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Lupe Fiasco, Friend of the People

Lupe Fiasco is at his finest when he’s not artistically constrained, instead free to A&R his own project and entirely control its direction. For his most recent Atlantic Records release, this was tough. Many said his March 2011’s purgatory escaping Lasers fell short in this respect—pop beats and R&B hooks made for a major-label touch. With his Thanksgiving Day mixtape, Friend of the People, Lupe offers no such mainstream indulgence; this is Lupe at his uninhibited best.

The relatively constant thread woven throughout the release, a follow up to 2009’s Thanksgiving Day drop Enemy of the State, is purported in its title: Lupe is standing with the everyman, favoring Occupation over opulence. The tape opens with an excerpt from a speech by late progressive professor and author Howard Zinn, where he wonders, “Why do we have to be a military superpower? Why can’t we be a humanitarian superpower? Instead of sending planes for bombs Why don’t we send planes for food and medicine?” Lupe arrives on the next track, “Lupe Back,” and follows Zinn’s lead with a sharp critique of the state of the industry, where he encourages rappers to form a union and wags his lyrical finger at 360 record deals, radio, and fires at those who “Spit a lot of meh over jams of the year.”

It’s not that surprising, then, that there’s no sign of “I’ma Boss,” “Niggas In Paris,” or any other recent “it” beat here. Instead, as he’s done throughout his career, Lupe shows it’s more than hip-hop that satiates his musical palate. Sometimes, it works, like when Lupe brilliantly attacks two melodic instrumentals from French electro duo Justice: On “Double Burger With Cheese,” he bounces together scenes from movies like Menace II Society and Boyz n the Hood, recounting how the hood favorites “helped raise a generation”; then, on “WWJD He’d Probably LOL Like WTF!!!” the rhymeslinger takes rampant American consumerism to task, picking apart a dependence on things “Built by the poor and designed by the smart,” using Nike and Apple products to illustrate his point. Later, his decision to rap over “Acknowledgement,” from jazz musician John Coltraine’s classic 1965 album A Love Supreme, is outstanding.

On “Joaquin Phoenix,” Lupe raps, “Flow is in the microwave, call it Michael Tyson flow/Killing is a dirty job, Michael Myers, Michael Rowe/Bring it back like Michael Fox, see how far them Michaels go/I feel like I’m Michael Crichton writing with a microphone.” Tyson makes microwavable dinners. Myers was a killer. Rowe hosts the show Dirty Jobs. Fox was in Back to the Future. Crichton was a best-selling author and screenwriter. Yikes.

“SLR” came out last November, but is included here and is as fierce as ever.

There are other moments, though, when some of the sounds can grate on the ear, especially one accustomed to hip-hop production. Lupe’s rage against the machine sentiments may naturally align themselves with heavier beats, but on cuts like “Friend of the People” and “SNDCLSH in Vegas,” the hysterics can make it tough to get lost in the lyrics, which is an essential practice when listening to Lupe Fiasco.

This makes it crucial to sit through the tape multiple times. Whether or not the beat selection provides the best backdrop for a listener to connect to him doing so, Lupe is on a lyrical tear throughout. This is more than just a wordplay exercise, littered with similes galore. Sure, there’s that. But there’s also metaphors, boggling double entendres, concepts, and content.

“Funny how I’m only sick if you never catch a thing/Argue with your friends over what really the record means,” Lupe spits on “Lightwork.”

This is a cold worth catching. —Adam Fleischer

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  • chicityboi

    yes! finally some real lupe as opposed to the crap that was lasers. i totally agree with the xxl for lyrics, lupe’s is one of the best rappers lyrically of his generation

  • Darron

    Great mixtape. I bet this is what Lasers was supposed to sound like. Lupe still has the lyricism. I can’t wait for Food & Liquor 2.

    • alex

      What makes you think that its going to b any differnent then lasers

      • kevlar

        because its called Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album

  • http://datinghappens.wordpress.com Treyce Walker

    Great review. I would have to agree, I love that Lupe took it back with this one. I was really disappointed with Lasers, not because it wasn’t necessarily good, but because it really didn’t feel like the Lupe we all came to know and love. I downloaded this to my PC and phone the second he dropped the link and haven’t looked back since. Purely awesome!

  • scott

    waaaaaay better then lasers

  • RakCity

    This is more like an album than a mix tape. Seriously, this craps all over everything else out right now. Lyrically, and musically, this tape goes H.A.M!!

  • Something Green

    Loved most of it! I just had to get used to the electronic beats though.

  • VegasKid

    Rap over dubstep sounds pretty dope. This free mixtape is better than 90% of the stuff thats for sale right now.

  • black jesus

    nah this shit was wack. enemy of the state>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    • don electron

      im sorry enemy of the state was not good at all,…this mixtape is a classic

      • theCool

        EOTS was not good at all? Are you fucking kidding me. That is the most feel good, filler free, bomb-ass mixtape that 2009-2010 ever saw. I think the lyrics on Da Exam make it the best mixtape he’s dropped, what with “Real Recognize Real”, “Theme Music To A Drive-By”, and “Lupe The Killer” absolutely destroying everything. Enemy was so good dude… I don’t understand you at all. “Enemy of the State”, “Turnt Up”, “Food & Liquor Flow”, “Say Something”, “Thank You”, “The One”… Come the fuck on. The 2nd Fahrenheit 1/15 Pt. 2 and A Rhyming Ape are also a couple of my favorites, but to doubt EOTS as being a good mixtape blows me away.

        FNF Up Homie, I’ll See You Out There

  • beast

    the only reason the beats got L is cos they not typical hip hop beats, the lyrical content alone makes this a XXL.


  • igotacos

    xxl is biased man, this had gud lyrics, but now u hav 2 go back and give kendrick lamar an xxl 4 lyrics 2.

    • Mr. Coolish

      I Like Kendrick Lamar, but his lyrics are not to be put on the same level as Lupe’s. Lupe Is lyrically better, and thus deserves a XXL in lyrics.

  • http://www.facebook.com/L.Q.ENT L.Q.

    Finally!!!! There are true lyrics being recognized, now the beats were a lil off but they were also unique. So the L was well deserved, but he also should have received an XXL for being original. Overall, I agree and am happy to see good music be on this site…

  • Shawty J

    This is what Lupe Fiasco is supposed to sound like! It’s going to take awhile for the electro beats to grow on me, but this mixtape was a major step up from Lasers.

  • MannListen

    How is XXL is biased when one head people at XXL has been very outspoken about how he is unimpressed with Lupe,and doesn’t understand why people like him..lol

  • canadasmost

    this tape is my shit lupe went hard on this one . Kendrick lamar is dope as shit also . section 80 is one of my favorite mixtapes of 2011 .


    First time i’v seenm xxlmag give a maximum rating,but is cool cuz this tape right here is the coolest!chi-towns finest,mid-west swingin’…Lup.e.n.d cuuuuzzz!!!

  • RJ II

    I always wonder how many times they listen to album before they rate. I think you have to listen to Lupe for a few weeks before you can rate it.

  • http://twdrapreviews.blogspot.com thatwhitedude

    Have to agree with the review. So many albums get undeserved XLs but this is one of the few that actually got an accurate rating. Food & Liqueur II!! Get excited people

  • swype-matic

    To whoever actually listened to this, are the beats actual rap/hip hop beats, or some soft ass overly produced epic but not really ass euro sounding beats?

    • Mr. Coolish

      They are dubstep beats. Dubstep tends to sound like hip-hop beats mixed with techno. Plus a jazz type beat was added to the mixtape

  • zoe 305

    brah this shit was lame AF laser was better

  • KC$

    FOTP is killer!! It’s all I’ve been listening to this past week. I’m mad he didn’t throw BMF on it, though. I could see some of these tracks going on Lasers. Supercold would be a killer opener (no criticism to Letting Go, they both work). This World Ends and Lightwork could also be good singles.

  • http://www.namport.com miki

    lightwork & super cold

  • Rap’L

    (The Dreamer/The Believer)
    Warner Bros.
    (c) 2011

    Beats: [XXL]
    [ S ] [ M ] [ L ] [ XL ] [ XXL ]

    Lyrics: [XXL]
    [ S ] [ M ] [ L ] [ XL ] [ XXL ]

    Originality: [XXL]
    [ S ] [ M ] [ L ] [ XL ] [ XXL ]

    Common album is seriously a DAMN! Classic!.
    I’m very Pleased that this album.
    Was definitely made, with the Real Common.
    People slept on him with “Universal Mind Control”, for him trying a new style. Well! No more of that, I’m here to say I’m a “Believer”. Cause He came Perfect on this album.
    I wouldn’t be writing this, if it wasn’t a Pure Classic!

    Next Classics in Line
    I’ll love to See is:

    Jay Electronica, Kendrick Lamar, Nas.
    Thats coming from me,
    a True Hip-Hop Fan
    Named, Raphael

    One Love

  • ck

    I wonder if the Jesus cover is in reference to that rapper Blu…

  • Nainocharline

    I am sure you will love for gift suprisely