Music Mondays, Case #8 – Lupe vs. Chief Keef, Food & Liquor II

First off, my severe lack of blog posts is due to Borderlands 2, the game that generated an insane amount of views for this blog, which I really appreciate. But I am never one to forget Music Mondays!

Late this summer, Lupe Fiasco got into it with Chief Keef, the young rapper from Lupe’s hometown best known for “I Don’t Like.” On August 29, Lupe discussed being fearful of the 17 year-old rapper, and the youth movement he represents. Specifically the violence and the increased murder rate in Chicago, where Lupe’s own family resides.

Naturally, Keef responded, saying that he would smack Lupe.

I guess you can say Lupe’s “the shit he don’t like?”

For someone who is very interested in hip-hop music and what’s going on, both underground and mainstream, this whole exchange was eye-roll-worthy. Not because of Chief Keef’s threats, but because it was just another incident in Lupe’s chain of “smartest guy in the room” comments regarding hip-hop.

Now, Lupe’s always been a great lyricist, from his early anthem “Kick, Push” to his career-making feature on “Touch the Sky,” to one of my all-time favorites in “Dumb it Down.” But that doesn’t mean he deserves to go around insulting artists like 2 Chainz (even if I do that too) and claiming that 97% of hip-hop is terrible.

Anyways, what was actually surprising about this mini-non-feud between Lupe and Keef was how it (maybe?) ended: with Lupe giving a “shout out” to Keef at a show. Lupe is not one to back off, so this certainly raised some eyebrows.

Just a thought…

CUE FOOD AND LIQUOR II: THE GREAT AMERICAN RAP ALBUM.

Rather than painstakingly going through the album on a song-to-song analysis with YouTube videos, like I usually do, coughcoughCruelSummercoughcough, I want to look at this album as a whole and how it fits in Lupe’s career.

Between “Daydreamin'” and “Dumb it Down,” Lupe had some of my favorite all-time hip-hop songs. Food and Liquor and The Cool were great, conscious hip-hop albums. Then came along L.A.S.E.R.S and a major dispute between Lupe and the record label. It produced some really bad songs like “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now,” (which I must admit is still a guilty pleasure) while leaving off arguably its best track, “Shining Down,” off the main listing.

So, Lupe felt like he had something to prove with this album, to make a statement that he was going to create the music he wanted to create. And he surely has achieved that with Food and Liquor II.

The pairing of “Audubon Ballroom” and “Bitch Bad” discuss word usage in the hip-hop community, exploring racial and gender roles. His lyrics live in the grey area, confronting white guilt and misogyny in this great, cerebral one-two punch.

“Lamborghini Angels,” on the other hand, while sounding pleasant, has some serious cringe-worthy content. That’s for sure not to say Lupe’s delivery or lyricism is poor, but that he is willing to rap about subjects that it seems other artists would childishly make fun of. This song is what Lupe really wants to bring out on this album: political and social perspective.

After insulting saying he didn’t vote for Obama on Lasers’ “Words I Never Said,” then calling him a terrorist, Lupe has certainly stirred up some controversy. He addresses the elephant in the room rather quickly in “ITAL (Roses),” but is much more effective politically in the jazzy, soulful “Around This Way (Freedom Ain’t Free).”

While the album is certainly passionate and demonstrates Lupe’s position as one of hip-hop’s greatest lyricist, Food and Liquor can also be pretty boring. If “Audubon Ballroom” and “Bitch Bad” are Jordan and Pippen, then “Heart Donor” and “How Dare You” are Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell.

Following the two-song snoozefest is “Battle Scars,” which is fantastic track. It’s got the motivational feel that “Show Goes On” had, while Guy Sebastian beautifully fills in for what Matthew Santos had provided for Lupe for years. Sebastian certainly sounds different than Santos (the man behind “Superstar,” “American Terrorist,” and “Shining Down”) but still has the same type of chemistry.

In all, this album goes back to the Lupe that fans knew before Lasers. It’s not for everyone, but Lupe’s passion and energy can restore faith in the people who return to the “hip-hop is dead” trough that seems to happen with every Waka or Soulja Boy song. While that cliche is certainly tired, it’s tough to say the same for Food and Liquor.

It’s a deep album that requires a lot of its listeners, but with hidden gems like the military-feeling “Brave Heart,” mixed with the powerful, thoughtful singles, there is a ton of replay value here. Welcome back, Lupe.

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