Album Review: Drogas Light

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On “Drogas Light” Lupe experiments with mainstream sounds and guest stars to uneven results.

The first thing that struck me was that much of the album doesn’t sound like Lupe. He’s got beats and production that sound like they belong to artists that are debuting this year, not coming out with their sixth studio album.

That being said, there are some highlights. The last single off of the album, “Jump”, is excellent. The song samples Gigi D’Agostino’s “Bla Bla Bla” and Lupe’s inventive storytelling takes us from the streets of Chicago to outer space. The first single, “Pick up the Phone”, has some of Lupe’s best bars on the entire album as he raps about sadness and loneliness.

In other places Lupe gets politically thoughtful. “NGL” featuring Ty Dolla $ign covers some classic Lupe themes. He laments the state of America and the mindset of some people in the Black community. “NGL” stands for “Ni**** gonna lose”; it’s Lupe’s (ongoing) contention that people need to change if they don’t want to lose: “Ayy, ayy, disproportionate convictions/Especially when it come to our case (our case)/You seen the movie, they killed the ni***/Why you still wanna be like Scarface?” It’s a solid point and it’s consistent with the ideas Lupe has promoted throughout his career.

“Made in the U.S.A.” also attempts to deliver a message, but it doesn’t pack a punch. The same is true for “City of the Year.” These tracks have familiar Lupe themes, but they lack the oomph to have any real staying power.

At least those songs have purpose; a couple of the songs just don’t seem to go anywhere. The intro “Dopamine Lit” falls flat and “Promise” sounds like Lupe trying to imitate modern sing-rap music and failing miserably; it doesn’t seem like his heart was in it even though the song claims that he “keeps it 100.”

And then there’s the middle of the album. It’s bloated with guest appearances, forgettable production and overly-long songs. “Drogas Light” features guest appearances from Rick Ross and Ty Dolla $ign. No one is saying that Lupe can’t have mainstream rappers on his album but it just seems a little odd to have them on this record when his last album (“Tetsuo & Youth”) didn’t feature anyone like Ross or Big K.R.I.T. or Ty Dolla $ign.

Truthfully I was looking forward to hearing what a more mainstream version of Lupe sounded like. After I heard “Jump” I thought the album would be made up of similar tracks. Instead “Drogas Light” is a hodgepodge of modern rap sounds many of which don’t feel organic.

After enduring the first ten tracks, the album picks up on the last four which should give fans of Lupe hope. The interesting, experimental Lupe is still in there, he just needs to shed off the other Lupe and turn out more of the odd Lupe we all know and love.

“Drogas Light” can be streamed on Spotify or purchased on iTunes.

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