Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lupe’s Fiasco AKA An Exercise In The Eternal Struggle Between Form & Chaos

I have been a Lupe Fiasco fan since 2005. I heard his first mixtape and was impressed with his lyricism, wordplay, delivery, originality and creativity. I felt that those elements were sorely lacking in major label artists of the time. After I heard his second mixtape (Fahrenheit 1:15 Vol. 2 Revenge Of The Nerds) I was convinced that this dude could be the “next great one”. I played my favorite tracks from those mixtapes over and over again on my iTunes as I was anxious to hear his debut album “Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor”. Chicago had quite a few upcoming emcees, among them being Kanye West, Rhymefest, Naledge, Bump J, and Sly Polaroid so Lupe was part of a mini movement.

He also had quite a dedicated following on the internet, especially on sites like Pretty soon after his guest spot on Kanye West’s “Touch The Sky” and his lead single “Kick, Push” Lupe Fiasco went from just an internet/underground fascination to the savior of Hip Hop and the new poster boy for the lost art of emceeing (supposedly). Once his album leaked the buzz shot through the roof and there wasn't a magazine he wasn't in or on the cover of.

Lupe was both loved and hated for his rhyme style and his image. Some people called him a backpacker, others called him a conscious rapper, others just said he flat out sucked. I assumed that by listening to Lupe’s music that he grew up on pretty much the same music I did and had pretty much the same influences and views of most of us “underground heads”. I would be dead wrong (you know what they say about assuming things, right?). According to Lupe, he grew up hearing “gangsta” music and even though he didn’t like the swearing and misogyny of groups like N.W.A. and artists like Jay-Z he still listened on. In his mind, a classic album is Nas’ “It Was Written”.

When I first heard that I was in awe as I’m of the generation that heard “Illmatic” and was disappointed in Nas when he dropped “It Was Written” (and got worse with each album subsequently until Jay-Z gave him that much needed kick in the ass...Thanks, Hov!). I was initially surprised by hearing that considering that you figured Lupe would like "Illmatic" better...It never occurred to me that he probably never even heard it.

It only got weirder when he revealed that he wasn’t familiar with a lot of artists I would assume he would be. He also confounded me by claiming to be into groups like Pink Floyd, Daft Punk, Linkin Park and the like but never once had he heard A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders”. I have no problem with someone liking different forms of music but when they aren’t up on basic shit or classic material like A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders” album it becomes a problem. I was on the day Lupe went online and said that. Most OKP’s were in shock but for the most part said “Go and listen to it”.

He acted like he didn’t care to as if he didn’t need to hear that classic album and he seemed to revel in it. This raises several questions for me because he always cops pleas about having grown up in the ‘hood of South Side of Chicago and he wasn’t exposed to these crews. Which hustlers in the Chi were rockin’ Daft Punk’s “Discovery” and Pink Floyd’s “Other Side Of The Moon” that he heard them then?

I usually tend to get on heads over 21 that aren’t up on certain albums and if I didn’t do that same thing in regards to Lupe then I’d be a hypocrite. When I hear Lupe’s rhymes I start wondering where the hell he’s coming up with this shit if he isn’t influenced by any of the usual suspects? Why does he continue to piss off the people that would be his fanbase? Why did he kick up all of that dust in the aftermath of the flubbed lines at the Hip Hop Honors? Was it because of the pressure put on him by fans hoping he’d be the Golden Child Of Hip Hop when he’s just another nice emcee? Was it because Nick Cannon didn’t fuck up doing Whodini’s “Funky Beat” when he was probably only 3 or 4 when it dropped? Nope, it was because Lupe dug a hole for himself with that Okayplayer thread months back and had managed to not listen to said album. Come on, man!

Phonte of Little Brother has already weighed in with his thoughts on the subject as well as my boy Zilla Rocca of Clean Guns in his guest blogging series on Passion Of The Weiss . I’m still looking forward to hearing Lupe Fiasco’s new album “The Cool” but I just wish he’d stop doing shit that reminds me that we Hip Hop fans need to stop thinking we’re going to see anybody in the modern era of Hip Hop that could ever compare to greats like the ones we grew up with. The expectations we place on these cats are too damn high and they have nowhere to go but to fall short and disappoint us in the end. That's probably what we get for being so quick to put someone up on a pedestal.

Of course Lupe Fasco is going to do and say stuff that makes his fans say “What?”. Rakim has. KRS One has. Big Daddy Kane has. Kool G Rap has. Nas has. Jay-Z has. LL Cool J has. Kool Moe Dee has. Common has. Andre 3000 has. Of course Lupe Fiasco is going to do some infuriating shit...he’s human. I just hope that the moral to this story sunk into Lupe’s head at the end of the day.

Sit your ass down and block out an hour of your day then listen to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders” LP. Even if you don’t realize it, if it wasn’t for these cats there would be no one to care about Lupe Fiasco’s new album.




Anonymous said...

You make some very valid points in this post. And I liked the way you approached it. However people never seem to realize the saviour until they are gone/almost.
Sometimes our "bad habits" are our greatest strengths.
As for Lupe, this situation has demonstrated a certain side of his that we never knew. Has a very strong will and refuses to buckle down even when against everyone. And that is the exact "habit" that makes him the virtually the only one in mainstream hip hop to will do anything to express his views through music. The song "Dumb it down" says a lot about him. the "F#@k it am doing this and i don't care what anybody says" attitude. And at this time, that is what it is going to take to "save" Hip hop.
This should be enough to tell us he is never going to listen to that album. In my case I would have listened to the album, but then again I may lack strength in character.
I may be the reason I don't listen to 50cent, is because he only grew up on hip hop. Lupe may have the widest musical(classical, jazz, rock,electric) upbringing in hip hop. But we are still clowning him? No wonder he doesn't care.

Anonymous said...


Great point about Lupe growing up on NWA, Spice-1, etc but then gushing over Pink Floyd, Daft Punk and jazz music.

I just think he really enjoys being contrary, from his image to his lyrics to his refusal to listen to "Midnight Marauders." You can't be a serious fan of jazz and hip hop and NOT listen to one Tribe at least once in your life, especially after you're asked to cover the group for hip hop's biggest yearly award show in front of a crowd WHO KNOWS ALL THE WORDS!!!!

Lupe grew up in the shitty part of Chi-town, so contrary to listening to Crucial Conflict or whoever, Pink Floyd seems like an interesting choice. ATCQ, who in their heyday were popular with almost all kinds of hip hop fans, isn't a big stretch for a Muslim in the inner city, but Daft Punk, anime and starbust hoodies are.

I really like him as an MC and think he could put out a classic record because he's willing to go against the grain. We as hip hop fans need to understand though that he will continue to do the opposite of what's expected of him (clean cut nerd concious backpack-ish rapper).

@slushygutter said...

Yo between this post and Zilla's on PoW, you guys have nailed Lupe and his MO. Yeah, he handled this situation like a teenager, but he just needs to take his lumps. One hot album will trump all his transgressions. One.

RO-beast said...

as a chi-town native let me defend Lupe just a bit.

He claims to be from the west side not the south which is a VERY shitty part of the city. The mentality ova there is somewhat gangsta only. so its relevant at his age not to hear of ATCQ coinciding with his Muslim upbringing.

Yet i agree with The peeps on okay player that even if he didnt listen to them he should've researched them before he performed on stage.