Lupe Fiasco-Drill Music In Zion

Chicago emcee Lupe Fiasco set out to record his next album in one day. After selecting beats from frequent collaborator Soundtrakk, he began the recording process. Not quite reaching his goal, Lupe managed to record Drill Music in Zion in three days, which is a feat to be sure. This isn’t the first time artists have blitz recorded music. Black Sabbath recorded their first album in one day and mixed it the next. Husker Du recorded their classic double album Zen Arcade in just 40 hours. And Nick Drake’s Pink Moon was completed in two evening recording sessions.

Today, we live in an era of precision and excess. Artists like Tool take thirteen years to write and record a new album. And Kanye notoriously continues to mix and remix songs after the album has been released. So it’s significant to see music put out so quickly.

You might be saying, okay that’s impressive, but is it any good? The answer is an authoritative yes. Drill Music in Zion is an excellent hip-hop record from an underappreciated artist. Jazz centers beats with boom-bap drums providing the drive and backbone. There are even a couple of trap sounding songs (“Autoboto” and “Seattle”) that wouldn’t be out of place at the club (although it would need to be a club that appreciates deep themes).

The album title would naturally lead you to believe this is a drill album. It’s not. Lupe explains in an interview with Okayplayer that it’s not supposed to be a drill album, in sound or in theme.

Although on the first track “Lion’s Deen” Lupe’s sister gives a spoken word performance describing the many definitions of drill music, which includes “kill music,” and explores the different interpretations of Zion. Lupe explains in the interview that he wrote this album with images from The Matrix Reloaded in mind, in which the machines were drilling down into humanity’s safe-haven, called Zion.

Drill music, which originated in Chicago, is known for its melodic sound and violent street imagery. Ten years ago, Lupe made a statement saying, “Drill music scares me.” Although he’s come to better understand it as an art form, he continued in the interview:

“Unfortunately, you fast-forward to today, and-not everybody-but everybody’s dead. Or they’re in prison, or they’re basically exiled from the city-they can never go back. It’s not just the stars I’m talking about…Up and down the chain, you’ve just seen people die, and that’s what scared me. This isn’t just music, people are gonna die behind the scenes in a very serious way, and that’s what happened.”

Lupe denies the album being a critique of drill music as a whole. But he does tackle the issue of violence in the life of rappers. This is most evident on final track “On Faux Nem,” whose first verse is simply, “Rappers die to much, that’s it, that’s the verse.” And the chorus repeats, “I wish that you were lying to me.”

The album clocks in at nearly 41 minutes, but it goes by very quickly. The tracks are great, and the sequencing of them is masterful. The three-song run of “Kiosk” into “Ms. Mural” into “Naomi” is so satisfying. It’s been a minute since Lupe burst onto the scene with Food & Liquor in 2006 and his classic album The Cool in 2007. And if you dropped off following his major label sellout record Lasers in 2011, this is a great place to jump back in. Or, if you’ve never listened to Lupe, then Drill Music in Zion is not a bad place to start.  Follow Lupe Fiasco on Instagram and stream Drill Music in Zion HERE.

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