Fresh off the release of his 3rd album, Lasers, early last year, Lupe Fiasco expressed his frustration with the project, essentially claiming to possess a love/hate relationship with the project. Many of his fans felt the same way. While the same politically-charged messages still remained in much of his music, many of the songs lacked the impact of his previous records and felt entirely forced at times. Considering the lengths his dedicated fans went through to even get the album released (seriously, how many fans of other artists would stage a protest to get an album released?), it just seemed like an utter disappointment to have an album delayed for that long that didn’t quite live up to expectations once it finally dropped.

For those fans who were disappointed with Lasers though, Food & Liquor 2 serves as a restitution of sorts. Two mixtapes and two albums later, we finally have a true sequel to Lupe’s legendary debut album, representing a return to classic Lupe form.  The reemergence of Lupe Fiasco is established early on through one of the album’s standout tracks, “Strange Fruition,” which he ends with a coy taunt simply stating, “Hello evil, I’m back.” The album does start out in much the same way as the original, with his sister, Ayesha Jaco, performing the poetic intro that provides a landscape for the rest of the album. You may have also noticed the subtitle to this album is The Great American Rap Album.  Contrary to what you might expect though, this album is by no means a celebration of America, but instead a condemnation of what’s wrong with it.

’Lupe Fiasco – Strange Fruition Feat. Casey Benjamin’
’Lupe Fiasco – Unforgivable Youth Feat. Jason Evigan’
’Lupe Fiasco – Form Follows Function’

Read the rest of the review & stream more tracks after the jump…

You may find yourself pausing and thinking why there would be need for a sequel (a two-part one at that) nearly half a dozen years and three albums after the first one. Well, Lupe answers his detractors on the track “ITAL (Roses)” with the line, “I know you’re sayin’, ‘Lupe rappin’ ‘bout the same shit’/Well, that’s ‘cause ain’t shit changed, bitch.” With that in mind,  after listening to a few tracks, you’ll notice that Lupe approaches familiar topics from his past discography.  While there are a plethora of different themes that are discussed, the central issue discussed throughout the album is American history, specifically its ugly past with certain social injustices and the prevalence of some of those same problems today. At times it may seem that Lupe is standing on a soapbox, but in a hip-hop environment characterized by prodigality and hyperbole, Lupe is a refreshing beam of light that shines through all the b.s. If he doesn’t bring these topics up, who will?

Musically, Lupe’s beat selection is as impeccable as ever, bringing together a relatively consistent sonic picture reminiscent of his first two albums. Credit for that certainly goes to past collaborators SimonsayzKing David and Soundtrakk as well as new partners in the form of Mr. Inkredible, The Runners and 1500 or Nothin’. In terms of features, Lupe sticks with some relatively unknown names, but the exposure brought to them through this album is bound to catapult their careers in a positive direction. Overall, it’s pretty easy to say that this is the quality of music Lupe fans came to expect after first two well Grammy-nominated albums, and this is the one fans were truly waiting for all along. I would definitely give the album four and a half (ninja) stars out of 5, and recommend this to any hip-hop fan out there.

’Lupe Fiasco – Brave Heart Feat. Poo Bear’
’Lupe Fiasco – Cold War Feat. Jane $$$’
’Lupe Fiasco – Lamborghini Angels’
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