Lupe Fiasco

Though some believe Lupe Fiasco is too smart for mainstream rap, that's not exactly true. Most of the lyrics on his second release are trite, right down to the CD's opening monologue: "They thought it was cool to tear down the projects and put up million-dollar condos, gentrification. They think it's cool to stand on the block hiding product in their socks, making quick dime-bag dollars." Like Common and Talib Kweli's latest, Fiasco pays lip service to problems plaguing the black community rather than substantively addressing the causes and potential solutions. Much of The Cool is wrapped around a complex street narrative, which would actually make a better comic book (as Fiasco has promised) than a concept album. Oddly, the disc works better when it's serving up frantic club bangers and radio-friendly R&B. "Go Go Gadget Flow," a tribute to Fiasco's home town of Chicago, might be the single of the year, while "Superstar" is a winning empowerment jam. "Hi-Definition," featuring Snoop Dogg and Pooh Bear, shows that Fiasco has an ear for concocting hits.

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