This extended play was released on July 24th this year. Lupe Fiasco is one of my favorite rappers of all time, so I was really elated by the announcement of this project. I was even more thrilled when I actually realized who was producing it. Earlier this year, Kaelin Ellis, an obscure beatmaker, posted a snippet of a beat he had made on Twitter. The beat was so good that it captured a lot of attention, including that of Lupe Fiasco, who went on to loop the snippet and rap over it. When I heard Lupe rapping over that beat, I desperately hoped that we would get a full song, and I thankfully got even more than I asked for. So yeah. I’m really excited for this. I’m not necessarily expecting this to be one of my favorite projects of the year, or one of Lupe’s best releases, but I’ll be pretty shocked if I don’t enjoy it to some extent.
The first track is a Spoken Word intro from Virgil Abloh entitled HOMME MADE. This is somewhat of a double entendre, but it’s also kinda not. I don’t know how exactly that title would be labeled. “Homme” is French for “Man,” so the literal meaning of the title is manmade. Here Virgil speaks about how humans’ homes are made by man. I feel like there’s probably an interesting idea buried somewhere in this intro, but he doesn’t really flesh out the metaphor, so it’s hard for me to grasp on to anything at all to be honest. He’s saying that homes are manmade, and that’s true, but I just don’t see how that’s important or relevant. “It’s all metaphoric. Man has flaws. Man loves power. Everything is manmade.”
I feel like he thinks he’s being really deep here, but it’s just not that interesting to listen to. The instrumentation in the background sounds pretty nice though. I’m gonna keep it in my library just because I don’t actually mind it that much, but I’m not gonna pretend I actually got very much enjoyment out of it. It’s just kinda there. The first real song is called DINOSAURS. On the surface level, this song is literally just Lupe Fiasco rapping about dinosaurs.
It gets rangerous
Come hit the museum if you wanna hang with us
But mostly just the skeletons
Now if you wanna use brain cave space as a metric for intelligence
Then Tyrannosaurus Rex wasn’t the smartest of the smartest
But you wouldn’t wanna box with the short-armed carnivorous martial artist
You ain’t gotta be the sharpest saw to slice the sausage
Or the largest ninja star in all of Harlem to carve a part into a target, if we arguin’
They say they where we get chickens from
So which came first, ancestors or the chicken’s son?
You’re probably wondering to yourself, “why the hell would I wanna hear a song about dinosaurs?” I probably would’ve thought the same thing if I just heard about the song on paper. Lupe is just a good enough rapper to make this shit entertaining though. It also helps that the production from Kaelin Ellis is top notch. Also, Lupe’s using dinosaurs as a metaphor for older rappers. It becomes more clear the more you listen to the song, especially towards the end of the verse.
Some would fly, but we gotta thank ’em all
‘Cause without them, we wouldn’t have the malls of Dubai
But they also kinda gave us all a climate change
I ain’t tryna blame, I’m just saying
Sometimes they go by they science names: Megalosauroidea
Or Sauropodomorpha, whatever you wanna call ’em
Whether it be Grimlock, Yoshi or Earl Sinclair
Just remember at one time, this whole world was theirs
The song got way more interesting when I realized that he was rapping about how today’s Rap stars hit like an asteroid and relegated older MCs to the underground, much like fossils. I think the song is dope as hell honestly. I love the production, and Lupe nailed the concept. This shit is dope as hell. It’s followed by SLEDOM, which is the most traditional sounding song. Well, that’s actually not true. It has the most accessible and traditional structure though. It’s the only track that actually has a hook. I think Kaelin Ellis’ production here is really gorgeous. It sounds really smooth and light hearted. It actually felt a little Christmassy to me. The song is about the idea of modeling. You may have noticed that the title is the word “MODELS” spelled backwards. It’s about how when we hear the word “model,” we seldom think of the person modeling in a generic poster advertising something like a Popeyes chicken sandwich. “Model” tends to have a sexualized connotation in many contexts, especially on the internet. Lupe raps about how listeners should consider modeling as a career, and it deadass made me consider being in a commercial, just because it seems like a relatively easy source of income. I’m obviously a layman when it comes to the art of modeling, so if you happen to take it seriously please don’t get up my ass about this. I’m not trying to offend anyone. I’m just saying it seems relatively easy from the outside looking in. Anyway, that Roots scheme Lupe had in the opening verse was awesome.
It ain’t gotta be necessarily cute
But you want something that grabs you by the Roots
Right? A Love Quest, so when your Thoughts is Black
An employ you can enjoy and look forward to that
Kinda like how I look forward to rap, something cool
And you ain’t gotta go back to school
The sung hook is performed by Røvél & Graham Burris, and they sound pretty great harmonizing with each other. Each verse kinda drives home a different point about modeling. The first one is kinda like, “hey, you should look into modeling.” The second one is more like, “disclaimer: nothing sexual.”
You ain’t gotta get automatically naked
You can be real selective, be real protective
As many different ways that you can model these days
And be real respected and keep still your ethics
Non-erotic pose still wearing all of your clothes
Let’s take a little trip to where modern modeling goes
You’d be surprised
There’s Muslim women that just be modeling eyes
The third verse is like, “modeling is a more respected endeavor than you think.”
Peep it, modeling has been historically prestigious
Look at Mona Lisa: model
Michelangelo’s cousin even modeled for Jesus
And that’s from the Bible
Fabio was on the cover of novels
Mrs. Butterworth became a whole bottle
I really like how dark the end of the closing verse is. I’m glad he addressed this aspect of modeling because it popped into my head during the second verse.
So many modeling agencies and services
If you think about dabbling, but beware
It’s certain agencies that are just onramps for human trafficking
But don’t be scared; you’ll be dazzling, European or African
I think the song is really dope overall. It’s got a relatively accessible sound, but I don’t think I’d go as far as calling it a Pop Rap song. Anyway, the penultimate track is entitled SHOES.
The song is fantastic. I love the jazzy production, which fits Lupe’s style perfectly. The whole song is basically an allegory in which Lupe waits in line for a rare sneaker release.
I get applause as I step outside the pop-up
The shop resembles the unfinished house he was in before they shot us
We fell down, then we got up
Pick Pac up, pick Nip up
This is the type of tripping that scuff kicks up
Traditionally creases was a style to refuse
But now they represent every mile in your shoes
The production is really pretty, and it feels just as empowering as the actual content of the song. The audio clips of Virgil “$50” Abloh explaining the meaning behind one of his shoe designs were actually very profound as well. I can’t wait for the full project, and I hope to see more placements from Kaelin Ellis in the future because the dude is super talented. Don’t sleep on this one.
The final song is called LF95, and it’s the full version of the aforementioned track that Lupe teased on Twitter. The production here from Kaelin Ellis is absolutely stunning. It’s one of the best beats I’ve heard all year in my opinion. I really like the way this song is structured too. Lupe’s just rapping the entire time. There’s no hook or bridge or anything like that.
That might have been too deep for the devils
Shoulda never gave us shovels
Don’t kick pebbles at rebels without schedules
Young riddler from Chicago
The Midwest that don’t get no middler
That Last Dance look at Mike
Judge Mathis look-alike
Kid ‘n Play at the House Party
Just know that my foot is light
Lori from planet self-explanatory
It’s all love, but sometimes you gotta chastise the shorties
This is technically the most straightforward song on the project, but the production is just so awesome, and Lupe sounds so good over it. I’m so glad Lupe decided to rap over this beat because it would’ve been tragic if nobody used it. I think this shit is amazing.
This EP is pretty awesome. I’m very glad this happened. I really enjoy every single track here. Kaelin Ellis’ production is fantastic, and it’s nice to get a handful of well written conceptual songs from Lupe. Virgil Abloh’s involvement in this project didn’t really add much for me personally, although I can’t say I really minded him. It’s awesome to see Lupe reaching out to an obscure artist like Kaelin Ellis and doing an entire project. I imagine the reason stuff like that doesn’t happen more often is just because a lot of artists are assholes. Not necessarily the bigger artists, but the more obscure ones too. It goes both ways. Anyway, I’m glad Lupe decided to give us this project to hold us over, and I know he’s been working on a lot of other shit as well. I’m looking forward to that, and I’m also excited to see whatever Kaelin Ellis does next. This shit is really dope.
Favorite Song: LF95
Least Favorite Song: SLEDOM
Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this project.