Mixtape Review | Lupe Fiasco – Pharaoh Height 2/30

Lupe Fiasco released this mixtape as a surprise on August 29th in 2015. Tetsuo & Youth is one of my favorite albums from 2015, so I was kinda excited when this project came out, but I never got a chance to listen to it. It’s apparently a sequel to a mixtape series that he had in 2006 called Fahrenheit 1/15. He’s planning on releasing 3 albums in 2016—Drogas, Skulls, and Roy—so I thought it would be a good idea to catch up with this tape real quick. It’s only got six tracks, so this shouldn’t take too long. I’m definitely expecting this to be dope af. I’m excited. Okay. I’m finna start it now.

Track 1: In (Prod. New Order)

This is kinda weird, but also really fucking cool at the same time. He’s literally rapping over the audio of a video game trailer. The trailer is for a game called Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. He didn’t change anything about it. You can still hear the video game characters speaking in the background and everything. I’m only about 34 seconds in, but from what the characters are saying, I wouldn’t be surprised if slavery was a strong theme for this song. I might be reaching tho. I should probably get this outta the way right now: Lupe Fiasco’s lyrics are incredibly detailed and confusing and complicated, so you should probably take my interpretation of them with a grain of salt. The characters are basically just talking about how this one guy was enslaved by foreign soldiers. The first verse just ended. I don’t know. It seems like it was kinda hard for him to flow over this since there isn’t any percussion. Something just sounds off about this. I’m not sure how I feel about his delivery on this one. The lyrics seem very poetic. The instrumental is very dark. I don’t know… Something about Lupe’s vocals just sounds off. It almost sounds like it wasn’t mixed properly. His voice sounds kinda jarring right after hearing the characters speak. The lyrics aren’t bad, but the delivery and flow and overall sound of Lupe’s verses just sounds off. I can’t really fuck with it honestly. The background vocals where he’s singing everything sounds pretty good. If it was just that, then I would probably like this song, but he’s also shouting them and it really just doesn’t sound very good. The song definitely has to do with slavery. “I was brought here a slave, but I leave here a pharaoh.” I like when people rap over video game music, but… Well, I don’t know if this song is actually in the game or if it’s just for the trailer. The original song wasn’t created specifically for the game. It’s a song called Elegia by a band called New Order. Um… As I was saying, I like when people rap over video game music and I wish more rappers would do it, but they would definitely have to tweak it a little bit. I mean, I think this song would’ve been much better if he just added some percussion to the original Elegia song instead of trying to spit over the actual trailer. It didn’t really work. I appreciate the creativity tho. I just can’t get into it personally. It’s a cool idea, but it just doesn’t really make for a good song. I’m not feelin’ this. 2/5

Track 2: Valleys (Prod. Robert Glasper)

I’m actually really surprised by how much I didn’t like that first song. Usually the intro to an album sets the tone for the rest of the project, but this is a mixtape, so maybe that was just a bad start. The sample he rhymed over on this song is from Robert Glasper’s Dillalude #2, which was obviously dedicated to the legendary producer J Dilla. Lupe’s goin’ in right now. His flow is dope. He sounds really good rapping over this beat. I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but it sounds cool. This beat is dope af. It’s really smooth. “Five different songs over five different beats, and this one’s called Valley / I wrote it on the plane in the chair by the galley on the way to Cali.” I guess he doesn’t consider the intro to be a song. Well, I do. It sounded like a song to me. Just a wack song. This song is really dope tho. “You loyal, so I’m Khaled / Buy your momma a palace / Scratch that; Buy your momma what matters.” There’s no hook. That’s probably a good thing. Not that I think Lupe’s incapable of making a decent hook. I just like the smooth break between the verses. The beat is really fucking smooth. He’s mentioning a lot of shit. There was a line about the Dylan Roof shooting, and something about “the difference between nigga and nigger.” I really wish I understood what he was saying. It’s not like every single line is going over my head, but a lot of this shit is. I definitely fuck with this. The beat’s smooth as fuck, and Lupe went in. It’s a real smooth track. It’s dope af. 5/5

Track 3: Of (Prod. J Dilla)

On this one, he’s rapping over The Diff’rence from Dilla’s classic 2006 album, Donuts. The beat’s dope af. That should go without saying. The whole song is just one verse, but he fuckin’ went in. This is the shortest track on the album. It’s only about 78 seconds. It’s dope tho. He was spittin’ his ass off. “This is that ‘there should be a name for it,‘ ‘Hideo should go and make a game for it,‘ ‘Mama should make you change for it‘ kinda rap that sends jaguars running back into the rain forest.” He killed this shit. I kinda wish it was longer, but it’s still a good song. I fuck with it. It’s dope. 4/5

Track 4: Kings (Prod. The Weeknd & DaHeala)

In this song, Lupe’s rhymin’ over the beat from The Weeknd’s song, King Of The Fall. The beat’s dope. Lu did his thing on the first verse. I just listened to the whole song. There’s not really much to discuss. It’s just more Lupe. It’s complicated bars over a dope beat. I like the song, but this isn’t amazing or anything, especially for Lupe. It’s not bad, but as a song there just isn’t much to it. Just bars and a beat. I fuck with it tho. It’s dope. 4/5

Track 5: Pyramid (Prod. Flying Lotus)

This beat is FlyLo’s song All In, which was on his fourth album, Until The Quiet Comes. This beat is fucking great. Goddamn. I love FlyLo’s production. Lupe’s goin’ in. His flow is great on this one. Jesus. He’s spittin’ his fucking ass off. I have no idea what he’s talking about right now tho. I feel like a fucking dumbass when I listen to Lupe. He’s mentioning Cleopatra & shit like that, but I really don’t know what he’s talking about. He’s goin’ off tho. I mean, his flow is on point and his rhyme schemes are dope af too. This song is great. I think. The only thing that I don’t like is that I can’t figure out what the fuck it’s about. That’s a personal problem tho, so I’m not gonna take away points for that. I still enjoyed the hell out of the song. It’s dope af. 5/5

Track 6: Schemes

I couldn’t find any fucking production credits for this one. Maybe he produced it himself. Does Lupe Fiasco make beats? Ah fuck it. I guess it doesn’t really matter. Okay, the song’s starting now… Hahaha. What the fuck? What the fuck is that accent? “Uncle Lupe… Hey, Uncle Lupe can you please tell us a bedtime story?” This is cool. I guess the whole song is gonna be him telling a story to his nephews and nieces. His nephew had a weird ass accent tho. It’s kinda like Children’s Story by Slick Rick. I have no complaints. I’m surprised more MCs don’t try to do this more often. It doesn’t even have to have the whole bedtime story theme. I feel like I rarely hear new story telling songs these days. The only shit that comes to mind that I heard last year is the shit on Murs’ album and How Much A Dollar Cost? by Kendrick. Woah. This beat is fucking incredible. It’s really different. It has a real fast pace. Lupe’s flow is dope on this shit. There are TV show samples in the middle of the song during the verse. Okay, the story’s about a guy who was abandoned as a child. He hung around a bad crowd. Okay, it’s thirty years later now. Uh… I kinda don’t feel like explaining the whole story to y’all. The first verse just ended. I had no idea what was going on in the other songs, but this story is easy enough to follow. I feel like I’m listening to… Well, it’s like he’s… Oh wait. Never mind. Haha. I almost just described what it was like to be told a story. He’s doing a good job. That’s basically what I was trying to say. This beat is fucking incredible. Who made this shit? This production is pretty different for Lupe. He usually raps over smoother, more polished production. This sounds really rough, but in a good way. The hook is dope. I love Lupe’s fast paced flow on this track. Goddamn. This story is fucking crazy haha. It’s like one of those over the top Japanese action movies. There are fuckin’ ninjas throwing those little stars that they have at the main character, but they’re only hitting the cast on his broken arm. This is fuckin’ bananas. The production is changing up too. This is great. He’s driving a Mitsubishi car through the Louvre museum. Damn I just finished the song. That was crazy. The end of the story was a little abrupt, but it was still really good. I definitely fuck with this song. This song is fucking fantastic. 5/5

Final Thoughts:

That was dope. It definitely didn’t feel like he put as much effort into this project as he did Tetsuo & Youth. I mean, you can tell it’s just a mixtape. The majority of the lyrics went over my head, but it’s still sonically enjoyable. It’s worth downloading for that last track alone. The production choices were all pretty good. I definitely don’t think this would be a good starting point for someone who’s trying to get into Lupe. I feel like Tetsuo & Youth would be better for that. However, if you really like Lupe like I do, then this tape is definitely worth listening to. Don’t be turned off by the first track. Also, don’t expect an extremely thematic & cohesive project. It’s a mixtape. It’s just a collection of good songs. Most of the songs feel kind of incomplete. Not in the sense that his pen was off tho. He was still rapping his ass off. In terms of lyrics and bars, everything was on point. I’m talkin’ about the actual songs. The songs themselves don’t have as much effort put into them. Schemes is really the only song with a hook. It also seems to be the only song with original production. Does that make sense? His bars are fantastic on this tape, but the songs themselves aren’t outstanding. That’s to be expected of a mixtape tho. I fuck with it. This mixtape is dope.

Favorite Song: Schemes

Least Favorite Song: In




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