Kanye West. Lupe Fiasco. Both are known as innovators and trendsetters in an era of repetition and laziness. Both of their debut albums are revered as modern-day classics. Both men wear their pants WAY too tight.
Let’s see how their most recent albums, Graduation and Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool, stack up:
Album covers: Yeesh. Kanye’s cover looks like a drugged-out combination of Dragon Ball Z and the Wuzzles. Remember the Wuzzles? I’m sure my 80s babies do. I’m not even sure what Lupe’s cover is supposed to be – some kind of alien food pyramid?
Kanye 1, Lupe 0
Album quality: Graduation boasts some great tracks – “Stronger” flipped that Daft Punk track in the most killer of ways and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” has become an anthem for the working class. But there’s plenty of crap here too. “Drunk and Hot Girls” is downright unlistenable and “Barry Bonds” is embarrassing. It’s Kanye’s weakest album, but still light-years ahead of 90 percent of today’s artists.
I love how The Cool refuses to conform to today’s standards. The excellent “Superstar” might be the only 106 & Park-friendly track, but most of the others rely on tremendous concepts (“The Die”) and crazy wordplay (“Dumb It Down”) to catch your ear. Too bad the album is way, way too long. It definitely needed an editor.
Kanye 1, Lupe 1
Sales: No contest here. Kanye is one of the few sales juggernauts in hip hop today. Graduation has sold well over two millions copies. The Cool has a little over 500,000 copies, but that’s no small feat in today’s market.
Kanye 2, Lupe 1.
Kanye 2, Lupe 1
Award show faux pas: Kanye is the king of award show mishaps. Remember last year when he vowed to never perform at MTV again because he didn’t win an award? Of course he came crawling back in time for this year’s awards. And a year earlier, when “Touch The Sky” didn’t win Best Video at the MTV Europe Music Awards, West stormed the stage and whined. No wonder other countries hate us. And those are just two examples off the top of my head.
Last year Lupe screwed up the lyrics during A Tribe Called Quest’s tribute at VH1’s Hip Hop honors. His excuse? He wasn’t a fan of the group as a youth. That’s like me saying “It’s OK I failed that history test, mom, I think powdered wigs are stupid.” Lame, but he needs to step up his crying game to compete with Ye.
Kanye 3, Lupe 1
Videos: Kanye’s final video from Graduation was for “Homecoming,” which was shot in black and white and featured Ye walking through Chicago. Not horrible, but it’s disappointingly typical and nowhere near as creative as some of his earlier videos.
Lupe’s latest video is “Paris, Tokyo,” and is pretty similar to “Homecoming,” as Lu and his lady travel the world. And least the diversity of the locations spices things up a bit.
Kanye 3, Lupe 2
Legacy: I first heard about Kanye around 2000 or so, when he was producing tracks for Jay-Z and friends. It’s so crazy to think that less than 10 years later Kanye is arguably the biggest star in hip hop. His beats are as much in demand as his lyrical skills. His Glow In The Dark tour was one of the most hyped performances of the year. As annoying as he can be, you can’t doubt his drawing power.
Lupe has carved his own niche. After releasing just two albums, he’s regarded by old school fans as a throwback to the Golden Age of hip hop, where lyrics were so much more important than theatrics. His following is small but vocal – maybe one day he’ll be able to break through to the masses like Ye.
Kanye 4, Lupe 2
Lupe hung in there, but he still has a way to go before reaching Kanye.