#Repost: The Cool: Rap’s Dorian Gray Painting

Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool is many things to many people and any 2019 reflection on this album from 2007 would be correct. Twelve years, not a slave to time or fickle industry trends, The Cool is the type of album that doesn’t give up its ghosts easily. While it still maintains a level of inclusivity to give whatever a casual fan would want from it, the depth and heart of the music can only be activated with multiple spins.

In order to understand the premise of this observation of The Cool, let’s compare it to Food & Liquor. F&L might have been the strongest freshman album to come out during its inception. The fact that Lupe sold out a show in LA this year off of it’s brand alone gives brevity to the idea that this album put Lu in everybody’s Myspace Fave Five. However while Food & Liquor is a snapshot in time, The Cool is something more. Like a Playskool 5-in-1, this album aged and grew with the passing years. Whatever the reason you re-up the album, it presents you a slightly different experience than you had before. Outside of the bars, our cool young histories can be traced through how we absorb and use each track.
Multiple spins in multiple decades might be considered classic status in the Hip-Hop sphere but “classic” designation for The Cool is short sighted in the grander scheme of what this album means for Lupe fans. From testing the temperature on the Fahrenheit 1st&15th mixtapes, to coasting thru Food & LiquorThe Cool added to the narrative that Lupe builds within his realm. Think The Lego Movie; while each album is its own self sustaining ecosystem, Lupe Fiasco is keenly aware that his fans not only hear him, they listen. It’s the art of active listening that embeds Lupe lines into your subconscious, just to spring up at random times to explain themselves. WithFood & Liquor, Lupe was fresh and the energy he brought with him was used to regenerate a generation. There was an entire swath of Hip-Hop fans that couldn’t find their voice or flow within the easily recognizable hits of the early 2000’s, so a song that was both un-mistakenly about skateboarding and also un-mistakenly Hip-Hop meant no baby had to get thrown out with the bathwater. Soundtracks to lives started taking shape, with the sequencing starting with a Lupe track.
The Cool grew not like a crib to bed or even like taking the training wheels off. The Cool evolved and aged as Legos would age with their user. Fundamentally it’s the same building blocks, same pegs and hole structure as its always been, there are no hidden pieces or magic whistles you have to find in order to get to the tunnel levels. This piece of art never held anything back and did not build itself on gold plated lyrics that turned green with wear. The story of Michael History, The Streets and The Game is a timeless allegory to struggles that only transform as you age.
My 23 year old brain heard this album the way my 23 year old senses could compute it. The same bars, the same beats, the same sequencing at 33 hit just a little differently as if the kaleidoscope was turned. It’s the same fragments of colored glass, the same fractal patterns but my eye has changed and what I hear at 33 is a vivid experience, exclusive to the life events that have led me here. Not many albums maintain their original integrity, yet can be listened to differently as life unlocks your ability to listen differently.
I’m not saying that Lu is a shaman, I’m just saying you’ve never seen him and a shaman in the same place. Lupe Fiasco knows his fans and understands how they (we) grow and he wrote our growth. Like rap’s Dorian Gray, The Cool shows your age but instead of death, you are gifted with an understanding of your personal journey as the songs that you are drawn to change. The most profound part of the blossoming of The Cool is that you were right at 23, as you are right at 33, as you will be right at 43. Allow yourself to frame and morph your listening experiences, it’s as it should be.
If The Cool is the painting, does that make Lupe Fiasco Oscar Wilde?


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