[Editor's Note: Lupe Fiasco spoke on the trials and tribulations he went through while recording Lasers in the cover story of XXL's May 2011 issue. Here are some outtakes that didn't make the magazine.]
AS TOLD TO THOMAS GOLIANOPOULOS
Would “Airplanes” and “Nothin’ On You?” have been just as huge if they were your songs?
B.O.B. made those records. He took those records where they needed to go. To say, if it was my records would they be different. For what? There is no way to know. When it first happened, it was me and Bob did the second verse. It was supposed to be me and Bob. Bob’s verse was what they wanted, it was like, ‘Why don’t you do that?’ I’m like, ‘Why don’t you give it to Bob.’ I remember Lyor was like, ‘Why did you let that record go?’ I’m like, ‘It’s the same money. It’s the same money I’m not going to get. It’s the same money you’re going to get. And you broke an artist, as what you should be doing. The way you did?’ Eh, I can’t really rock with those records because of the way they did the business. For me, it’s like, Who knows if it would be as big with me on it. Probably not. I’m already branded in a certain way. You got the people who fuck with Lupe and people who don’t fuck with Lupe. You have a whole industry that don’t fuck with Lupe. Some are malicious but they haven’t been acquainted with me and they’ve seem me do other things so they put me over here. It’s like, I’m not Nelly, I’m dead prez. The people who rock with Nelly aren’t as quick to rock with dead prez. But if it’s someone new, they are open to the forces of the market. With me, there are certain records that I would do that the radio stations wouldn’t play because it’s Lupe. It instantly starts to be, ‘Well, is it going to be weird?’ But then you get Bob and it’s like, ‘Who is this B.O.B. dude?’
It’s a preconception.
Like, ‘Oh it’s Lupe, he’s probably talking that off the wall, back to Africa shit again.’
That back to Africa shit again. It’s just the nature of the business.
What kind of people does the music business attract?
It destroys people. People come out of the music business fucked up because you have to become so numb to things and you have to do things completely against your morals. You are putting out the most negative shit in the world. I am specifically speaking about urban music departments. You have families and little kids and you are putting out records about people getting killed, people selling massive amounts of dope and all this negative crazy shit and you think that’s cool? And you are celebrating it like you are not having an impact on society? To them, it just becomes a job. It’s like the dude who just makes Coca-Cola or the guy who makes gas and doesn’t think about the environment. The things that you see specifically in the music business, it’s so visceral and so fucked up the things that people do and the things that people go through and the integrity and the work is completely stripped away so you don’t know who wrote what. You don’t know if that person is real. It’s like when you finally meet your hero, you realize he ain’t shit because they had nothing to do with the process. Some people are the greatest people on Earth with good hearts and will get in the studio and make the most negative music in the world for the sake of success. That’s what the music business does to you. That’s what capitalism does to you. When I look at how the product we create is the soundtrack to people’s lives, this shit is everywhere. I hate the music business with all my heart. I hate this shit. In the midst of doing Lasers, I was in Buffalo, New York and I called my partner and was like, ‘I quit. I can’t do this shit no more.’ Not even specifically because of what was going with Lasers. I’ve been in the music business for 10 years so I’ve seen all type of shit. You damn near 30 and you look back and are like, What the fuck am I doing? This business is bananas. It rips families apart, rips relationships apart, just destroys shit. You find yourself in some hotel room in the middle of nowhere and you’re like, What the fuck am I doing here? I was like, ‘I’m done.’ He was like, ‘C’mon man.’ Pep talk this. The only reason why I’m still in the music business is my partner Chill.
How confident are you in your rapping skills?
I think I’m pretty good. I’m just starting to find technically what I’m best at from a technical side. It’s kind of hard to explain because I can’t give you the context.
You were upset a few years back after you were omitted from MTV’s ‘Hottest MCs list. Then you put out “Fire,” the Enemy of The State mixtape and “SLR.” What do records like that mean to you?
They have a purpose. They are like demonstrations. It’s like showing off. It’s not really about telling a story or pushing an agenda even though I will sprinkle that stuff in here and there. It’s about showing the skill level off, like metaphors, double entendres, all of that good fun stuff. I know fans enjoy that. I don’t necessarily think that if I did a whole album of that I would sell records. It’s definitely something that I think is needed. If people leave you off of lists or people doubt that you can rap or think you have fallen off, it’s nice to have that avenue where you can step in and drop some 39-metaphor song.
FOR MORE LUPE FIASCO, GO TO PAGE 2