Lupe Fiasco – Samurai

A terrific return that taps into his core purpose...

Over the span of two decades, Chicago’s very own Lupe Fiasco has given shelter to the lone and curious minds wanting to expand beyond the complacent, complicit, and one-dimensional. Inviting us to interrogate the narrative, his intellectual skill is never at the expense of infectious groove nor immersive storytelling.

Studying martial arts since the age of three, raised by a father who was both a member of the Black Panther Party and a prolific karate instructor, Lupe has always lived at the intersection of Black and East Asian culture. Not only serving in broadening his worldview, this also allowed him to season his art and glean inspiration from the intricacies of Japanese culture, which has bled into many facets of his life. A humble reintroduction, ‘Samurai’ bows to the old school while propelling us forward. 

His ninth studio album and first full body of work since 2022’s ‘DRILL MUSIC IN ZION’, ‘Samurai’ is an emphatic display of lyrical mastery. The project follows a loose narrative told through the vessel of battle rap, one of hip-hop’s most vital arteries since its conception in ‘80s New York. Centered on bridging Black culture with Japanese, there’s a tangible devotion to emceeing with the precision of a skilled swordsman. He continues to be in a young and passionate love with both disciplines, amplifying one with the other.

Noting the album as “his most personal record to date,” there’s a glass shattering between the server and the consumer. Lupe has always been rap’s most elusive star, and through metaphors, roleplay, and precise use of poetic devices, we’re finally let into the man within the legend. We simply have to lean in and listen a bit more intently. Produced by long-time collaborator Soundtrakk, alongside Charles “Chill” Patton, co-CEO of the 1st & 15th Label, the title track doubles as the album’s lead single. A jazz-laden number reminiscent of Dilla production, the warmth of ‘Samurai’ emanates the love that seems to be a constant in every era of his work. Lupe’s dharma is not to prove himself a skilled wordsmith, but to offer something deeply and sonically nourishing, while inadvertently proving himself nonetheless.

Reflecting upon the layers of intentionality embedded within the project, Lupe shares “the word ‘samurai’ means to serve. My relationship to that word has always meant that you need to be at the service of other people, either in the overall community, or in this instance, the rap community at-large that I’ve been a part of for years.” Keeping us well-fed and in constant questioning, there is no doubt Lupe Fiasco is fulfilling his purpose and artistic servitude every time he obliges to step back into the dojo.

8/10

Words: Jazmin Kylene

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