Lupe Fiasco’s sophomore

“Put (the gun) to his head and said, ‘You scared ain’t ya?’ He said: ‘Hustler for death. No heaven for a gangsta.’” This is where we last saw The Cool, held at gunpoint but defiant nonetheless. The Cool is a fictitious character from the track with the same name on Lupe Fiasco’s debut album, Food and Liquor. The song begins with The Cool coming back to life and literally digging himself out of his grave. He then returns to his neighborhood only to be robbed by the same gang that had killed him in the first place. The 3 minute, 47 second track was not enough for Lupe to tell the whole story, though. He decided to dedicate his entire second album to expanding on “The Cool”, titling it The Cool and featuring the original character. The December 18th release will bring together several characters from Food and Liquor and add some new faces as well. Each character represents a different aspect of life on the west side of Chicago. The Cool is a thug character trying to gain fame. The Streets is a temptress who appeals to the desires of figures such Al Capone, Alexander the Great, and the Cool himself. The final major player on the album is the Game, a hustler-con man type. “For me, personally, it represents three negative influences that surround Lupe Fiasco,” Lupe said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “The want and the need to be Cool, the attraction of The Streets, and the evils of The Game itself.” The album takes on a much darker feel than Food and Liquor, which featured tracks on robots and skateboarding. The change partially comes as a result of personal loss in Lupe’s life since his debut album. These losses include the deaths of his father, aunt, a close friend, and the conviction of business partner Charles Patton this summer. Patton was sentenced to 44 years in prison for possession of heroin, and the conviction threatens Lupe’s squeaky-clean reputation. Prosecutors attempted to link him to the crime, but Lupe maintains he is drug and alcohol free and had no involvement whatsoever. The irony of the incident is Lupe is trying to make a statement against drug use in The Cool. He was inspired to adopt that stance after listening to Princeton University professor Cornel West speak a few years ago. Lupe recently recalled the experience with MTV News: “(West) said, ‘If you really want to affect change in the world, you gotta make those things that are cool, uncool.’ He’s saying that the cool things are what’s destructive and what’s got us down and depressed. And if you can make it hip to be square, you might really affect some actual social change in the world. So this is like my attempt, very blatant, over-attempt (at that), by naming the album, The Cool.” Listeners need not worry that the serious tone of The Cool will take away from the smart lyrics and fresh beats that made a hit. In “Superstar” and “Dumb it Down”, the two single releases from the new album, Lupe discusses his newfound fame and responds to complaints that his lyrics are too complex. He also addresses the issue of child soldiers and makes allusions to his favorite book, 1984, on the album. It should be known that Lupe has promised to produce just one more album after The Cool, LupEND, before retiring. That announcement gives the impression that Lupe is saying goodbye, but in many respects The Cool is really just an introduction to his true character. When it is all said and done, the new album will likely confirm what most have known from the beginning: Lupe Fiasco is pretty cool.