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The Cool - Lupe Fiasco

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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RUNS HOT AND COOL Lupe's latest

When an upstart artist indulges early on in an ambitious pet project, it often comes chock-full of pretension and sigh-inducing hype. Thankfully, Lupe Fiasco's forthcoming concept album, The Cool (Atlantic/1st & 15th, Dec. 18), stampedes the rapper's "hip-hop vanguard" tag and manages to impress and cash in on the promise of his freshman effort. (A warning to other artists: Don't think this means you can manage the same.)

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Expanding on the Fiasco-driven phenomenon known as "The Cool" (a track on Lupe's first album), the record is about a young man seduced and then killed by street violence, distancing it—refreshingly—from the current spate of party albums. At the same time, he sidesteps the threat of becoming bogged down by theme and metaphor, hitting with a quick succession of undeniably hot cuts. Producers Soundtrakk lend a hand on much of the album, creating surefire, fast-tempo hits like "Superstar," "Street On Fire," and "Go Go Gadget Flow," the latter of which continues hip-hop's fascination with the theme song for Inspector Gadget (previously sampled in Gnarls Barkley's "Go-Go Gadget Gospel"). But if they falter, it's usually in the handling of the album's street-life subject matter.



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