"The politics in this game is heavy," says Lupe Fiasco at Atlantic Records' regional office in downtown Atlanta as he dispatches a Jimboy's burrito, his first meal of the afternoon. "I'm facing it right now."
The Chicago hip-hop prospect rolled through town last August on a radio promotion tour advancing his long-awaited debut album, Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor. Comparisons with Kanye West were brewing. There was the appearance on West's "Touch the Sky," where he came through like anime icon Lupin III. Unexpectedly, some alleged that Lupe carried a Kanye-sized ego, too. "I've had people shut me down just off rumors. Like, 'Yeah. Lupe is such and such,'" he says. "Especially when you're independent and you have an opinion."
For the record, Lupe Fiasco is a humble dude. But he's confident and ambitious. On the cover of Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor, he floats in space while gripping a boom box. Books and toys orbit around him – from a tattered copy of the Quran to a PlayStation Portable gaming system. A Muslim (despite the CD title, he doesn't drink) and skateboarding enthusiast, his raps evoke his eclectic lifestyle, from the yearning shred anthem "Kick, Push" to the accusatory poli-sci lesson "American Terrorist."
Lupe Fiasco's indelibly unique swagger belies mainstream rap stereotypes, while skirting mainstream success. AllHipHop.com, for example, classified him as a "hip-hop nerd," even though his style suggests high school cool kid rather than math dork. "I'm a nerdy guy, but I don't see it as nerd rap just because I did a song about skateboarding," he says.
"Where do they get that from? I think they get it from Pharrell and N.E.R.D., and anything that fits the fashionable, stylish image, that lane, they declare it as nerd rap," he continues. "The only thing you have to balance it out with is the gangsters: Jeezy and Rick Ross. It's like the gangsters against the nerds. It's like high school."
Lupe and producer Soundtrakk expand Food & Liquor to a heroic scale, lavishing the tracks with Philly soul-sized orchestrations. He animates the sometimes-florid arrangements with deft lyricism. "Made me a ripper/Deliver like river," he rhymes on "Pressure." "And they said oil and water don't mix/Now they all down at the beach washing off the fish."
Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor is Lupe's debut, but he's been kicking around the industry for seven years. He secured his first deal with Epic Records as a member of Da Pack; and then got a solo deal with Arista. "I don't really expect a lot from the music business because I've already got a lot of stuff," he says. "The only thing I haven't done is put an album out."
Despite those setbacks, Lupe Fiasco stoked a huge bidding war when his Arista deal expired (after parent company Sony BMG liquidated the label). Atlantic/Warner Bros. gave him an imprint, 1st and 15th, which he used to sign fledgling Chi-Town artists Gemini (who sings on Food & Liquor), rapper Shayla G and Risque. Jay-Z, who failed to entice him over to Island Def Jam, still agreed to executive-produce Food & Liquor.
Since Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor isn't certified gold yet, some industry observers characterize it as a highly publicized failure. But the disc sold more than 300,000 copies, drew three 2006 Grammy nominations and several publications cited it as one of the year's best.
"To me, the people are more important," says Lupe Fiasco, who hopes to release a second album this year. "As long as the average person on the street are like, 'Yo, Lupe, I like your music,' that's enough for me."
Nashville has more dive bars than ATL now that sucks. tbh i think that new…
*Christ, Lord sorry
"Punk" style like this seems like it is the polar opposite of punk. Bradford Cox…
They're kind of starting to look like a joke of themselves. Song's good though.
All 80s movies want you...