On Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor, the 24-year old Chicago emcee zooms in on the world at large, and questions societal ills through storytelling.
Does Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor Live Up to the Hype
Unless you've been hiding in a cave for the past year, you should know the name by now. After commercially premiering as a guest on Kanye West's smash hit "Touch the Sky," Lupe Fiasco quickly became a house-hold name, earning legions of fans in a nearly cult-like following. Deemed by many as a "representative" of the "next generation of hip-hop," and backed by the "CEO of Hip-Hop," Lupe Fiasco has established a strong position in the game in a relatively short amount of time. With high anticipation partly fueled by a couple leaked versions of the album deemed "classics" by many hip-hop critics, does the official release of Food & Liquor live up to the hype?
Lupe Fiasco - A Smart Lyricist
"Kick Push," Food & Liquor's first single, is a vivid and heartfelt ode to skateboarding. Despite the track's high praises and success, many were quick to dismiss Lupe as just a quirky "skateboard rapper," whatever that means. Food & Liquor tears down any misconceptions people may have had, as Lupe proves that he is in fact a very intricate and multi-faceted individual. A practicing Muslim, Lupe starts off the album with a message in Arabic: "Bismillah hir-Rahma nir-Raheem" (translation: "In the name of Allah, the most Kind and the most Merciful.") Over a speaker-thumping beat, Lupe explains his philosophy: "The world and everything in it is made up of a mix of two things: you've got your good, and your bad. You've got your food and your liquor." This philosophy represents the constant tug-of-war he and others face: the struggle between good (food) & bad (liquor, which is prohibited in Islam). Appropriately, Lupe finds a way to balance conscious, thought-provoking material with fun-loving cuts as well; but don't be fooled: Lupe maintains his integrity as a smart, skillful lyricist throughout Food and Liquor.
Compelling Tales Help Propel Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor
Over ferocious drums and horns, Lupe sets things straight on "Just Might Be OK," "I'm cool I don't foretell best/ I ain't nicest emcee/ I ain't Cornel West/ I am Cornel Westside/ Chi-Town Guevara/ Malcolm X asides the demons/ gangsta leanin'." The track is a complex tale of a youngster going through life and its many challenges. And storytelling is what Lupe does best as is evident on "The Cool," where he showcases the tale of a hustler's life. In less than 4 minutes, Lupe is able to brilliantly portray what top notch gangster flicks take 2 hours to present.
Dedicated to "everybody out there," "Hurt Me Soul," arguably Food & Liquor's most compelling track, depicts the tale of Lupe's artistic development and approaches to music and life: "Gangsta rap base filmings became the building blocks for children/ With leaking ceilings catching drippings with pots/ Coupled with compositions from 'Pac, Nas' It Was Written/ In the mix with my realities and feelings/ Living conditions/ Religion/ Ignorant wisdom and artistic vision/ I began to jot, tap the world and listen."
Finally! An Honest Rapper
He never shies away from being perfectly honest with his audience: "Now I ain't tryin' to be the greatest/ I used to hate hip-hop/ Yup! Because the women degraded/ But Too $hort made me laugh/ Like a hypocrite I played it/ A hypocrite I stated though I only recited half/ Omitting the word 'b***h'"
On "Daydreamin'," which samples I Monster's "Daydream in Blue," Lupe holds his own alongside powerhouse singer Jill Scott, not to mention a guest spot from none other than Jay-Z on "Pressure" where Lupe boasts he's got "A little "BIG" in the waist/ '2pac'/two pocket on the back." Lupe's proficient creativity with wordplay is evident, even on down-to-earth tracks such as the love-themed "Sunshine" where he quips: "Never met her before/ But I think I like her like a metaphor/ She's hard to get."