This past week, Lupe Fiasco finally graced the world with one of his most ambitious and anticipated projects to date; Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part 1. Needless to say, there has been a lot of buzz around this album.
Years and years ago, after his album The Cool, Lupe said that when he finally made a sequel to Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor it would be his last album and it would have the title L.U.P.End. He also said, it would be his next album right after The Cool making the time Lupe had left in the rap game very short. Then, he decided to stick it out a little longer, and released Lasers last year, where the world get introduced to the new Lupe: same lyrical flow, but a lot more political.
Next, there was speculation that he would retire after G.O.O.D. Music contributor Chief Keef attacked him with the following tweet earlier this month:
Chief Keep later said that this was him being hacked, but Lupe still took it pretty hard, and shocked the world with the following string of tweets:
(Note: All information and tweets were sourced from a Huffington Post article…check it out here)
Sure, many argued that Lupe might have been taking it too hard, but he is an artist and wants respect, and is offended that he didn’t get it, which is totally understandable.
Regardless, he changed his tune and said that he definitely is going to keep working at least in some capacity after this project is over, especially as he has two other music ventures going on right now: SNDCLSH (his electro DJ venture) and Japanese Cartoons (his punk band). He has hinted at maybe a name change or something along those lines in the future, but for now, nothing.
The final circumstance regarding this project is that Lupe wanted this to be a double album. His studio saw the money with such a big release and basically told him no, and there is nothing he can do it about it. He has voiced his dismay, but there was no budging. Therefore, this will DEFINITELY not be his last studio release, and everyone should be looking forward to Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part 2 coming out sometime around Christmas.
There was two overarching ideas about what this album would be like. Some thought that it could possibly a return to the old Lupe in his content, an album that would mirror the first Food and Liquor. Not as much politics, but still creative storytelling, great production, and maybe a few radio hits in there. Others thought Lupe would not veer off the track he was currently on after Lasers, using his status as a rap icon to talk about politics and create some social commentary. After the release of his two singles for the album, “Bitch Bad” and “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)”, it was clear that it would be the latter.
He also is making a statement with his album cover being, well, as a title of a track on Lasers would suggest, All Black Everything:
He said he did this to challenge Atlantic Records and see if they would actually do it, which they did. This also falls into the artistic approach of minimalism, where the idea is to use the simplest design to create the greatest effect, which I think he did very well.
Now to the Music:
The one thing that instantly jumped out to me about this album is that there is not that many standalone songs that would make radio hits, not even the singles he already released. Sure Lasers had “Words I Never Said” but even that wasn’t a really great one. In his previous two studio releases, he had a lot more big hits, like “Kick Push” or “Superstar”
Now, I am not judging the merit on the album based on this, because in reality, I think this is an amazing album. After Lasers came out, I was bitter that he went political, and that we would never get those light catchy songs he used to have. It took me awhile, but I started to appreciate his tracks on lasers for what they were, and this album just takes them to new heights.
He parallels the first Food & Liquor album with the spoken word beginning, but what is in it has changed significantly. You get a few political statements, a Trayvon Martin mention, and you know this album will be much like Lasers and nothing like Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor.
There was not a single song on the album that didn’t have social commentary in it, but that doesn’t make it bad. There were actually a few versus that really did what Lupe wanted; make you think. Think about the wars and the violence and the politics and where our country is heading. The one that instantly stuck out to me was his verse in the song “Unforgivable Youth”:
As archaeologists dig in the deserts of the east
Appeared “A pit” 100 meters wide and 100 meters deep
They discover ancient cars on even older streets
And a city well preserved and most likely at it’s peak
A culture so advanced, and by condition of the teeth
They can tell that they was civil, not barbaric in the least
A society at peace. With liberty and justice for all
Neatly carved in what seems to be a wall
They would doubt that there was any starvation at all
That they pretty much had the poverty problem all solved
From the sheer amount of paper, most likely used for trade
Everything’s so organized. They had to be well behaved
Assumed they had clean energy, but little to no enemies
Very honest leaders with overwhelming sympathies
Religions kinda complex. Kinda hard to figure out
And this must be the temple
This White. House
It’s obvious what Lupe thinks and what he wants, and he is using his music to try to get there.
Overall, am I disappointed that there is no song like “Kick, Push” or “I Gotcha” on here? A song that isn’t so deep but still has the Lupe greatness? A little.
But overall, I think this is a great album. There are no throw away songs. From beginning to end it is pristine, something most rappers don’t do anymore and really can’t do. His individuality just oozes out of this album. His word choice is always perfect, hooks are sometimes funky, sometimes solemn, but always good. There are so many things he says that others might not be able to put so eloquently. He keeps his home and family and fans close to his heart, and sporadically drops in lines about them.
How I know that this was a great album was that I didn’t want it to end. There was never any lulls or drop offs. It was consistent. Lupe Fiasco, the political activist and social reformer, has finally won me over. And I have a funny feeling I definitely will not be the only one.
Album Grade: A-