I’m giving Lupe Fiasco another chance. A lot of people will ask me ‘why? Lasers (his last album which I purchased) was trash’, and it’s true, I didn’t like it because it strayed far away from the sound that we were introduced to in Food & Liquor, and what we fell in love with in The Cool. Lasers was like that experimental project that was just Lupe saying “alright, let me try some shit here and see if the people will f*ck with it.” Well, Lupe, the people didn’t do that. He was better off not doing the project in the first place, just so he could spare us the ear abuse. Now, I’m not going to lie, there were some songs that I liked (Words I Never Said, All Black Everything, Shining Down, Show Goes On, I’m Beaming), but the overall sound wasn’t what I liked at all, but as my friend Rebecca said to me before, “you have to show artists respect for trying something that they’re not used to,” which I do, but it doesn’t make it good, but that was in the past. Now, we’re moving forward.
I thought his next album was going to be L.U.P.End as we all heard him say on ‘Gotta Eat’, but after Lasers, what was going to happen? He released a couple of mixtapes (one of them primarily focused on the dub-step sound – Friend of the People), and then when he released ‘Around My Way’, and then announced his next album (being this one here), I had a sense that the Lupe of old may not have just departed from Hip Hop just yet. Everyone knows that Lupe is a strong opinionated person, and he’s politically vocal. Not only is he pro-black and forward with the uplifting of the race and encouraging all to be themselves (that’s how we first started liking him in the first place), he emphasizes it well when it comes to his songs, and on this album, he goes back to that style and embraces it. It’s refreshing to hear.
F&L2 starts off on a spoken word piece by a woman named Ayesha, and she dives into the comparisons and contrasts of war in the middle east & the Chicago streets. Comparing a war-torn country to a seemingly civil war-torn city is often something that has mainly been brought up a lot by rappers. One notable line came from Sedrew Price when he said on a track called ‘Let It Out’ (From the Basic Training mixtape)
“We got a war where our own grass grow(s)
It’s Iraq when I open my back door”
If you’re current with social media and whatnot, you’d know that Lupe Fiasco had an exchange of words with another Chicago rapper, 17-year old Chief Keef, via Twitter and was basically stating that he didn’t like the direction the kid was going with his lifestyle and his music. That prompted Lupe to stating that he’s going to retire after this album is finished (I actually believe he will), because he doesn’t want to be involved with the demise of his beloved hip hop. It may be deeper than that, but that’s what I took from it.
The intro did a good job in painting a picture of some of the struggles that ‘Black America’ is dealing with and how it relates to the War in the Middle East, and it sets the tone of the album. Politically driven, positive messages, and social awareness being raised in different areas that are often overlooked.
The way that Lupe starts off the album with Strange Fruition is deep because he says:
“Now I can’t pledge allegiance to your flag
Cause I can’t find no reconciliation with your past”
Now, for the people that may not know the significance of the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ (mind you, I don’t know much about it either), it’s basically the first thing kids say at school, and soldiers say when joining the ranks and fighting for their country (Americans are always fighting, gotta love it). The Pledge states:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Now, what Lupe has done was basically start off saying “NO SIR! NOT ME!” because he doesn’t believe that this is what America is standing for and he hasn’t forgiven their past as the country owns up to their responsibility for it. He’s strong on believing that the government is full of corrupt individuals that basically have policies in place so that Black people are destined to…fail, in a sense. Black people weren’t equal for a long time, and many still don’t see it as them being equal or will ever BE equal, so they treat them like crap and let them fend for themselves with less opportunities than the next race. The trials and tribulations of the everyday struggle is just something that Black people have to endure on a daily basis and Lupe is pretty much highlighting that here. Fruition is a word that is defined as “the point at which a plan or a project is realized”, so basically without even knowing, the “plan” being talked about is either the corruption of the government, or the fruition of his album coming together and now you’re about to hear what he has to say since it’s been built up for a long time. Lupe is from Chicago, this isn’t news to anyone, but what is news is the growing amount of violence in Chicago that sees more deaths than hours in a day or even a weekend. This past summer was deadly, as it seemed like everyday there were more climbs of death toll numbers, and Lupe is basically going through his city trying to assess exactly why it’s happening and that pretty much segues to talking about the music industry (which he’s quite fond of – I say this sarcastically), and how they just want to get rich off of your downfall, and it’s much more than what it looks like when it comes to the records. He ends off the song by saying “Hello evil, I’m back”. Evil being the mainstream music industry (Or maybe specifically Atlantic Records because of their on-going beef). One thing that I kind of thought about but I didn’t think it related to the song, was the phrase “fruits of labour”, and that’s defined as “showing off the hard work that you put in” and really, what Lupe has put in is a lot of work in this rap game, so he’s showing it off, but he’s doing it with a strong message for the people.
ITAL is a rastafarian dish that is supposed to increase ‘life energy’ (Rap Genius taught me Dead Prez – Be Healthy Lyrics), so, in the way of the rasta and how they want to promote a peaceful living amongst them and tranquility, that’s the message of this song. There’s already so many rappers talking about Cocaine (Pusha T, French Montana, Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, etc.), and an ABUNDANCE of rappers talking about Strippers (the same list as before, but add about 25 more rappers on there), so Lupe is walking to houses, knocking on doors, and handing out cease and desist forms for rappers to just CALM DOWN and simply talk about something else, because it’s like an on-going Ferris Wheel of repetitive rap, although most of them live that life. But how long do you have to tell the same story? I doubt that you’re STILL on the corner slangin’ rocks, and you probably have enough money to swim in, so what’s really going on here? But besides that little nugget, he takes a couple of shots at Chief Keef
“Hey shawty, ain’t no future in no gang-bang
And ain’t no manhood in no bang-bang”
Chief Keef regularly says “Bang Bang” on his songs implying that he’s shooting people, and he’s from the
grimey (should I say grimey?) more unfortunate part of Chicago where violence is just a regular thing, and he pretty much just raps about that because that’s what he’s surrounded by. This happens in every city, but because there has been so much attention in Chicago this summer because of the crazy violence, it makes it more significant. Lupe just wants rappers to bring it back to being real, and he wasn’t to bring back that “feel good” hip hop. Take a moment to smell the ‘roses’ and appreciate what they have. Not everyone can have the same mentality of Lupe, but it doesn’t hurt to attempt to inspire a few people in the process.
Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free) received a lot of controversy when it came out because it uses the sample of Pete Rock’s ‘T.R.O.Y (They Reminisce Over You), and Pete Rock was pretty damn upset, if you remember the whole fiasco (ahh you see what I did there) that went down on Twitter. But, from the more knowledgeable Lupe Fiasco fans, he had already did a track (freestyle) over the same beat called ‘Dopeboy’, so I guess because this was an actual song as opposed to being a freestyle, it conjured up some controversy. Fair, but I don’t think it was a big deal.
The idea behind this song is Lupe taking more shots at the industry and also more depictions of the way of life in the United States contrasting the good from the bad, but mainly focusing on the struggles and the ugly pictures of what’s going on in the world. Lupe does his best to bring the real issues to the mic and to tell the blind public to open their eyes to reality and it’s evident in the hook that all there is fabricated junk on TV to distract the viewers from the bigger picture, so he’s going to bring the picture to you, and tell you that the way freedom looks isn’t exactly how it is when you see it. There’s always a deeper meaning beyond the words with Lupe, and he’s one of the great rappers that have that ability to paint a vivid portrait with his words, even if it’s constantly repetitive. ‘Words I Never Said‘ is an example of his political views that he expresses affably on this album. The video for this song takes a different approach from the lyrics, because it shows Lupe appearing to have all of the glamorous things that rappers nowadays have, but it turns out that he’s just renting them. Another play on the “Freedom Ain’t Free’ imagery that’s depicted.
“The Audubon ballroom was a theatre and ballroom located on Broadway at 165th Street in the Washington Heights neighbourhood of Upper Manhattan, north of Harlem in New York. It is best known as the site of Malcolm X’s assassination on February 21, 1965” – (Via Rap Genius – Audubon Ballroom Lyrics)
I just found that out as I was researching about it, so that’s an interesting piece of nugget to hold on to. Malcolm X was a man who started out as your typical black man back in the 40s (Watch Malcolm X – best known as the Oscar that Denzel Washington SHOULD have won). Flashy, outgoing, popular, but still treated like crap because Black people didn’t have rights like that, right? But then after being incarcerated, he changed his life, devoted to the Muslim faith, and was the active vocalist for the Nation of Islam, and also a main contributor for the Civil Rights Movement, even if that meant he had to be a bit controversial in the process. He was a man of action, and sometimes the actions that were enforced weren’t ethical, but they were ‘necessary’. How that can relate to this song by Lupe is that he dives into history of Black people and just where they are as a race today, lyrically preaching in the ways that Malcolm X did because he stood for the uplifting of black people, and he really..really…REALLY didn’t like white people, and Lupe’s hook is witty because of the on-going debate that’s still happening: Can white people say “nigga”? That’s another topic for another day, but on the second part of the hook, Lupe says, ‘…black people, we’re not niggas/God made us better than that’. There is a difference between Black People & Niggas (Chris Rock broke it down the best), and most people will say that the N-word should just not be used, period (I’m guilty of using it, but I’m human), and it’s true, there is a history behind, but I think that’s why it’s still used today. To remind people of the history, but…because of rap music, it’s become “okay” to say by all races. Lupe’s saying that it’s not. Lupe’s praising Black America, and is calling for its uplift and forward progress. Isn’t that what we all want in the first place? Obama’s in office, so why not? I’m not a Black American, but it still applies. Good song nonetheless.
Bitch Bad is probably one of the best songs Lupe has made since ‘Dumb It Down’, and here’s why I say this – because it has a significant meaning and takes shots at industry rappers today that just rap about ‘Bad bitches’ and strippers on the pole talking about how the bands make her dance (no diss to Juicy J, I love that song). But, let’s just be real for a second, if we can. There’s a time and place for everything. Not all of the stripper music and whatnot is meant for the TVs and everything about Bad Bitches as well. This is why clubs were made. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when what you heard on the radio and saw on TV also played in the club because it was good music. The party music from then (by then, I mean like 10 years ago), and the party music now are completely different things. You can’t really dance to it like you used to, but that’s the point now. It’s not for everyone to dance…mainly girls to dance to, but let me digress. Lupe goes into what’s seemingly played out into a cinematic tale about a boy and a girl. Two different perceptions of what Bad Bitches are and how they treat them. The boy reflects it towards the attitude of his mother in a negative way, the girl looks at it in a positive light because it’s what guys “appear to want”. I shouldn’t have even put quotation marks, because there are guys that DO want “bad bitches”, but the idea is that these kids are younger and not yet trained to know any better. Why this is great is because it takes a step into the light saying “listen…our children are watching everything we put out and perceive it as okay to do, when it’s really not”, but to be completely honest, that happens in EVERY generation. When I compare it to Uncle Luke, Trick Daddy, Too $hort, and even Mystikal (Shake Ya Ass? Come on, we all remember that), this will always be an ongoing thing. I think it’s because the internet is making these kids smarter, younger, is why Lupe took the tone of this song in that direction. He did a good job (and check out the video too, it’s really good), and as I’ve said before, it’s one of his best songs that he put out in his career, and I stand by that.
“I see diamond flooded demons, Lamborghini angels
Halos down with the doors flapping when they came through
Windows up, system bumping, you the one they sang to
Same two, who said they the ones you should send your thanks through
Pockets full of blessings, they can sanctify and saint you” – Lupe Fiasco – Angels [Listen Here]
Those are the original lines that were sampled in the opening hook on Lamborghini Angels, and it’s also one of my favourite Lupe Fiasco tracks ever. This song, when it came out, I had to listen to it a few times to kind of gain the grasp of what it was all about. I enjoy the beat, and it had that electronic feel to it (Laser-like), but it wasn’t over the top and it blended in well. Now, listening to this song, you hear a lot of references to religious (Angels, Demons, Crucifix, Bible, etc.) and at first I think it’s more than just religion, but it’s more of the things that are praised LIKE religion in today’s society, for example – Lamborghinis & Diamonds. Another Chris Rock quotable: “America worships money… I’ve been looking for God my whole life, and he’s right in my POCKET!” Think about it, look at how many rappers you see in videos talking about Bugattis, Testarossas, and whatever other Italian supercar you can think of. G.O.O.D Music put out a song called ‘Mercy’ (Lamborhini Murcielago is what it’s named after), and the word ‘mercy’ has always tied in with biblical references and it just adds to the point of the song, and that’s just the hook. The issues touch on issues like womens’ rights & their self esteem, and also issues with the Catholic church on their priests behaviours outside of the public light, but then come back around to preach to you about the bible. Oh, the contradictions. Lupe makes you think, and there are times when you’ll be confused by what he says, but listening hard enough will let you know that he’s teaching through rap. It’s pretty amazing when you look at it.
Put Em Up feels like a coming of age story. Went from being the lowly and underrated, to becoming heir to the throne about to assume his position as a king (in this case – of hip hop). He’s moving on to a bigger plateau and he’s showing off his crown jewels (more royalty wordplay) to the industry letting them know that he’s here to stay (and we gladly welcome it). This song is more of a “show me my respect” kind of song, because he’s trying to earn by the ears of those who listened to Lasers (AHEM) and let them know that he’s the real deal and he has proof to show it based on his past successes. You can’t front, he does have a lot of credibility to his name.
Who wants to be an organ donor? Show of hands……I didn’t think that many people would want to be an organ donor because of religious beliefs, but when people tell you to “give your heart” to something, meaning that you put your all into it with no holding back, that’s sort of like donating your life to something right? Well, that’s what Lupe is saying on Heart Donor’, and it’s one of my favourite songs on the album because he’s reaching out to the people saying that he’s making this music in hopes that you take his love of this and use it for good in your own life and that it steers you away from the negative lifestyle that say…another rapper (not throwing any shade, BUT…it rhymes with ‘Leaf’) might encourage a more negative one (hence the reference to Maury).
Everything I got, I give it all to you
My heart and my soul, I give it all to you
Cause I’m a heart donor
Another popular culture reference made was John Q. Now, if you’ve seen the movie, you understand what it’s about. If not, I won’t spoil much, but the whole premise is that a father is trying to find a heart for his son, and at one last chance of desperation he…AHHHH you thought I was going to spoil it, but you get the idea. Watch the movie. The connection is that he wants to give his heart to the rap game for his fans. The soulful Lupe is back where he belongs. Can I get an Amen?
BILAL?! Where the hell? How’d Lupe find him? I haven’t heard from this guy in years it seems, but here he is on the album. Crazy. FIRST THING’S FIRST! I love this beat. The vibe was bouncy, it was soulful, god damn it, it was Hip Hop seeping with excellence. Now, let me stop foaming for a bit. Okay, so we knew that the inevitable ‘song for the ladies’ was coming, and on Lasers it was that song with Trey Songz, which really wasn’t THAT terrible, but I definitely prefer How Dare You; better singer for the hook and better song overall. Glamour and glitz is what drives a man to show off to a woman that dares test his ability to contain himself because she’s so gorgeous. This woman is so gorgeous, it’s intimidating him to look at her and it’s like “God damn…how the hell did I get with you? That ain’t even right. I demand some sort of explanation.” This one is a feel good time, and it brings a good bounce during the deep introspective parts of this album.
Okay, so he goes from gushing over a woman to this song about having to fight over love and enduring the Battle Scars that he got while in love and they’ll never fade because they’re too deep? Deep. Love is a battle, Lauryn Hill taught us, and this song is the perfect (okay not quite) explanation through the words of rap. The scars won’t fade, and it’s hard to move on from something that we’ve cared so much about. Guy Sebastian – I’ve never heard of the guy, but listen, he killed it on this song, I’m not even going to lie. I’m not a fan of love at the moment, because yes there are scars that I wish left but they’ll always be apart of me. A lot of people can relate, which is why this is such a great song to listen to. Ok Lupe.
We’re almost at the finish line, folks. Thank you for reading thus far. Go get yourself a water, a snack, go tweet or something about how great this review is (You know it is), but it’s almost done.
Sticking with the heart theme it seems, Lupe on Brave Heart goes back to tell you how he started this all off and how you’ve got to this point with Food & Liquor II. He’s had a lot of success and of course money comes with it and you spend a bit. Lupe prays to God and asks him to forgive him of his expenses (Vanity Slave), but can you blame him? He’s from Chicago…many people don’t make it out to see the kind of success Lupe has. Braveheart is a classic movie about one’s strength in the face of war. Basically he’s showing his strength during his own personal war with the industry. Looks like he’s overcome his battle, huh?
Form Follows Function is a cool song because it seems like Lupe is running over a bunch of different topics after every other line, but he groups it together in the end. He just does what he’s doing and it’ll all work out in the end: Form. Follows. Function. It’s a great concept, and it rattles your brain a bit, but what else is new? It’s Lupe, and that’s why he’s intriguing to the ear, because aside from the mindless songs we listen to on a regular basis that don’t require much thought, he makes us literally sit down and dig deep into our cerebrums to decipher what the HELL he’s talking about. It’s a good time. The vivid wordplay and his bouncing back and forth between lines from verses is crazy. Great track. Top 5 on the album, but it’s really hard to pick just 5.
Inner battles are what we have to endure, right? Battle Scars & Brave Hearts emphasize war, well this one explains that this is a Cold War for Lupe. It’s grim, it’s dark, you can feel the shivers of numbness and loss on this song, because it’s really that sombre, but he’s bringing it down to a human level that you have to go through emotions and losses to feel human and to become something better so you can rise above the down times. That’s what this album is about; Lupe suffered a loss, but is using this album to get through it, to channel his energy through his ‘war’ to progress from the bullshit he’s enduring. It’s deep. I like it a lot.
I won’t lie, I didn’t like Unforgivable Youth all that much, but the idea behind it was deep because we’ve all done things (well, if you had an eventful youth) that can’t be forgiven, but Lupe is referring to America as a child and in its early years, the discovery (birth), and then the phases of growing up (slavery, war, the takeover of the natives in the country), and the reason why this is such a striking song is because a lot of people today have to admit that America needs to own up to what they did in the past. There have never been any answers for slavery (certainly no reparations), and you can’t run away from your past, no matter how big you get. Unforgivable things were done, and you have to always have that ingrained in the back of your mind. I just wasn’t feeling the beat and whatnot, but lyrically, it’s good. Deep as usual. I really have no major issues with this album.
It’s Hood Now is the last on this long ballot of an album, and Lupe has something to say for the hood. Taking the stereotypical features of what’s ‘hood’ and breaking it down for the listeners. A lot of people say that whenever black people get a hold of something, it becomes ‘hood’ and brought down to a level that kills the status of the item. Gold chains and diamond rings in low budget music videos, high fashion brand names being treated like pajamas, expensive cars used like nothing. Classy has no meaning when black people touch it. Kanye said it best “You gon see Niggas & Lawyers in Jordans.” Black people like the flashy things, because they didn’t ever have a chance to have flashy things like big watches, and eat food they can never pronounce (Vanity slaves, yet again), so they treat treasures for royalty like minor accessories in building up their status. Hood Rich was never a term before richness came into the hood. Taking so many different facets of White America and putting it into the hands of Black America makes it hood because they put they’re own style on it. I love this song, because it’s funny how Black people took what white people left over and made into their own and broke the barriers to let other blacks in. Gold was the result of Midas’ Touch, well, Hood is the result of the Blacks’ Touch.
I loved this album, and here’s why: He spoke about the issues of what’s going on, and Atlantic FINALLY let him speak and say what he had to say, and what’s crazy is that he has another part of this album, so who knows how much more he left out for now. He went back into his old ways (almost, but not quite there) and really brought it back to Earth, not only for the people, but for the greater good of his reputation and letting us know that LASERS WILL NEVER HAPPEN EVER AGAIN! Okay, that was just my little anecdote, but this album gives me assurance that Lasers never happened, and I’m glad that he bounced back with this. I’m going to buy this, then I’ll have two Black albums (think about it). Hope you enjoyed reading this as I have slaved away writing this. One for the ages…will I say classic? Well, I’ll say that it’s at least playable for the next couple of months…maybe even years? Who knows, but it’s a great listen that I would encourage everyone to read – no bullshit. SO, thank you for reading this, I know it was long, but I greatly appreciate it. Until the next review,
That’s My Word & It STiXX