Review: Lupe Fiasco’s Verse On MMG’s ‘Poor Decisions’ Is The Year’s Best (So Far)

Lupe catches two bodies on “Poor Decisions” and delivers the best rap verse 2013 has seen thus far

It’s highly possible that Wale and label boss Rick Ross knew what they were getting themselves into when they opened the door for Lupe Fiasco to appear on the sobering track “Poor Decisions.” Since a few days of its release, the buzz-heavy song—complete with a no-frills, back-to-basics video—has given MMG’s bromidic followers a front row seat to experience the mercurial Chicago native in all his Super Lupe lyrical glory. At times pegged by his critics as a cage-rattling conspiracy theorist who’s exhibited a penchant for inconsistency (the outspoken rapper’s discography has been frustratingly hit-or-miss in recent years), whenever the spirit moves Lupe he has proven himself to be the best lyricist on the planet. And that point is made loud and emphatically clear on “Poor Decisions.”

To say that Lupe towers over his gracious hosts would be an insult to giants. While Ross tries to find some heartfelt introspection (“Young thugs with so much talent/Young thugs having no balance…”), it’s a lost opportunity for the sleepwalking superstar. The Miami representative would have added much-needed depth to his verse by detailing his own “rich nigga” poor decisions, which led to him losing a high profile Reebok deal. And to his credit, Wale—the man who is riding high with his current ladies-aimed smash single “Bad”—drops this substantial jewel: “Lord help us, my generation come to an end/‘Cause we all selfish, but living shallow…how we gon’ swim?” But it all comes off as the work of mere mortals when juxtaposed against Lupe’s layered, rewind-worthy statement. “Why you letting the devil beat you out your soul?/You don’t believe in God then at least believe in odds,” he summarizes of the fast life, adding, “This house of odds is just a house of cards/Just without the yards, and nice adjacent parks.”

From there, Lupe dissects the seeds of a dysfunctional relationship (“Mind on the club just to find a little love, my regards…”); addresses unhealthy eating lifestyles in the ‘hood (“Instead of building up a habit in them vegetables/Now early ‘30s, my blood pressure’s incredible…”); and targets hip-hop’s responsibility in playing-up the violence that plagues minority communities just for profit (“Rappers influence your shooting sprees/Turn around like that ain’t got shit to do with me…”). Yes, this is rhyme-of-year caliber stuff, as Lupe goes on to flip the intended concept of the track on its head (“Poor niggas making rich decisions/ That shit right there is more efficient…”). In a perfect world Lupe would be drafted into Rozay’s hardboiled camp—the dream union of majestic, populist beats that rocks both the streets and clubs alongside lyrics that rock the soul. You know, the way hip-hop used to be.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29).