Release Date: Sep 25, 2012
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, Midwest Rap, Political Rap
"Hope my stories . . . keep your sons out the slums and your daughters out of orgies," raps Lupe Fiasco on his fourth album. Like a lot of firebrands, Lupe's got a messianic streak. But it's hard to begrudge his swelled head: What other chart-topping star packs his songs full of radical politics ….
Lupe Fiasco appears to be in a better place than he was the last time he came around pushing a proper studio release with Lasers. No public label disputes or New York City sanctioned protests organized by his rabid fan base were needed to secure a release date. No petulant outbursts about hating the album just weeks before hitting retail. Sure, there was a second President Obama flap, too many Chief Keef mentions, and another inevitable collision with a notable publication, but that’s beginning to feel like par for L-U-P-Enigma.
Lupe Fiasco :: Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap AlbumAtlantic RecordsAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' PadaniaThe battle between record labels and artists will never cease. Yet, it only ever seems to be the artists taking the worst of the flak. Case in point: Lupe Fiasco. Atlantic Records, for reasons unbeknownst to anyone apart from themselves, attempted to convert a Ferrari by hacking the roof off, sticking a refrigerator in the trunk, and selling gelato to local kids.
Oh, Lupe. You were the savior. You were the future of hip hop. You were the next generation. That was our fault—we apologize—it was far too much pressure. But hey, it made you rich, it made you successful, it put your dissenting face on Bill O’Reilly. For a minute you were sharing space with ….
Why the hip-hop community loves to embrace repeat record titles is beyond logical comprehension. Jay-Z’s decision to follow up his second masterpiece, The Blueprint, with The Blueprint 2, an ambitious double disc that was widely chided for staining the Blueprint namesake, wasn’t just criticized, it was utterly dismissed. Even The Blueprint 3, which wasn’t a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, failed to live up to the original Blueprint hype.
For all the artist-label snags Lasers hit prior to its birth, the album topped the Billboard 200, while one of its singles, "The Show Goes On," became Lupe Fiasco's second Top Ten Hot 100 hit. As that album was in limbo, Fiasco began working on his confusingly titled fourth album, a 69-minute "part one" of a sequel to his 2006 debut. It's most certainly not a Lasers sequel.
Lupe Fiasco doesn't give you anything straight: Not a verse, a simile, or a song, and certainly not an album. As an artist, he's helplessly drawn toward perversity, and despite his immense gifts-- a curious, darting mind, a silver tongue, a rich imagination-- his career has at times resembled a performance-art dare to see how far one can coast on unearned goodwill. By the time his fans had rallied to petition Atlantic Records to release what turned out to be 2011's transparently awful pop-rap debacle Lasers, Lupe was looking less like a savior than a charlatan.
F&L II momentarily threatened to be rapper Lupe Fiasco's final album after an ugly Twitter altercation with another rhymer, up'n'comer Chief Keef, found the highly evolved, practising Muslim appalled by the violence of the younger generation. The beef is over, but F&L II would still make a proud swansong. Standout single Bitch Bad examines how language shapes attitudes with forensic nuance (and piss-taking Auto-Tune).
“I know you’re sayin’, ‘Lupe rappin’ ‘bout the same shit/ Well that’s ‘cause ain’t shit changed, bitch,” says Mr. Fiasco on “ITAL [Roses]”, the third track off his fourth LP, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part 1. As the title tells us, it’s both an effort to hark back to his debut glory days and a testament to the self-indulgent nature of this 16-track record.
The great American novel is a dream writers can aspire to but never achieve. A similar fate has befallen Chicago's Lupe Fiasco, though whether he'll notice is another matter. Actively shunning sexism and violence, Fiasco stands out from many of his hip-hop peers. But he does so in such portentous fashion – "revered by the rich, approved by the poor" – that you wish he'd spend more time singing about his cars (which he also does on this album).
There's nobody else, really. Doing stuff like this in hip-hop, I mean. Not now. Certainly not in the mainstream that Lupe Fiasco has cannily, and against the odds, infiltrated. Nor, I'm reliably informed, outside it - although I confess I'll have to take that one on trust. It's a while, you see ….
Lupe Fiasco is a polarizing figure. It’s both his subjects and subjectivity—his music and interviews are typically marked by potentially controversial claims—as well as his musical style—dense lyrical exhibitions—that simultaneously have built his army of admiring fans and shaped the criticisms of his detractors. He’s experienced some turmoil over the last few years, with Twitter rants, promises of impending retirement, clashes with his label and the release of the compromise-filled 2011 album Lasers.
On his new disc, Fiasco continues to be an anomaly in today’s hip-hop scene, which is driven by huge beats and drunk on silly metaphors. The erudite MC is once again preoccupied with the dumbing-down of America, the decline of social structures, and the empowerment of people, among other things. This is the first half of what was originally a double-CD (the second drops in early 2013) and it’s a challenging set that refuses to settle for easy rhymes or facile ideas.