Write to make it right, don’t like where I be
I’d like to make it like the sights on TV
Quite the great life, so nice and ea-sy
See, now you can still die from that
But it’s better than not bein alive from straps
Agree – a Mead notebook and a big fat click
when it’s pushed in a whack-ass beat
That’s a track that’s weak that he got last week
Cause everybody in the stu’ was like “That’s that heat!”
A bass-heavy medley with a sample from the 70’s
With a screwed up hook that went ‘STACK THAT CHEESE’
Somethin somethin somethin, ‘STACK THAT CHEESE’
Mother sister cousin, ‘STACK THAT CHEESE’
He couldn’t think of nothin, ‘STACK THAT CHEESE’
He turns down the beat, writer’s block impedes
Cryin from the next room, a baby in need
of some Pampers and some food and a place to sleep
That plus a black Cadillac on D’s
is what keep him on track to be a great MC”

Fiasco doesn’t just rap to sound “cool,” he raps to tell stories that YOU will find cool. The story of “Hip-Hop Saved My Life” is an entire movie in only four minutes better than any Hollywood film you’ll see in what’s left of ’07 – probably most of 2008 as well. Soundtrakk provides the soulful backdrop on this and a large number of the new album’s thought-provoking raps, from the struggling anthem “Gotta Eat” to the surprising Twista-style bounce rap “Go Go Gadget Flow” to hits like “Superstar” that are already working their way up the charts:

“Yeah, uhh, a fresh cool young Lu’
Trying to cash his microphone check 2, 1, 2
Wanna believe my own hype but it’s too untrue
The world brought me to my knees, what have you brung you?
Did you improve on the design? Did you do somethin new?
Well your name ain’t on the guest list, who brung you?
YOU! The more famous person you come through
And the sexy lady next to you, you come too
And then it hit me, standin outside of heaven
waitin for God to come and get me, I’m too uncouth
Unschooled to the rules and too gumshoe
Too much of a newcomer and too uncool
Like Shadow and Lavelle, I battle wit it well
Though I need a Holiday like Lady who sung “Blue”
Go back, whatever you did, you undo
Heavy as heaven, the devil on me two tons too”

I don’t know Matthew Santos from Adam but if he sings the hooks on every song the way he sets it off on “Superstar” he’ll be in high demand for years. The same can be said of Lupe Fiasco, who actually allows himself the luxury of balling a little on “Paris, Tokyo” and even rolling in “Hi-Definition” with Snoop Dogg all the while noting that in today’s mainstream crossover rap you’ve got to “Dumb it Down” to reach the widest audience even while referencing a mainstream movie like “The Matrix”:

“The whole grill is roadkill, so trill and so sincere
Yeah, I’m both them there
Took both pills, when a bloke in a trench coat
and the locs in the chair had approached him here
And he clear as a ghost, so a biter of the throats in the mirror
The writer of the quotes for the ghosts
who supplier of the notes to the living
Riveting is Rosie, pockets full of posies
Given to the mother of the deceased
Awaken at war, ’til I’m restin’ in peace
(You goin over niggaz heads, Lu) Dumb it down!
(They tellin’ me that they don’t feel you) Dumb it down!
(We ain’t graduate from school, nigga) Dumb it down!
(Them big words ain’t cool, nigga) Dumb it down!”

Wasalu Muhammad Jaco is obsessed with what’s cool, but oddly enough, he’s not obsessed with BEING cool. Oddly enough that’s the thing that makes him so damn cool after all. The truly cool don’t need to follow trends or NOT follow trends to be cool, they EXUDE cool by being in touch with their inner and letting it shine through to their outer. Lupe Fiasco is undoubtedly one of “The Coolest” rappers to come along in the last ten years. If you’re too cool to get down with “The Cool” because you think he’s some nerdy Chi-Town backpacking skateboard rapper, then you ain’t cool at all.

Lupe Fiasco :: The Cool