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Listening

A Suspect Copy of the New Lupe Fiasco

On Nov. 14, Lupe Fiasco released the tracklist to his sophomore effort, The Cool. The tracks themselves will remain in a tightly guarded lockbox until the album hits stores Dec. 18. Or will they?

Over Thanksgiving break, I got my hands on nearly half of Lupe’s precious material. It came to me care of my friend’s neighbor’s cousin’s 12-year-old brother, Todd, who discovered that I review music by Googling my name while us grownups were drinking wine. The poor dear must have a crush on me, because he couldn’t stop giggling when he later handed me a CD-R full of tunes, with THE COOL scrawled across it in his manic, Ritalin-addled handwriting.

Strangely, other reviews by those at the official listening session seem to refer to another album entirely. What is a concept album to them sounds like an astoundingly eclectic, massive collaboration to me, from which Lupe is largely absent. He is content, I imagine, to use his skills to back up burgeoning talent as they endeavor together on the most diverse album I’ve ever heard.

Here, then, is a TMN exclusive: 10 tracks from The Cool, complete with a never-before-seen video.

Superstar feat. Matthew Santos
I heard this pre-release single earlier this month, which was perhaps my first hint that The Cool would be guest-heavy and have an indie bent. Matthew Santos backs up Lupe’s “being famous but also kind of dorky is hard” rant with a gentle, Coldplay-like chorus.

» Listen

Gold Watch
For “Gold Watch,” young Todd included only a text file with a link to this video, which has apparently been posted on YouTube for some time, unrecognized by Lupe’s fans. It seems self-deprecation is becoming increasingly “in.” If I’m right, the young white rapper who dominates this track is slated to be the next big Lil’ _______. Low production values and opening references to email and the fashion brands preferred by suburban teens demonstrate Lupe’s intimacy with his target audience.

Streets on Fire
From the title, I was expecting a post-apocalyptic cautionary tale. Turns out it’s a country-inspired holiday song!

» Listen

Little Weapon
Though it doesn’t have the pizazz of “Superstar,” I’d name “Little Weapon” the best track on the album. I could be wrong, but I think there’s an Andrew Bird reference in there. Amazing.

» Listen

Gotta Eat
He wants to eat! And he’s totally punk rock!

» Listen

Dumb It Down feat. Gemini & Graham Burris
Another pre-released track, “Dumb it Down” is a chillaxed commentary on the tendency to cater to the common denominator to sell records. Here’s the video, complete with eye-winking, Polo-clad white dude. Obviously, Lupe’s done a fine job of defying that expectation with The Cool. Nothing simple about this album.

Hello Goodbye feat. UNKLE
Indistinguishable from the original. Lupe is a genius.

» Listen

The Die
A full and sprawling acoustic duet. Completely unexpected. Again, bravo.

» Listen

Put You on Game
Another well-executed throwback. Here, Lupe emulates ’70s-era punk rock almost as well as his “Hello, Goodbye” replicates the Beatles.

» Listen

Go Baby
Wait a minute. This guy isn’t saying “go baby.” He’s saying “baby please don’t go.” I may not know a lot about music pre-1995, but I did just watch I’m Not There, and while I spent most of that time completely lost, I did manage to learn what Dylan sounds like—and it sounds a lot like this. You know, now that I think about it, that country Christmas song probably wasn’t Lupe Fiasco, either. There’s something very strange going on here.

» Listen

Wait a minute…

biopic

Heather Rasley is a graduate student at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. She likes discovering new web apps and new dance songs, equally. She lives on the internet, at heather-rasley.com. More by Heather Rasley

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