Inspired by the Japanese philosophy wabi-sabi – the perfection of imperfection – Lupe Fiasco wrote and recorded his eighth album in three days. Rush recording can be an excuse to coast on the fumes of creative fire, but it’s brought a welcome looseness to Lupe’s music after a gruesome chart-chasing phase. It would be optimistic to say the 40-year-old’s artistic best days are ahead of him, but this is a blessedly short and often enjoyable trip through his mazy mind.
Borrowing 10 beats from inventive producer Soundtrakk’s vault, Lupe tries out different flows with varying success. Every weapon in his arsenal is deployed on Autoboto and Kiosk – internal rhyming, assonance, echoing auto-rhymes, battle freestyle flows. But he’s best when he settles into conversational yet precise wordplay such as Ghoti, with its gorgeous jazz-adjacent swing. He’s not half as engaged on Ms. Mural, wasting a smart beat on a hectoring delivery that’s like a teacher tiring of his own class. In contrast, final track On Faux Nem is a devastating tour through a wasteland of deferred hopes and evaporating futures, showing that the old fire still flickers.