Being Lupe Fiasco must be so frustrating. He’s talented, politically aware, and has a lot to say and yet, he keeps being criticized by the very people who you’d assume would be in his corner. Thing is, when you rap as an artist, you’re criticized on the basis of your art. But when you rap as an ideologue, than the merit of your ideas is called into question. And because mainstream rap affords us such a miniscule amount of explicit political thought, (thank god for Killer Mike), it’s no wonder that the critical legion comes at every Fiasco release with fangs bared.
To ignore Fiasco’s politics is difficult, but made far easier when a records sounds as good as Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 (and we’re gonna have to ignore that name, too). For the most part, Lupe is back to rapping over rap beats, including that famous brass line from “T.R.O.Y.,” which powers him through “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free),” one of the best tracks on the new album. For other highlights, check the blistering, disturbing soliloquy on “Lamborghini Angels,” or the shimmering Bilal feature “How Dare You.” Lupe is occasionally repetitive and dogmatic, but nearly always compelling, and when he rhymes over a collection of beats like this, it’s worthwhile to hear what he has to say.