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Lupe Fiasco, ‘Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool’ (Atlantic/1st & 15th)

German filmmaker Werner Herzog makes documentaries, but he’s not a documentarian per se, since he blurs what’s real and fake, sometimes staging events that he passes off as reality, or even outright lying. The hip-hop world has Lupe Fiasco, a Chicago gentleman possessing exquisite technical ability who does not care about the structures and rules of his chosen genre. There is certainly an enormous amount of rapping on The Cool, but that’s about where the record’s relationship to current hip-hop ends. The beats pulsate rather than bang, Lupe’s voice dances in and out of shadows, hooks rarely appear.

Instead, Fiasco approaches his second album as if it’s his last chance to get all his conflicted ideas out into the open. There’s high political drama (“Little Weapon”), paranoid futurism (“Hello Goodbye”), and extended fast-food metaphors (“Gotta Eat”), all highlighted by beats awash in Dark Side of the Moon choirs and underground dance-floor noise.

By bidding for greatness, Lupe sometimes stumbles all over himself, creating a needless, eye-rollingly hokey mythology (characters named the Streets, the Cool, and the Game represent the pitfalls of the hood). And he still relies too much on sideman Matthew Santos, whose faux Chris Martin crooning derails at least three otherwise terrific songs. This record will likely alienate casual rap fans. But that’s a shame, because Lupe’s vision — like Herzog’s — is a uniquely challenging one.

Now Hear This:Lupe Fiasco – “Superstar” DOWNLOAD MP3

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