Rapper Lupe Fiasco has become a name synonymous with controversy, skepticism, and scrutiny.
Since his humble beginnings and debut in 2006 with his album Food & Liquor, there has been a level of negative commentary that followed the MC. From being introduced as a skateboarder who couldn’t skate, calling out Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh as racist and calling President Barack Obama a terrorist, Fiasco has created an out-spoken ego of sorts. The skepticism also followed the emcee with his last release, Lasers. The album, which was commonly referred to by critics as Losers (*cough cough me*) was an almost lazy effort and a project that Fiasco himself didn’t support. Whenever you have to recruit crooner Trey Songz for a jam, your album isn’t up to par. In the album, there were some highlights: “All Black Everything,” and “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now,” but as a whole not the highest moment in Fiasco’s musical career.
Fiasco’s negative place within music due to his public displays and last album all helped to make people questionable about his latest installment, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part. I which was released yesterday. For the album, Fiasco creates a project that could be the soundtrack for the black militant. Preachy on America’s injustices, the oppression of blacks through white supremacy, structural racism and etc among other topics. For the album, Fiasco recruits production from: Soundtrakk, Fatimes & Built, 1500 or Nothin’, B Sides, Severe and more, as well as collaborations from Poo Bear (lol at his name), Guy Sebastian, Casey Benjamin, Bilal and etc.
With Fiasco’s album, there are some familiar aspects – his sister Ayesha and her introductory poem, as well as the reincarnation of a favorite from Food & Liquor with “Sunshine,” this time featuring Bilal for “How Dare You.” There are components of this album that work really well, as well as things that don’t work at all (production choices). The good with the album first comes with the first official song on the album, “Strange Fruition.” For the song, Fiasco recruits singer Casey Benjamin and creates a song in a way that references Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” Holiday’s track was based on a poem by Abel Merropol, a white man, protesting lynches. With Fiasco’s update, he creates a song created around America and the institutional racism of the country. Despite the song beginning with “Now I can’t pledge allegiance to your flag/ Cause I can’t find no reconciliation with your past,” the grove of the production courtesy Soundtrakk make the content not seem so preachy.
Despite the “beef” of Fiasco using a Pete Rock & CL Smooth sample of their classic track “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y”)” with “Around My Way (Freedom)” Fiasco manages to get in many hot topics. From FEMA, Hurricane Katrina, to Ghana, Fiasco uses this track to paint a picture of the harsh realities in which we are living in. The hook of the track really drives home that point,
“Live from the other side what you see/ A bunch of nonsense on my TV/ Heaven on Earth is what I need/ But I feel I’m in hell every time I breathe/ Reporting Live from the other side what you hear/ a bunch of nonsense all in my ear/ Rich man, poor man, we all gotta pay/ cause freedom ain’t free especially ‘round my way.”
The controversial “Bitch Bad,” is an album highlight. Despite the video getting misconstrued via Spin Magazine, the track/video has a really powerful message. For the song, Fiasco addresses the way that women portray themselves sometimes and the trickling effects of them feeling this way – referring to themselves as “bitches.” Instead of elaborating on this track, I will direct you to Brandon Soderberg’s piece on Spin’s Blog about the video, as well as Jamilah Lemieux’s response via Ebony. With the fourth single from the album, “Lamborghini Angels,” Fiasco creates a song that essentially is speaking about materialism and perhaps hip-hop’s endorsement of “bling.” The religious connections that Fiasco makes on “Form Follows Function,” as well as the horn within the production makes for a great track and my favorite track on the overall album.
Being that I was an epic Lupe Fiasco fan at one point in my life, I always try to wish that his projects are good, but after the conceptual album that is The Cool, I can’t necessarily vouch for him any longer. This album is by far way better than Lasers, however it’s still not the best. What Fiasco has managed to do which is sad is try so hard to refute his “mainstream” factor. It seems like he is always in this constant battle with mainstream rap so instead of glorifying cars, hoes and all the things a nigga knows (don’t know why i used that reference) he tries to refute all things that are American and mainstream. He definitely is a great wordsmith, but I wish he wasn’t being so preachy, so anti-American and controversial just for the sake of causing controversy.
Track Highlights: “How Dare You,” “Lamborgini Angels,” “Bitch Bad” “Form Follows Function” “Unforgiveable Youth”