Lupe Fiasco – Pharaoh Height 2/30 [Album Review]

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On August 31st, Lupe Fiasco posted the following message on his Instagram account:

“If you have a physical copy of LASERS that you absolutely hate and wish for it to be rendered non-existent then you can send it back to me, and I’ll have it destroyed with an actual giant laser and send it into next world in spectacular grand fashion and we can all get on with life nice and happy like it never happened. No hard feelings.”

Lupe Fiasco definitely doesn’t appear to think too fondly of his 2011 album LASERS – his third album released under Atlantic Records. It received mixed reviews and left critics and fans to label it as a mediocre album. Plenty of critics and fans argue that a lot of it has to do with Atlantic Records and their totalitarian-like control over its artists. However, Lupe has taken most of the blame for the supposed lackluster effort, shying away from his experimentation and sticking to a simple script.

Lupe’s newest release Pharaoh Height 2/30 ensures that the Chicago MC won’t stick to one script. Lupe starts off his brand new release with “In,” his own spin on a song titled “Elegia” by New Order that appeared on a trailer for the video game Metal Gear Solid V (a game that Lupe has constantly praised) at E3 2015. Despite the strange sample source, the eerie vibe of “In” provides a unique start to Lupe’s newest release. Lupe wants to ensure that he’s not following any pre-made blueprint, but rather using his own unique methods.

The next track “Valleys” starts off with Lupe spitting smooth lines over a J Dilla inspired beat before it transitions into a just-as-smooth second beat. Lupe’s lines of conscious subject matter such as homophobia and politicians (Bernie Sanders to be specific) are a prevalent theme of this entire mixtape, and is reminiscent of some of his prior releases. The following track “Of” is a short but sweet jazz-inspired track that has Lupe spitting bars over J Dilla’s instrumental “The Diff’rence”. The J Dilla influence is very noticeable on this mixtape, especially since Lupe desires to switch the game up like the great Dilla did.
Overall, the production on this mixtape is very solid. On the fourth track “Kings” Lupe spits a story comparing his life to that of an Egyptian pharaoh over the Weeknd’s hit song “King of the Fall”. This track is followed by “Pyramid”. This track eludes to his Jamaican roots and puts a spin on Flying Lotus’s “All In”. This project finishes with the final track “Schemes,” which is the longest track on the album. In “Schemes”, Lupe spits a “bedtime story” that is full of thrill and action.

Rumors have been circulating that the track listing, which reads out “In Valleys Of Kings, Pyramid Schemes,” eludes to the conflict that Lupe had with Atlantic Records. Many fans felt that he was chained up to their strict control over artists, and that he couldn’t be true to himself as an artist. Perhaps this new release is a sign of where Lupe is heading towards now – abstract song structure with a mysterious but conscious message. The reason behind the placement of song titles might be a mystery, but with the release of Pharaoh Height 2/30, it’s no mystery that Lupe Fiasco is back, and he isn’t backing down anytime soon.

8.0

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