Next Up: Lupe Fiasco

TO THE LEFT, TO THE LEFT

lupenext.jpgIt was the leak heard round the hip-hop world. When Lupe Fiasco’s 1st & 15th/Atlantic Records debut, Food & Liquor, hit the Web two and a half months before its intended June 2006 release date, the 25-year-old Chicago MC quickly vented his frustration—via radio, the Internet, the pages of this magazine. Roughly 310,000 album sales later, he’s still a bit peeved. “I think it would’ve been more,” he says of his scant SoundScan figures. “It’s like, who really cares? Do the fans really care? But then you turn around and it’s the most critically acclaimed album of 2006.”

Lupe’s grumbling is certainly justified. After all, his initial hype was built on the ultimate co-signs—Kanye West granted him a guest verse on “Touch the Sky,” off 2005’s Late Registration, and Jay-Z served as co–executive producer of Food & Liquor. And while it wasn’t a smash, Lupe’s debut single, “Kick, Push”—an unexpectedly cool tune about skateboarding—amplified his buzz. Coupling conscious, pensive wordplay with rhymes about cartoons, robots and clothing brands that were largely obscure to hip-hop heads, he was labeled both a geek and a trendsetter. “That vanguard of people that really embrace something fresh? I think I got that audience,” he notes. “From reviewers, DJs and everybody on down.”

So when his album leaked, the embittered freshman MC sought to offset the faulty plumbing by re-entering the studio (a Pharrell-produced track here, a Jay verse there) to prep Food & Liquor 2.0. By the time it arrived, though, chatter about the cat’s being reminiscent of a young Hov (or Nas, depending on whom you asked) might have died down, but the impression Lupe made lasted. “The haters couldn’t even hate no more, like, ‘Yo, this nigga wears glasses,’ or, ‘This nigga’s a nerd.’ It’s like, ‘Dude is nice!’” says Lupe, who earned three Grammy nods off Food & Liquor. “Everybody’s coming out with the shoot ’em up, bang-bang, throw money and Champagne on somebody… I choose to talk about something else.”

This aversion to all the things commonly glamorized in hip-hop is dually rooted in his Islamic faith and his cultured upbringing on Chicago’s West Side. Simultaneously upset with and allured by early ’90s gangsta rap, the rapper born Wasalu Jaco developed a love/hate relationship with the genre and started rhyming. Before turning 21, he endured two failed record deals—one with Epic, as one-fourth of the rap group Da Pak, and a subsequent 2002 solo contract with Arista. So despite an offer from Jay-Z to join Roc-A-Fella, Lupe chose to cultivate his own imprint, 1st & 15th, a company he’d started in 2001 with childhood pal Charles “Chilly” Patton. The label latched onto Atlantic in 2004.

With his sophomore disc, The Cool, dropping in November (leak-protected, he insists), Lupe’s still pushing his creative license to the limit. “It’s a very dark album,” he says. “I’m killing my career, because I’ll never do the same thing twice. Fans see that, and it’s like, ‘Yo, this dude, he’s always coming with something new.’”

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  • Pingback: XXLmag.com | Hip-Hop On A Higher Level | » Next Up: Part 1

  • the one

    Lupe and Saigon are the only hot dudes on Part 1. Everybody else fuckin sucks. Now, we await Part 2.

  • Snakeyez

    Lupe is the sickest young dude out and can’t nobody see him right now. He’s holding down his own lane and taking hip hop back to it’s roots where everybody wasn’t a gangsta gettin money because we all know that that’s impossible. Lupe is hip hop.

  • Famous

    It’s funny how you people seem to forget that people all over the world were disappointed by Food and Liquor. People like you guys (magazine and internet writers, ie Clover Hope)hyped him up like he was the next big thing in the industry and his album was straight boring. He had maybe 4 good tracks throughout the whole thing. Even that track wit JayZ was trash. How are you some nice rapper and not even a Jay verse can save your track and/or cd. PLEASE. XXL step your game up.

    PS – His new track is stupid and whack. He dumbed it down so much that he sounds like a preschool retard on pain killers and Benadryl

  • ronny

    I agree with the first two dudes; Lupe and Saigon are the only articles worth reading on part one. I personally can’t wait till Lupe’s second one drops. Now it’s time to see who’s on the second list, XXL.

  • http://myspace innoent

    TO THAT DUMB ASS FAMOUS U R A CRACK BABY THATZ WHY HE MADE THE TRACK DUMB IT DOWN FOR NO HAVING EDUCATION NIGGAZ LIKE YOU!!!

  • Gamma

    CROOKED I IS BETTER THAN ALL THEM NIGGAS BUT LUPE WILL SMASH ANYBODY THO DUMB IT DOWN WAS A BIG MEDAPHORE IF YOU DIDNT UNDERSTAND IT THAN YOUR JUST DUMB SIMPLE AS THAT!

  • Famous

    Nah I understood it alright. Shit was just ass. Point blank

  • http://www.xxlmag.com/?p=14562 DC’s Finest

    SO uh, Famous, do listen 2 music or do u jus skim through it?!

    Lupe the best out of all dem lame ass rappers with they gay nuresery rhymes and southern giberish(Plies, Rickboy)….

  • ChiMoneyXL

    no lie, lupe will shit on all of them. saigon would be a challenge but still niggaz

  • fandfup

    F AND F UP ALL DAY, LUPE IS KILLIN THE ENTIRE GAME, HE BOUT TO TRIPLE HIS SALES AND SH!T ON THE ENTIRE RAP GAME. I KNOW A LOT OF OLD HEADS AND RECYCLED-ASS RAPPERS ARE DROPPPING THIS WINTER BUT IF THEY SMART THEY AIN’T DROPPING WITHIN 2 WEEKS OF LUPE — THIS MAN IS A GENIUS, HE’S THE BEST OUT, F AND F U TO THE MUTHAFU@KIN P, THIS DUDE IS THE TRUTH

  • HipHop

    Lupe should have won that grammy for best album. Luda’s album was garbage on a stick. Lupe’s album was far from boring. His lyricism and subject matter are the type of things that elevate the culture. Point Blank.

  • ahki da hip hop head

    Lu is the truth. this a;bum will be classic. becuz of all the shit he been thru lately. i mean stack bundles was killed and niggas dont kno that they together b4 he was on dipset.(listen 2 lu early mixtape)chili got 40 years and i mean the best rap albums are when lyricist like lu put all their pain or mood into thier albums. go down the list of the best albums ever and look at the events da was goin on with that artist at that time.

  • http://www.myspace.com/imatiq5 Calligraphist

    Thats what’s up!Lupe gettin his cred.
    And me bein a Muslim,I am happy he’s gettin what he deserves,I got his first album and i”m gettin his second.and hatin only makes people stronger (unless they r soft negroes)….so hate on lupe all u want,he’ll just come out harder and make u “Dumb it down”.lol

    ~Ismail/Atik~

  • F&F U.P

    FAMOUS U MUS BE RETARED TO SAY LUPE AINT IT. DID U READ THE ARTICLE DUDES ALBUM GOT LEAKED AND HE STILL most critically acclaimed album of 2006.” HE KILLS IT ON HIS ALBUMS MIXTAPES AND IN CONCERT. THE BEST DOING IT IN THE GAME RIGHT NOW IS LUPE FIASCO, FANDF U.P

  • Famous

    All you Lupe sackers, check out Mighty Infamous and tell me he’s not nice out here too. He’s just as good as Lupe with word play and all that. And for the jackass Innoent, I like Lupe. I’m disappointed that that nigga’s album was the way it was. And I probably know more about the history and origin of hip hop than you do you low life, Lupe tea-bagging Billy Sunday wanna be. I’ve produced for established artists, check for me

  • http://xxlmag.com ToneFelone

    Only niggaz that don’t feel Lupe is the ones that don’t know what da fuck he talkin bout. And thas because he goin over y’all dumb muhfuckas heads. 1 ya’selves before its too late!!

  • on-blast

    according to vibe.com, F&F U.P is actually lupe himself. fucking nigger, posting about your shitass self. if you need to fucking promo yourself on these message boards, you a wack ass fucking bitch.

  • http://godslabel.com Flaco Shalom

    Strange, arcane actually, a artist not talking about the ills wait an artist not GLORIFYING the worlds ill comes out, he’s nice at it, freakin’ sick actually and niggas hate.. i’ve seen this cat perform, heard all his tracks, he’s deep.. the album is dope, just ahead of its time.. five years later niggas will be all on it, like reasonable doubt.. it took the blueprint to drop for niggas to hip.. this is sad man.. the game cant live cause of niggas like this, and racist like you.. who cares if that is LU.. i’d do the same thing if i was geting slandered.. people are crazy..
    ~Shalom
    http://www.Godslabel.com

  • Chuck

    Lupe the best lyricest today,no one comes near,Food and liquor is a classic already IMO,the best lyricest ive listened to since Nas,his storys are real shit

  • TDot Boy

    Its a sad thing to have someone come out with an album that talks about more then drugs, cars, hoes and the dude can actually spit. Your listening to something else if you hear this guy and say he can’t rap…Then you have these dudes sitting there saying he sucks…why?? cause he’s not talking about money, cars and hoes???? those the people that are holding our people back man…not that there’s nothin wrong with rappin bout those things but we have to show versatility in this are or else thats all that other people are going to expect out of us in our music…look at it as an art not an image..if someone can spit they can spit

  • http://www.myspace.com/wizzup Serious/Vick

    Lupe is too raw for the competition!!
    Wait for his new album the cool!!!
    Everybody better cop dat!! u herd

  • http://xxlmag.com Gee-Whiz

    Lupe makes me proud to be from Chicago. He’s hands down one of the illest in the game because of his unique style of thinking. Few people can come up with the shit he can. Plus he’s gained this much success without talking about cash, hoes, rims, drugs or guns and has stayed humble about it.

  • daredevil

    While niggas feel the need to shit on southern rappers who made the cut I will never understand. For one Rich Boy and Lil Boosie made some of the most honest cd’s in recent memories. I like Lupe as much as the next man but like you said you bought his cd and listened to the whole thing as for Rich Boy and Boosie all yall know is Throw Some D’s and Wipe Me Down.