Drogas Wave Album Review
ABW Album Rating Chart
= Hip Hop Classic
= Excellent Album, Must Cop!
= Decent Album, Worth Checking Out
= Needs Work. Below Avg Album
= Complete Trash, Dumpster Juice
ABW Community Drogas Wave Rating: ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾
ABW Review Board Drogas Wave Rating: ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾
ABW Review Board Head Writer Drogas Wave Rating: ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾.5
The Official Drogas Wave ABW Rating: ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾
Drogas Wave Album Review Written By AP21
Before I get into this review, I want to do a little housekeeping to give an idea of that this review is about and what it’s not. After listening to this album repeatedly for the week or so it’s been out, I’ve had the advantage over other reviews by having an opportunity to digest the album vs. the reviews that were posted to get put out within a day or so after the album released. If you’ve listened to any of Lupe Fiasco’s projects, you know it is going take multiple listens to even begin to scratch the surface of all the layers that are laid between each bar and record.
Also, if you have seen Christopher Nolan’s 2010’s “Inception” and are still looking for him to tell you if Leonardo DiCaprio’s character “Dom” was in reality vs. a dream because you are trying to still figure out if the spinning top began to wobble, then this not the project for you. An artist doesn’t always have to explain their art which is the beauty of it. Some things are left open to interpretation for you to come up with your own narrative and conclusions. This album does not hold your hand and it’s probably a good thing it doesn’t. Some of the themes and messages are pretty evident while others, not so much, so be prepared to go down the rabbit hole if you really want to attempt to TRY to gain a better understanding of the album.
Most of the reviews that have been posted discuss things that I feel have nothing to do with the music. This review will focus on the music and Lupe as an artist.
Originally released in digital format, Drogas Wave (DW) was a 24 track album. Lupe made it clear who he made this album for.
I really only did this album for solid Lupe fans. The PhD’s in Lupeism. It’s in no way for new fans, the casual listener, record sales, the year 2018 or radio. Just the core fans to have a ball with. https://t.co/N76F5YAeDJ
— “DROGAS WAVE” NOW PLAYING (@LupeFiasco) September 26, 2018
If he made this album for the fans with a PhD in Lupeism, then I must have a bachelors working on my masters. Upon first listen, there is so much to take in. I generally like to listen to albums in their entirety before I start repeating songs. This is extremely hard to do with a Lupe album because you will hear something and immediately want to run it back to hear it again, but I’ve always viewed this as more of a challenge than a deterrent because it gives me an opportunity to make mental notes of certain lyrics to go back and give more focus to on subsequent listens.
A few days after the release of DW, Lupe posted a series of tweets that would try to provide some clarification about his intentions for the project.
#DrogasWave is a double album. It is split into two parts: DROGAS & WAVE. WAVE is part 1 (disc1) & deals with the myth of the LongChains. DROGAS is part 2 (disc2) & deals with a myriad of subjects including drugs, rappity raps & human resilience in the face of ruin
Now playing! pic.twitter.com/xoZO67eqqc
— “DROGAS WAVE” NOW PLAYING (@LupeFiasco) September 30, 2018
The discs are meant to be listened to as separate bodies of work however they can also work as one continuous piece. If you are listening to the album digitally the WAVE section ends at Alan Forever (Track 9) and the DROGAS section begins at Helter Skelter Interlude (Track 10) pic.twitter.com/wybl69pvhu
— “DROGAS WAVE” NOW PLAYING (@LupeFiasco) September 30, 2018
I personally was fine with the original release, but I will admit, once he made this clarification, it does put some more things into proper context. I will talk about each disc briefly and try to highlight a couple of tracks while discussing the theme as a whole for each disc respectively.
I’ll try to discuss this part of the project in a way that does not sound repetitive from anything that you may have come across by now. Certain things may be repeated just to help paint the picture of the feeling I had while listening to it.
The “Wave” disc can best be described as a short film about the “Long Chains, who Lupe describes as “Slaves that when they were submerged in the water their earthly lives expired and they began a new life under and on the water. Some walked back to Africa while others stayed in the sea to help fight slavery by attacking and sinking slaveships. (Micheal Young History was resurrected by the same method when his grave was filled with the liquor his friends & The Streets poured out to mourn him.) The LongChains disbanded after the end of the transatlantic slave trade however a few were chosen to stay behind to keep watch and as guides for decedents of slaves that found freedom and wanted to return home. The last of The LongChains still patrol the seas (and heavens!) to this day.
Songs “Manilla” & “Gold vs The Right Thing to Do”, properly serve as the first act while “Slave Ship Interlude” & “Wav Files” make up the second act, and “Down” concludes the film with the final act and closing credits.
In the track “Gold vs The Right Thing to Do”, Lupe raps
“The weight of the chains on the slaves
Pullin’ down to what they think are they graves
Afraid as they sink from the surface of the sea
‘Til a soft voice in the water tells them, “Breathe”
Courtesy of: Genius
The build up leading to these last part of the song was just phenomenal. The crashing of the ship, the sounds of the water rushing into the lower decks, the screams of the passengers. I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like for my ancestors to have been in those grave conditions, but whatever I imagined, probably can’t come within a thousand football field lengths to what actually happened. BUT, as they are drowning, a calm voice says “breathe”. From panic to living, all in a matter of seconds. I could go on and on about just this song. I really hope there is a conceptual video or some sort of comic book to add to the picture that has been painted with words, but if there isn’t, maybe that was the plan all along.
I’ve read some very unflattering reviews about the Interludes that are sprinkled throughout the album, specifically, the “Slave Ship Interlude”. Slave Ship Interlude is very reminiscent of the “seasons” interludes on Tetsuo & Youth. Ablackweb community member Like_Water summed up my thoughts exactly when he wrote: I play the alto saxophone, and have since the 5th grade. In high school I was routinely asked to do solos and I learned how to convey emotion and storytelling through the music. That’s what that interlude is. It’s a story of this particular slave ship that sunk.
The ship and the slaves were alluded to in Manila and Gold Vs. The Right… In the beginning, it’s this ominous and somber tone. Picture yourself crammed in a hull, not knowing what’s about to happen and shackled and scared.
Then the violin starts getting chaotic. Like frantic and disheveled. And then it starts making that trademark sound effect of something falling — or sinking, in this case. And it comes to a close with a melancholy reluctance. Like an acceptance of your fate. It’s also a great segue into the next two songs as well.
If you listen to the interlude with this in mind, I feel you will agree that it is definitely the bridge between “Gold vs. The Right Thing to Do” and “Wav Files”.
In a time where the addiction to Opioid drugs is taking over the nation, the Drogas half of the album discusses not only the addiction to this drug, but the addiction to fame, wealth, money, greed, etc…and also deals with the ripple effects these things have had on the black community as a whole. This half of the project starts out with “Stronger” featuring Nikki Jean. This song is another wrinkle among many. So many double entendres that really challenge you to think if he’s being literal or figurative in the same thought.
For me, the first half of this disc tells the same story, but in so many different ways, that it never feels like the same story at all, but the underlying themes are woven so intricately within the verses that it feels like another short film with so many ups and downs like….yep, you guessed it…a wave!!!
Lupe really gets into his bag during this part of the project. His flows change so effortlessly and he manages to still keep them different depending on the song, subject matter and the beat.
Perhaps one of my favorite songs on this disc is “Stack that Cheese” which is a call back to “The Cool” where Lupe made “Hip Hop Saved My Life” about a rapper from Houston, Texas who is trying to make it into the record business. In what appears to be a direct sequel, the connections between these tracks definitely made me grin as I listened. On Hip Hop Saved My Life, Lupe raps, “Bass heavy medley, with a sample from the seventies, with a screwed up hook that went “stack that cheese”. He also mentioned one of the original social media platforms “Myspace” and how that rapper posted his music to his page.
One of the more noticeable things I took from this record was how much different the social media landscape has changed since the days of MySpace. We now have a bevy of social media platforms to interact with other people. Soundcloud has become the way up and coming rappers are using the internet to get their music heard to audiences they may have not come across otherwise. The rapper depicted in “Stack that Cheese” is using Instagram to DM his favorite artist. Lupe raps:
Can’t find a job, you can rap at least
Cause that’s what I did, I was at that leg
Right out of high school, tryna stack that cheese
You was tryna do what? Tryna stack that cheese
You wanna flip burgers, wanna stack that cheese
Make American singles, wanna stack that cheese
Make everybody smile, tryna stack that cheese
Tryna do it for a while, tryna stack that cheese
Talking frequent flyer miles how I stack that cheese
Tryna bundle up the money, tryna stack that cheese
Aye Stack, can we stack that please?
Courtesy of: Genius
Cheese takes on three separate meanings in their proper context. Money, cheese from dairy, and cheese as in smiles. These….are…bars people!!!!
I close this part of the review with “Mural Jr”. “Mural” the first track on Tetsuo & Youth, was almost a nine minute track with NO hook where Lupe takes us into several mazes that I’m sure many fans are still stuck in two albums later. “Mural Jr” picks up right where Mural left off and delivers another bar heavy masterpiece. The production on this track does a great job of building up Lupe’s bars while helping emphasizing his more potent bars with several breaks and build ups sprinkled throughout the track. He ends the track with:
Samurais rarely die from another sword
This is 1985 meets the hover board
That was Bobby Johnson potato, just the underscore
Think deep, but don’t let it fry your motherboards
Diptych, so now them paintings plural, but this is Jr’s Mural
Courtesy of: Genius
My first thought was “Is Lupe telling us he has a son?”. But when you think about all the povs Lupe has rapped in throughout his career, you realize this is just another one. Another manifestation of his lyrical prowess. Whatever you may feel about Lupe as a person, you can’t deny greatness when you are witnessing it. I didn’t want to get into the connections between the Atlantic Slave Trade and his release from Atlantic and being free and all of that, but if you are a fan of bars, layered storytelling, vivid picture painting, you must do yourself a favor and listen to this album.
Drogas Wave Album Review Written By Sion
Lupe Fiasco is back with a follow up to DROGAS Light with DROGAS Wave his latest album. This album was released independently through a venture with Thirty Tigers and distribution from Atlantic, Lupe’s former label. The album conceptualizes the idea of what if slaves jumped off a slave ship while being transported from Africa somehow managed to survive and lived under the sea. They then spent the rest of their underwater existence sinking slave ships. A very interesting premise Lupe builds upon throughout the album. Building upon the structure that helped define Lupe’s The Cool.
Major strong points on the album are the lyrical content heavily intricate and laden with metaphors and entendres. Lupe does a phenomenal job of weaving through his story and making each track just as strong as the last. Standout tracks are Manila, Sun God Sam, Alan Forever and King NaS. The album focuses on what Lupe does best – lyricism. He also steps out of the box creatively experimenting with light singing on some tracks while still maintaining the experience of his lyrical narration. Lupe also co-produces many of the tracks while even producing some entirely.
The album is very good and has many great songs, it also serves as a work of art with plenty of replayability, each time getting new outlooks and meanings for lyrics. Lupe Fiasco delivers a strong follow up to Tetsuo and Youth and steps out of his creative zone. Other great points include the maturity reflected on certain songs. Lupe gets introspective on songs such as Imagine, giving us an outlook on what happened with Atlantic and how he felt about the situation. Lupe also shows his depth on King NaS showcasing his growth. The storytelling is great and Lupe builds heavily on it painting vivid tales some of which relevant to actual events as demonstrated on “Alan Forever”.
Here comes the hard part, now no album is without criticism, the major criticisms on the album is that some of the tracks seem a little repetitive since the album is so long, Lupe could have driven his point home with less tracks and/or left the audience clamouring for more. While the album is extremely cohesive, some songs such as Haille Selassie (which was released in 2014) could have been left off the album and seemed like filler. Also while Lupe’s take is clever, similar concepts have already been done by artists such as Kendrick Lamar on To Pimp A Butterfly and Joey Badass on All American Badass who had more consistent and focused premise for their respective albums. It doesn’t hurt the album at all but it does lose out on originality which is something Lupe usually excels at creatively. Some songs also don’t appear to fit in certain places seeming to have been thrown in for the sake of. Going through the album I think the disconnect between recent reviews and the music is the way Lupe chose to communicate the direction of the themes. The plot on several of the songs is how a person can outgrow their environment and become more than they are as evidenced in “Jonylah Forever”. Some songs contradict some of the themes Lupe has employed on previous albums or detract from the album’s original intent. Lupe’s album tries too hard to be abstract and deviates at some points from the albums actual theme.
Nonetheless he still delivers a strong effort and follow up to DROGAS Light. There is a lot of music on the album to take in which is a blessing for fans considering Lupe often takes lengthy hiatuses from the music before he drops albums.
I rate the album 4/5