On Wednesday (May 18), the Chicago-bred lyricist officially revealed the release date and cover art for his eighth LP, Drill Music In Zion, which is set to drop on June 24 via Lupe’s 1st & 15th imprint.
Much like 2015’s Tetsuo & Youth, the album’s cover depicts an abstract painting created by the rapper himself.
Coinciding with his announcement, Lupe Fiasco gave fans their first sample of Drill Music In Zion on Wednesday by releasing the first single, “AUTOBOTO.” Reviving his “Carrera Lu” moniker, the veteran MC cruises over a shimmering, hard-hitting beat with masterful verses.
The song closes with a druggy beat switch and dreamy vocals from Chicago singer Nayirah that feel reminiscent of Travis Scott’s Days Before Rodeo. Those yearning for classic Lupe won’t be disappointed.
Clocking in at 10 songs, Drill Music In Zion is produced entirely by his longtime collaborator Soundtrakk, the Chi-Town beatmaker behind several Lupe Fiasco classics including “Kick, Push,” “Superstar” and “Hip Hop Saved My Life.”
“Soundtrakk is the swordmaker, I’m the samurai,” Lupe said of their creative kinship. “He’s the mechanic and I’m the driver.”
Lupe set himself the ambitious challenge of creating the album in just 24 hours, although it took him closer to 72 hours in the end. Locking himself in the studio with a folder of Soundtrakk beats, the 40-year-old completed the project in one long studio session last August (with the occasional sleep break, of course).
The result, according to a press release, is an album that “speaks to Lupe’s internal growth, and paints him as a sort of defiant warrior who has achieved longevity and is still inspired creatively in an industry that so often spits up and chews out talent.”
“Your whole life you’re physically growing, and as an artist, I feel like I’m taller now,” Lupe said in a statement. “Not that I’m at a higher place of morality, it’s that my vantage point and perspective is higher. I can see further.”
Drill Music In Zion has already received lofty praise from those who’ve heard it. In January, Grammy-winning engineer Craig Bauer — whose credits include Kanye West’sLate Registration and Graduation, as well as Lupe’s Food & Liquor and The Cool — hailed it as “rap album of the decade.”
Lupe himself hasn’t been shy in setting expectations high, calling it his “best album” while comparing it to Nas’ 1994 masterpiece Illmatic.
Drill Music In Zion serves as the follow-up to 2018’s DROGAS Wave, Lupe Fiasco’s first independent album following his departure from Atlantic Records. Featuring contributions from Damian Marley, Nikki Jean and Crystal Torres, the project debuted at No. 60 on the Billboard 200 with just over 11,000 first-week sales.
“DROGAS Wave is based on a story about a group of slaves that jumped off a slave ship transporting them from Africa,” Lupe explained. “The slaves did not drown, and instead somehow managed to live under the sea. They spent the rest of their underwater existence sinking slave ships. ‘Drogas’ is the Spanish word for drugs. I made it an acronym which stands for ‘Don’t Ruin Us God Said.'”