Ranking Lupe Fiasco’s 5 Best Albums

Lupe Fiasco

Nearly 15 years after its original release The Cool is platinum certified by RIAA for selling more than one million units.  Lupe Fiasco took to twitter to celebrate the achievement.  

In a quote with HipHopDX, Lupe gave a typically sardonic response about where he ranks The Cool in terms of his overall discography.  

“Where would I rank it? It’s my number one selling record,” he told DX. “I’ma start doing that, whatever sold the most is the best. That’s just easy, right? Who had album of the year? Whoever sold the most records. Cool? We’re done here. The Cool sold the most records so that’s the number one record.”

For an emcee with clear creative intent, this response is obviously coated with a level of sarcasm.  While Lupe might be unwilling to discuss his discography in such a way, we certainly are.  With that mission in mind, here are our choices for Lupe Fiasco’s 5 best albums.  

5.) 5 best albums – Drogas Wave (2018)  

Far from an “easy listening” album, Drogas Wave has long been an overlooked and misunderstood gem in Lupe’s illustrious discography.  Weighty, heavy, and long, Lupe asks a lot of his fans.  Dedicating an hour and a half to an album that deserves to be studied like a classic work of fiction just isn’t in the cards for most modern hip-hop consumers. Also, individual tracks lose their power when separated from the body of work.  However, Drogas Wave is well worth the work.  

Describing the lives of a fictitious culture of slaves who survived a shipwreck only to sink slave ships from beneath, Drogas Wave is perhaps ambitious to a fault.  The concept and execution is flawless, but the album gets weighed down by elevated themes and overall density.  

4.)  5 best albums – Tetsuo & Youth (2015) 

From its cover art (which was painted by Lupe himself) to its vibrant instrumentals, to its thread of powerful features, Tetsuo & Youth is another record that requires a listener to dedicate themselves to the work.  Abstract and delicate in nature, it presents Fiasco’s lyrical prowess, sure, but relies heavily on the feelings it generates.  Peaceful, clean and aesthetic, Tetsuo & Youth has aged well.  Many fans consider the 8 minute 48 second Mural to be one of Lupe’s most important pieces.  

Using instrumentation that pulls from culture across the globe, and typically poetic, philosophical bars, Tetsuo & Youth has become part of the collegiate curriculum at City College of Chicago for a reason.  

3.)  5 best albums – Drill Music in Zion (2022) 

Written in 72 hours, Lupe’s ability to craft masterful lyricism with imposed time constraints is a testament to his prowess as a writer.  Drill Music in Zion is his most clear and cohesive project since the early stages of his career, and brings back shades of his critically acclaimed work.  

Drill Music in Zion also shows Lupe’s ability to connect modern instrumental styles with classic, lyrical bars.  With no features, and varied flows, tracks like Ms. Mural and Precious Things show his continued ability to write conceptually and intelligently, without some of the density that anchored previous offerings.  

2.)  5 best albums – Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool (2007) 

Newly platinum, and the project that sparked this conversation, The Cool is a timeless project.  Inventive, well-paced and heady, it has always displayed Lupe’s best qualities.  With unmatchable idealism and the poetic language to match, The Cool made political and social topics “the cool” things to talk about in hip hop.  

Tracks like Hip-Hop Saved My Life, Paris, Tokyo, and Little Weapon have become all time classics.  Superstar, featuring Matthew Santos is Lupe’s third most streamed track of all time.  

1.)  5 best albums – Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor (2006) 

Despite his range of successful work since, Lupe will always be synonymous with his debut album, and one of the best hip hop albums of all time.  Food & Liquor redefined the way mainstream hip-hop embraces your atypical artist.  Rich with cultural references, social issues and dynamic storytelling, the album is rich with universal stories.  

Through dazzling lyricism and nuanced vision, Lupe’s debut drew comparisons to Nas, Common and even young Kanye.  The one complaint about Food & Liquor that you’ll hear is that it lacked a genuine hit, but Kick, Push and Daydreamin’ certainly came close.  Without a doubt, this remains Lupe’s most important work, and permanently changed hip hop for good. 

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