It’s rare for me to post on a song that isn’t deeply embedded in my musical consciousness much less one I haven’t listened to thoroughly a couple of times, but the continuation of Lupe Fiasco’s Thanksgiving mixtape release tradition (inaugurated with the November 2009 release of ‘Enemy of the State: A Love Story’) is a special exception. For one, it’s Lupe Fiasco. In the aftermath of the career-boosting, reputation-destabilising ‘Lasers’ – whose ragtag compilation of autotuned mishits and austere political commentary has been blamed variously on an overambitious Lupe and an overcontrolling Atlantic Records – it’s good to know that he hasn’t taken its critical panning to heart and is keen to continue innovating and putting out new material. For two, the significance of this mixtape is readily apparent glancing down the track listing. Alongside ‘End Of The World’ which samples M83 (more on them in a moment), the mixtape (traditionally stacked with tracks featuring vocals layed over others’ original beats) features Justice cuts, SebastiAn tunes and Nero, Glitch Mob and Skrillex originals. Not your average hip-hop mixtape than.
In a sense, I have been cogitating over this track for the duration of the weekend even if I haven’t been actively listening to it. Black Friday didn’t lend itself so much to shopping as it did to anxiety once I realised that my zipping software couldn’t quite handle ‘Friend Of The People: I Fight Evil’ – the twelve track, grandiosely titled release from the Chicago emcee. What I did get instead, cruising the I-95 in a rental and touring the Urban Outfitters of Newbury Street, Boston and Harvard Square, Cambridge respectively (and thus continues my sad saga with the hipster clothing joint) was massive exposure to M83. The French act, founded in 2001, had long been on my radar but it wasn’t until a gushing New York Times review of their show there that I figured I should actually listen to their newbie (and first album in three years) ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’. ‘Midnight City’ – that song sampled here – is easily the most recognisable on the record, and for good reason. In much the same way Caribou’s ‘‘ or MGMT’s ‘‘ used high-pitched synths to outstanding effect, ‘Midnight City’ is built around the haunting excellence of those mousy sounds alongside some serious Phil Collins-style stadium drumming.
The most obvious contention arising out of a mere look at the superb lineup of drum and bass and dubstep heavyweights Lupe’s marshalled for ‘FOTP’ (albeit probably without licensing approval) is that rap and electronica are merging. I called it a couple of months back on a new J. Cole track and can’t help but notice, particularly given Jay-Z and Kanye’s brief journey into the on their ‘Watch The Throne’ collaboration, just how permeable the demarcation between the two, traditionally canibalistic and sample-driven genres is becoming. Lupe’s ‘FOTP’ is perhaps the ultimate, recent expression of just how the two musical forms, increasingly the most popular among mainstream listeners, are coming to coexist and, rather than competing for listener attention, are seeking instead to absorb aspects of the other by some heretofore unforeseen process of musical osmosis. The quality of the result, as I implied in the opening, is for you to discern. Lupe’s rap might be largely inconsequential (throwaway lines about ‘doing it for the fans’ and the occupy movement abound) but the song is about more than the lyrics and about more than M83. With ceaseless drums and synths, it might not lend itself to quiet contemplation but this music – and its broader implications – deserve thought.
Lupe Fiasco – End Of The World