Lupe Fiasco

Interview- Big Smoke Magazine (2006)

Lupe Fiasco on…

Lupe Fiasco has achieved a lot since he landed on the hip hop map. He quickly nestled in comfortably among rap’s biggest names, working with Kanye and counting Nas and Jay Z as friends, but the devout Muslim shuns the excesses often associated with hip hop’s elite. Here he speaks on a number of topics, shedding light on subjects that matter to him most…

Bling Bling hip hop

It gets more attention than conscious hip hop because it’s flashy and TV needs that to keep people watching until the commercials come on. The music is just there to keep you interested long enough to get you to the commercials-because that’s what its really about-selling products.

Wealth

There’s nothing wrong with being a millionaire; it’s not like it’s inheritantly evil-it’s how you obtain it and what you do with it and how much you let it overtake you, that’s where the problem lies.

War

There probably hasn’t been a just war in about a thousand years. War and our perception of war is all about money. It’s a conquest for capital gain, it’s not to better someone’s situation or empower it. Nothing ever changes through war; it’s the same on this side and it’s worse on that side. And then you’ve got the rebuilding process, and you’re rebuilding their country in your own image. War is unnecessary, especially in this day and age.

The Industry

The music business is so dodgy. It’s crazy what people are capable of to get ahead. Sometimes I can’t believe the levels people fall to in the pursuit of success, and to know that that’s how it works. You get people who are like, “I’m gonna sleep with him, to get next to someone else, so that I can get that deal”, or “I’m gonna mess up his project, lie to him, then I’m gonna come in and save it, so it looks like I’m the hero”. There’s a lot of calculated mischief going on.

Islam

I try my best but I’m not a poster boy for Islam. I didn’t grow up in a Muslim community or go to an Islamic school. I was born and raised a Muslim but I wasn’t surrounded by it all the time. It was like tryna follow those rules in a world where they don’t follow those rules; that was always weird for me.

Drugs

I’ve never drunk or smoked in my life, and I think drugs are just wack. I guess my intelligence takes over and I’m just like ‘yo, that don’t make no sense’. Why would you wanna intentionally take your mind off what’s happening around you and make yourself incoherent to what’s going on? I grew up around it but I’ve always been the guy off to the left, off by myself, and people respected that.

Groupies

I avoid groupies; I duck and I dodge, I bob and I weave, it’s really about taking yourself out of those situations and being as conscious as you can about where people are gonna be and what their mind state is, and just staying away from that. Like after parties, I never go to them.

Sex before Marriage

I don’t believe in sex before marriage and I don’t advocate it, but it’s a bit late as I’ve already done it. I know there’s hypocrisy there but what can I do? I lost my virginity at 17 so it’s all out the window, but you just have to repent and move on. That’s what Ramadan’s for, to cleanse yourself and get back to zero-‘cos at the end of the day you’re human and you’re gonna have flaws-it’s never gonna be consistent, especially if you don’t live in that environment all day long, where everyone’s following the same faith.

Learning

I analyse things a lot and just sit there structuring and breaking things down. I’ve been in the industry now for about seven years, coming from the bottom to where I am now, so that has taught me a lot; you take it all in, and draw conclusions from what you see around you. I’m learning new things everyday.

Review- The Situation (Original) (2006)

After supporting Jay Z at both Wembley and then the Royal Albert Hall last month, Lupe Fiasco’s first headlining London gig was much anticipated.

Then it got cancelled due to an unrelated shooting at the Scala the night before. Finally we got to witness the man that Jigga compares to himself a few weeks later at the Islington Academy, and boy was it worth the wait.

His debut album ‘Food and Liquor’, released in the UK last month, has received much critical acclaim from artists, critics and punters alike, and no wonder why. Packed with quality tunes such as “Hurt Me Soul” and “Real”, it’s clear for all to see all why Jay Z thinks the Chi-town native is about to steal his crown. Mixing conscious hip hop with killer beats, Lupe is well and truly on his way to legendary status.

After an agonising wait, the 24-year old finally appeared on stage, welcoming everyone present to the “world famous Lupe Fiasco show”, and without further ado, burst into action. He started off with his own version of “Diamonds…” perhaps a gesture at claiming ownership over the song that Kanye West later went on to release. He then did the track that captivated him into the consciousness of hip hop lovers everywhere, Kanye’s ‘Touch the Sky’, much to the audience’s delight.

It was only after six mix tape tracks and a surprise impromptu performance from Sway (who I realised I’d seen for the third time that week!) that Lupe actually did any of his album cuts, perhaps so people could concentrate on his rhyming talents rather than the outstanding production from Kanye on the album. Sway and his partner DJ Turkish were amazing as usual, and Lupe even joined in for a collab with the London rapper towards the end of his set.

He then exploded into a powerful performance of ‘American Terrorist’, at which point he took off his jacket to reveal an image of a veiled woman brandishing a gun with the top covered by a rose on his t-shirt. The lighting turned to deep red as he performed the controversial lyrics, and everyone was captivated by the strength of his words. Being a Muslim himself, he shouted out to everyone currently fasting, saying that he had to stop in order to put on the show, but gave respect to everyone else. Speaking with him prior to the gig, he spelled out the difficulties of being a young Muslim in the notoriously excess-laden music industry. “When it comes to groupies, it’s really just about taking yourself out of those situations,” he revealed, referencing his growing female fan base.

He then went on to perform his next single; the Neptunes-produced ‘I Gotcha’, the Jay Z-featuring ‘Pressure’ and skateboard anthem ‘Kick Push’, to name but a few. Throughout the spectacle, I can only think of a couple of negatives. To start with, the lighting was rather poor, and even some of the photographers who were stationed at the front complained that they couldn’t get any good shots. This may be somewhat down to Lupe himself, as when the lights came up for one track, he requested for them to be dimmed again, creating an intimate but photographically restricting atmosphere. The final complaint relates to the last song, one of my favourites, the ode to fatherless sons everywhere, ‘He Say, She Say’. Just when I was starting to think he wasn’t going to perform it, the intro began, and I was happy. But then it got to the chorus and the beat just cut off, as if he couldn’t be bothered to do the rest! Understandably this had already happened on the night, such as with ‘Pressure’. But this locking off mid-flow was understandable as Jay Z would have had to be present in order for that song to work as a whole, but there was no excuse on this one!

Moaning aside, Lupe demonstrated what a natural performer he truly is, spitting each lyric with remarkable clarity and precision, engaging the audience fully and dancing throughout. He kept the energy levels high and left by announcing that, “you have just witnessed the world famous Lupe Fiasco show!”

Speaking with the rapper afterwards, Lupe insisted that he was not going to go to the after party, relating back to when we last spoke about groupies. “I didn’t go to the after party the other week when Jay Z was in town and I’m not going tonight. It’s just about being as conscious as you can about where people are gonna be and what their mind state is, and just tryna stay away from it”, he stated.

Although he didn’t come along to celebrate his much awaited headlining London debut, the night, for both Lupe and everyone present, was one to be forever remembered, and perhaps in years to come, we’ll be looking back and saying, “I can’t believe we were there watching Lupe’s first proper London gig, and what a gig it was!”

Album Review: Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool (2007) (Subba-Cultcha)

Chicago rapper and Kanye protégé Lupe Fiasco releases sophomore album after the success of last year’s “Food and Liquor”, which accompanied a UK tour, to much acclaim…

The album starts on a serious note, expressing Lupe’s conscious roots and setting the tone of the album, entitled “Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool”.

The start of the album also exposes his poppy tendencies but just as you’re about to write him off, a hot beat ensues, with Lupe on top form, spitting lyrics hard and fast as if his life depended on it.

He then takes us on a pleasant musical journey through his life and times, from the song “Paris, Tokyo”, to the poppy “Superstar”, as well as anthems “Hi-Definition”, “Dumb it Down”, and “Hip Hop Saved My Life”.

The album features appearances from Snoop Dogg and Bishop G, as well as production from Free Chilly and Darrale Jones, and of course Lupe himself.

The product overall contains enough beats to have you bumping your head throughout, as well as Lupe’s flowy rhymes keeping you captivated.

However this is not really an album for haters of cheese, as the album has a pop sensibility that resonates ‘til the end.

By Anna Nathanson

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