Lupe Fiasco walks an extremely tight rope. On each side of this rope lies mainstream – and on the other, relevance. Lupe, if I may call him that, is a circus performer. Never faltering, never wavering.
Mainstream, an extremely opinionated and sensitive concept, often takes on a highly negative persona. It mostly resembles a “sell-out” no longer pushing the boundaries of creation, taking the easy way out in the simplest form. Maintaining relevance while also sharing an art that reaches the masses, aka mainstream, is a seemingly impossible challenge.
Combining the previous two paragraphs, it is clear where I am going with this piece. Lupe Fiasco has, from his introduction, been able to balance these two notions which otherwise would have been beyond the realm of possibility. In his second straight year, he has released another socially/politically conscious record.
Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part 1 takes the silver medal for longest album title (Bring Me The Horizon wins that battle), but his work suggests he couldn’t care less. The rapper maintains his focus on lyrical content and staying meaningful. The purposeful approach allows him to speak his mind and in doing so, the man behind the mic is a visionary and a superstar. Lupe’s approach will more than likely never be questioned or critiqued in the negative light. For this reason, it is safe to say he will probably never release anything less than good.
“Battle Scars,” the track that most will recognize, is highly likable. Not many songs will stand up to the single, that is for sure. “Cold War,” however, is the most profound track to be found within the 16 on the album. It’s conversational and honest (most of his work is honest, but this SOUNDS honest, if that makes sense). The cut is natural and simple and I truly believe that is what makes it stand out so brilliantly.
My jive with Lupe is his ability. Listening to Royce da 5’9″ and the rest of Slaughterhouse, it is extremely tough for me to accept Lupe’s rhyming strength. While his strength is profound and brilliant, he flows into the mainstream with his vocal talents. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, it is just a minor peeve I can’t seem to get past in the everyday.
In relative comparison to last year’s Lasers, Lupe stands firm in presenting himself in front of the general population, opening up his heart and opening our ears. While the album is decidedly and critically better than Lasers, it is just another chapter in the publications authored by Wasalu Muhammad Jaco.
For Those Who Like: Nas‘ Hip Hop Is Dead – Common‘s The Dreamer/The Believer – Mos Def‘s The Ecstatic