#Repost: Saving Yourself By Drowning: A Drogas Wave Reaction

This is not a review. This is a reaction. Lupe Fiasco released his highly anticipated seventh studio album on Friday after leaks hit the internet. Facing leaks of his content is nothing new for Lupe, but his reaction to the leaks have evolved, as he has done as an artist. Wave is an album of evolution and creation. The construction of the album outweigh its lyrical impact and it is in the blueprint of the tracks that Lupe has created something attuned to a love letter to his fans. I heard this album as a black female. I heard this album as a Lupe Fiasco fan. I heard this album as a critic of Hip-Hop. And Lupe Fiasco’s attention and knowledge of his fanbase and himself allowed me to listen to the album as all three.

While there are many amazing critical reviews of Wave (like this one from DjBooth), what stands out in this body of music is not Lupe’s skills as a lyricist and rapper, but his understanding of the world he creates, and by extension, the world his fans dwell in. From his mixtape debut, Lupe fans have been on a journey, highlighted in this thread by @Cleverlee_Dope. Another longterm fan, @SeantheRobot also commented that following Lu’s career is a part of a lot of Hip-Hop fans’ journey as such. This album took into consideration the time invested as well as newcomers to his style of rhyming. Whether you read the manga in anticipation for the anime or are just being introduced to the characters, Wave is the live action adaptation that purely encompasses Lupe the artist.
As is customary with Lu, spoken word opens the album, setting the tone and theme for the entire project. From both the album title and his Reddit threads, Wave is a dissertation of the Atlantic Slave Trade and its lasting impacts of the descendants of the enslaved. Articulated here and here, the parallel to the trade and Lupe’s fight with Atlantic Records were turning points in the artist’s view of himself, his fans and Hip-Hop as a whole. What is blatantly missing from the vibe of the first few tracks is the need to prove that seeped into Lupe’s music after LASERS. Whether trying to silence his critics, fulfill his potential to his listeners or drowning out the voices in his own mind, the music Lupe created in the aftermath of Atlantic felt as if he was fighting for air. And much like the slaves in “Gold vs The Right Things to Do”, success versus the integrity of one’s self are pitted against each other. In the end, the choice was to drown.
But with releasing and giving up power to the waves, the water will always bring you to where you need to be. The melodically eerie instrumentation of “Slave Ship-Interlude” sonically portrays this decision. The sequence into “WAV Files” is ingenious as it continues the story after surrendering power to the flow. This is felt through the cadence of the song and further illustrates the release of expectations that were applied after the backlash of LASERSand his anger at its leaking. Water became the grave and that same water became the conduit to excellence.
The album continues with “Down”, in which Lupe pays lip service to all of the folks who stayed true and rocked with him while he was finding his footing on the bottom of the sea. That footing was found by “Haile Selassie”. Always moving the story forward, this track amplifies the aftermath of enslavement while, in true Fiasco form, is delivered with impeccable word play mixed with historical connections. Unlike Food and Liquor 2, the lessons throughout Wave are never forced into the rhymes, but are supported by them.
If Lupe Fiasco is anything, he is aware. The beat choices as the album progress are just as much part of the story as the lyrics. Towards the latter part of the playthrough, the instrumentation becomes bottom heavier, alluding to a stronger base and frame with which to build upon. Also part of his awareness are nods within songs, such as “Alan Forever” and “Jonylah Forever”, the latter containing a reference to Hadiya Pendleton, for whom a law was recently passed. The interlude “Don’t Mess Up The Children” reads as Lupe’s version of T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E.
The first quarter of the album listens as a fight for the survival of oneself, while the later tracks resonate with the tranquility in the decisions of that survival. The rebirth and peace starts with “Kingdom” and the heart of the album is “Imagine”. The candidness and vulnerability convey the uncompromising boundaries that Lupe has erected and the comfort in all of his decisions. As fans that petitioned and rallied around LASERS, hearing “I wouldn’t change a f*ckin thing” validates the trajectory of the journey.
Wave bars reference lines and tracks from previous albums. Unlike The Cool, however, the subtle Easter eggs within the rhymes create a universe, akin to cinematic storylines. “Stack That Cheese” (which has past 700 plays) is a nod to “Hip Hop Saved My Life” and is said to be told by the character from “Gotta Eat”. These tiny tidbits are manna for his fans and highlight that Lupe remembers where he came from. For the fans that grew up without Rap Genius, interpreting Lupe lines is a running joke, while also the channel for deeper connection. The confidence and ease within the rhymes shows that he has re-centered on himself and form follows function.
Wave is also for the folks that stayed on the boat, stayed on the board and hit the pipe when the wave crested. Lupe wrote a thank you letter to his fans and an apology to himself. While staying acutely aware of his audience, Wave was crafted in such a way that no matter how you hear the album, fans have the room to interpret their listening sessions and not be wrong in their assessments. The kaleidoscope will always look beautiful no matter how the light refracts under the water.


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