Lupe Fiasco "Food & Liquor" [review]

I don't get the hype surrounding Lupe Fiasco. The talk surrounding this guy, aside from the infamous leak, all I knew was Jay-Z's praise (so much so that he helped executive produce this, for good or ill) and that verse off of Kanye's latest. The usual internet chatter had Lupe stacked as the second coming, and while this guy possesses skills on the mic, it just seemed like empty hype. I joked earlier this year in regards to what this dude invokes in my mind when I hear his music: he is Pharrell imitating Kanye. His swagger is total Chi-town, but his sound and aesthetic is that pseudo-"retro Hip-Hop" shit that Pharrell constantly preaches (giving props to ATCQ and originality while still choosing flavor of the month beats and wearing chunky fucking medallions). That mixture might invoke magic for some, but for me, it's pretty much just the same old song.

My first gripe about this album is the fact that he constantly talks about seeing the bad side of life, and growing up in Chicago, I know those streets are ROUGH. I just don't get how, when it comes to Hip-Hop, the hardest nigga out right now from the Chi is Common. Common? ... but I digress. Taking Lupe's past musical musings into light, he does know a thing or 3 about "crack rap", although he chooses to shun that to speak about things like skateboarding, his Muslim views, and fatherless homes. His hang up is that, while Jay might say he is a breath of fresh air, that air is long on flash and short on substance.

On tracks like "He Say, She Say", he literally re-rhymes the first verse on the second, in this tale of a parent and child trying to get Dad to understand what his absence from the home is doing to them. I figured that he'd have this 3rd verse where he let the father speak his piece, but no dice. So instead of us getting to see the whole picture, we are left with a mother who seemingly shouts her disdain for dad so much that her son has picked up on it. His first single (I don't know if you'd call it a hit), "Kick, Push", is about skaters who try to do things (go on dates, ride around town), and get shut down by the man. End of. I mean, OK they kick, push and then coast, but where's the joy in that? No real time to trick, they just get roadblocked all the way? Is that the message he really wants to bring? "The Cool" revisists one of my favorite breaks, James Brown's "Funky Drummer", to some success, but the storyline is muddy... apparently, this gangsta who got murked 6 months ago somehow rises from the dead and... walks around. He makes a lot of witty remarks about this dude getting robbed in the same spot he got popped and all this other flash, but the track does not have a moral, aside from the fuzzy "if you chase the cool you gonna get popped" theme, which is not really explored. Like most of his ideas.

The other problem I have with Lupe and a lot of the rappers coming out today is that everyone wants to resurrect Hip-Hop. That's all well and good if you go about it the proper way (boom bap beats, gritty rhymes, etc); you are NOT bring back that "true shit" by making throwaway Linkin Park-sounding tracks, or throwing Jay-Z on the most garbage instrumental I have ever heard. You cannot escape the trapping of commercial Rap by catering to that audience. He has the neo-soul, the Fort Minor, and the pseudo Roc fans on lock, but that real Hip-Hop? It goes about as far as the instrumental to "Kick, Push", which has just the right amount of jazz and soul to it to make it work. "I Gotcha" is an exception, because that piano sample (Monk?) that Pharrell and co. hook up is mint.

In the end, Lupe should have proofread some of this ideas. Take "American Terrorist" for example. The idea behind this track, obviously, is to show how American is just as terroristic as the guys who fly planes into buildings. The thing is, the title would have been better suited to be called just plain old "Terrorist". Throwing the "American" in there not only undermines the educated fans who know what the fuck a terrorist is, but it also indicates that there is some difference between "American terrorism" and the terrorism from places in the Middle East, for example, when in fact, terrorism is terrorism. On another tip, why do we need a 12 minute shout-outro? Did they run out of ink for your booklet? Too many missteps, not enough progress.

Look, Lupe suffers from what many others in his boat suffer from: too much seasoning, not enough experience. If this album took him years to make, maybe he should go back and let it marinate. Like Sam Jackson said in Juice: "You can't pour syrup and shit and make it pancakes". You can't throw big name supporters and flashy production ontop of underdeveloped ideas and call it revolution. While many may herald Lupe as some second-coming or the next torch-bearer for conscious Hip-Hop, he is just another bitchmade Muslim who used to rap about gat-toting to me. Until he keeps it all the way real, keep it out of my Best Buy bins.

And where the fuck in the world does being the biggest seller at Best Buy truly mean anything?!

rock the dub gives this album a 5 out of 10: sorry choruses, pointless stories and a tired, non-believable format make this one lazy collection for the true Hip-Hop listener.

related links:
official Lupe Fiasco website
Lupe Fiasco's MySpace page
Lupe Fiasco's Atlantic Records webpage
LupeFiasco.net (fansite)
Lupe Fiasco's hypebeast blog


Motive said...

I'm with ya on this. And i was into him on the Revenge Of The Nerds mixtape (Fort Minor excursions aside). he had double times, clever analogies, crime raps, some lightweight politics, some decent instrumentals. then someone played me Food & Liquor. i struggled to find a new track that i liked, many of the beats were weak, guest vocalists & choruses were painful. to quote Jay Z "had a spark when you started..."

FWMJ said...

what a wonderful review.

Anonymous said...

Lupe fiasco is sweet. you seem to think rappers have to be "hard" for instance, when you say the "hardest rapper from chicago is common" as if common is a punk or something. just because you rap about something that requires intelligence instead of spreading ignorance among the youth and speaking about crack doesn't mean you aren't "hard." Lupe fiasco is going to become a great rapper and his first album was nice.

khal said...

I don't think rappers HAVE to be hard. I just think its funny how, from pretty much any other region where hiphop has made its mark, if there is a hard area, there are "harder" MCs. I think its odd how guys like Lupe, Common and Kanye all speak on the ills, but there doesnt seem to be a 'hard' rapper. I love Common's work, never disliked his flow... and to be honest, if you want to get into it, Common's comments on interracial relationships is a cut below not spreading ignorance. Kanye's as well.

I still stand by my views - I do not like Lupe at all.

Anonymous said...

you need to check out the leaked version

Anonymous said...

Would you feel differently if he hadn't been hyped as much, and been co signed by jigga?

khal said...

if FOOD & LIQUOR was the exact same lp, from the exact same MC, without the hype and with a jay-z co-sign? no.

jay-z cosigning shit doesn't make me giddy - i didnt like Fort Minor, nor did i like Memphis Bleek.

Anonymous said...

WOW are you serious man lupe's lyrics are better than every new mc.his lyrics must be to over your head man. his wordplay is sick your probably the guy who's into these dances that are coming out everyday in hip-hop. saying food and liqour is bad is like saying lil wayne is better than jay-z

khal said...

"his wordplay is sick your probably the guy who's into these dances that are coming out everyday in hip-hop"

you're probably the guy who makes retarded assumptions based on one review. his wordplay is alright, not necessarily sick or better than any "new" MC.

and me being into these dances that come out everyday? nah, again, you are making half-asses assumptions, trying to mark on me. try that with someone else.

enigmatik said...

Food and Liquor is average at best. I can listen to maybe three songs a year after its release and can only name 1 out of those three (Kick, Push). Joell Ortiz sons Lupe IMO. To each his/her own...I ain't checkin' too hard for Lupe at this point.

Anonymous said...

i think it was in paragraph 4 u said u didnt get the morals and the meanings in the songs kick push and the cool....wat he says in some of the songs have double meaning..like in kick push hes trying to say through out life u have to stay focused and keep moving forward thats wat the whole kick push chorus is about in the song

Anonymous said...

I so disagree with you on this. Let me say this. You rather listen to some bullshit stupid rapper that talks about hoes, money, and cars. This is what makes Lu different. He's unique. He doesn't have to be a Jay or a Common. He's not trying to bring nothing back, but start something new.

khal said...

its not about what i would rather listen to. i grew up on krs-one, x-clan, loads of rappers who spoke more about social issues and black power and not so much about the gangsta side of things. its just the way he does it. i dont like his flows, i dont like the beat selections. i am just not a fan of his. i applaud him trying to be different and speak on things other rappers won't, but just because you come from that lane does not mean i have to praise your work.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunatley i have the food & liquor album and the leaked version is a lot better which pretty much shows what happens when we download it ust leaves the people who pay for it short changed of the original concept and left with the reminents of a decent album kinda like lloyd banks second album in which the mixtape thats filled with the coulda woulda shouldve been on the album cuts out shine the actual album but thats just my opinion