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Thursday, March 5, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 16.0° F  Fair
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Lupe Fiasco
The Cool (Geffen)

The sophomore album by Chicago's Lupe Fiasco shares the quality that made Gnarls Barkley's St. Elsewhere so great: The tracks are built on catchy and frequently beautiful R&B, jazz and soul music. It's Marvin Gaye all over again, suggesting a future for hip-hop that's more than the sum of its raps.

The first single, "Superstar," is already climbing the Billboard Hot 100, and just like Barkley's "Crazy," it's likely to be played on both mainstream and alternative radio.

Fiasco continues a narrative here that he began in his mix-tape days. It follows the hustling street life of a character called the Cool. By "Put You on Game," he's ready to damn all that the Cool stands for: "I am the American dream/The rape of Africa/The undying machine/The overpriced medicine/The murderous regime."

Few albums are this musically and lyrically ambitious. After two short years and two albums, Fiasco is proving to be one of pop music's most impressive new voices.

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