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Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1

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. But with Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1, he has unapologetically returned to his essence.

On “Bitch Bad,” the Chicago native weaves independent Coming of Age on Hip-Hop tales that later become intertwined, as he questions the culture’s use of the word bitch and portrayal of women, and how they each impact the youth whose realities are so closely informed by the music they listen to. The surrounding pieces of the album, in turn, are a response to this acknowledgement of the influence of ideas presented in rap, as he won’t waste words; he hopes to make sure that what he himself presents will, in the very least, create an intellectual curiosity in his young listeners.

The Atlantic Records signee again addresses the gamut of issues that he believes affect his community and society on the whole. There’s police corruption and single parent homes (“Strange Fruition”); fiscal responsibility and the detriments of gun and gang culture (“ITAL [Roses]”); the use of the n-word (“Audubon Ballroom”); sex abuse in the Church (“Lamborghini Angels”); and plenty more.

There, too, are moves towards mainstream without completely deviating. Joints like “How Dare You,” featuring Bilal, and “Battle Scars,” featuring Guy Sebastian, sacrifice little sonically or lyrically, instead relying on booming pop/sung choruses to denote any notable shift. However, these mid-album songs, which are also preempted by the R&B-tinged “Heart Donor,” featuring Poo Bear, momentarily slow the furious momentum established with the first eight tracks. This is salvaged by “Form Follows Function.” The lyricism is impeccable throughout, but this and “Put ’Em Up” create the heightened “Dumb It Down” moments that can cause a welcomed mental strain.

“I know you’re sayin’, ‘Lupe rappin’ ’bout the same shit,’” Lupe concedes to open the second verse of “ITAL (Roses).” “Well, that’s ‘cause ain’t shit changed, bitch,” he concludes. And he’s right. Maybe some has changed in the minds of listeners or what hip-hop accepts and expects, but there hasn’t been a societal shift notable enough to his render his politically, historically and socially charged content obsolete. Everyone else is rapping about the same shit, too, just a different brand—but there’s less discomfort in listening to an album about partying than in one that makes you consider your surroundings and your role in them, as Lupe does with Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1. He’s not always as nuanced as he’s shown the ability to be, and can indeed come off preachy, so those with already established ideologies may find aspects of this album off-putting. But there will be countless kids—the same ones from “Bitch Bad” and #FiascoFriday—that Google terms like “Audubon Ballroom,” “manifest destiny” and “Ottoman Empire” because of it. It’s that, and the pinnacle of lyricism that Lupe continues to reach, that makes this release an achievement. —Adam Fleischer (@AdamXXL)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bohlinger Michael Bohlinger

    should have been XXL

    • JaffarR

      I completely agree. If this doesn’t deserve a XXL, then what does? Especially the originality- this is as original as an album gets. I respect XXL’s reviews, but this is a phenomenal LP, arguably the best of the year.

      • t_neudorf

        This album blew me away. Felt instant classic the first listen through.

    • Mj_Hovito

      There’s a difference between a very good album and a classic which the XXL rating stands for, would u seriously put this album up there with the likes of Illmatic and 2001?

      • abc

        An album at this par of quality deserves to be an XXL. The albums you mention are over a decade old, so why even compare. Lupe set the standard for our current day and time, as Nas did back in ’94.

        • Mj_Hovito

          How did Lupe set the standard? Lets not get carried away now.

          • jayman

            Yo lupe & kanye west set the standards bruh. a lot of people might not know this but food & liquor 1 is modern day illmatic. period. go read the reviews for that, if you think i’m lying.

      • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

        i would put it up there with life is good and my dark twisted fantasy yes . a classic for its time .. not 1999 or 1994

  • big chris

    the albums koo.. lupe lyrics is strong as usual bt i wasnt really feelin da beats.. but i think both originality and lyrics should be a XXL… beats L

  • jm

    u didn’t really say anything negative about it…so why not give it the xxl

  • Terkel

    Deserves that XXL. I dig this album so fucking hard. It’s that little part better than Lasers, which was already an insanely good album too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jean-Pierre-Orellana-Vilca/100002704770335 Jean Pierre Orellana Vilca

    u can’t be serious this xxl album THIS IS A MASTERPIECE all xxl beats xxl lyrics xxl originality xxl and he killed some rappers on the album

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jean-Pierre-Orellana-Vilca/100002704770335 Jean Pierre Orellana Vilca

    adam fleischer you remember me to da nfl replacement ref

  • 2012Industry1

    I get why it’s not an XXL, I think the rating and the breakdown was PERFECT. Lyrically he’s a Hall of Famer, Content is so out there and true and genuine. Beats are for the most part cool. I think if the Beats were better, and the content was more Universally adaptable, it would have reached an XXL. For examples of similiar XXL Quality albums see: Fear of A Black Planet, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Death Certificate and To The East, Blackwards. All politically charged, societal classics, but easier for the masses to digest and not feel stupid trying to understand.

    • Gene_us

      +1

    • http://www.facebook.com/nate.piggush Nate Piggush

      it should not NOT get XXL just because some people are going to feel stupid trying to get it. Those people should go out there and google or bing something to learn, he is trying to let people decide for themselves while preaching his own message. He wants people to search for knowledge, not have it spoon fed to them. XXXXL.

      • anon

        Really? Is that where you get most your knowledge? Google? Bing? Let’s take this album for what it is: Lupe’s first portion of his swan song. He’s lost his edge since crying about Lasers. He’s done. And he’s lucky to have received an XL.

    • DEMARCUS T.

      Lupe Fiasco fans are so full of it, you don’t have to have any ounce of intelligence to understand what he’s saying. His political views are insane and nonsensical, his ideas on corruption/war/etc seems like it comes from a 18 year old college freshman. Yeah Lupe you hate government/politics/the Church/wars/misogyny. That’s not some revolutionary idea.

      The only reason people think why Lupe is anything special is because of his constant need to REMIND us in every song about how hes a special snowflake who rebels against conformity. He has some ridiculous notion in his head that he and his oh-so-intelligent followers are prophets leading the sheeple masses to freedom. I’m a TA for an intro to polisci class, if you take the most pretentious essays I grade and play some generic beats behind it, then congrats, you basically have a Lupe Fiasco album.

      There are lots of great conscious rappers out there, Lupe is not one of them.

      • http://www.facebook.com/brandon.qualls.31 Brandon Qualls

        Its not even all about the subject matter. Lupe is just SICK. Did you hear “put ‘em up”? Talk about braggadocio (sp?) rapping at its finest… *in Jay Z’s voice in the Angie Martinez interview* “It’s Crazy!” lol. He’s just not mainstream enough for XXL I guess but dude is dope. I’m not afraid to admit I don’t always know what he’s referring to in some of his metaphors but that’s just another reason why I like him.

  • http://twitter.com/Way_Too_Cold Guillermo Crosby

    Best album of the year by far

  • AOTY

    Life Is Good

    R.A.P MusicFood & Liquor II
    in that order….

    • http://twitter.com/DLloyd24 D-Lloyd

      Food & Liquor II better than Life Is Good lyrically.

  • http://twitter.com/TheRealBSTRONG GymaHolic

    XL smh XXL!!!!!

  • Bawse

    I feel like this is one those albums that people feel obligated to say its great, just so they can look like they know “real hip hop”. In no way, shape, or fashion is this album a XXL. Lupe has gone from the rapper that rapped about social topics effortlessly, to coming across as trying too hard. He spits a lot of hypocritical lines to sound as if he is above the mainstream, but he just put out one the most mainstream, and musically awful albums in years with LASERS. It’s almost laughable to hear him instruct the youth to buy a Camry instead of the Ferrari, when he himself as a couple of em. This album is not a classic. It’s far better than LASERS, but it’s not an album that you’re gonna talk about a couple of weeks from now. It’s just not that good. But Lupe has implanted the idea into his fans’ brains that this album is such a quantum leap in subject matter and lyricism, and that the only reason why people won’t like the album, or it won’t sell, is because he’s not going along with the mainstream, or because he didn’t put 2 Chainz on the album. It’s not 2 Chainz’s absence that makes this album mediocre, it’s the reaching and trying too hard from Lupe that makes it a lackluster effort. “Cuz you don’t understand it, it don’t mean that he nice/ it just means you don’t understand all the bullshit that he writes/”- Jay-Z

    • Guest

      I think he really hit it on the head, while the cool is a classic are you people

    • Guest

      I think he hit this on the head while the cool was a classic are you people going to honestly sit here and say if another

    • http://www.facebook.com/nate.piggush Nate Piggush

      you realize Lupe himself before LASERS said that he hated LASERS, right? I also find it curious that Jay-Z would say this considering Jay-Z is the one who helped Lupe get a deal. You can’t seriously tell me that songs like “audubon ballroom” which de-glorifies gang violence in rap and makes a solid attempt at taking back the “n-word” for all black people isn’t something profound. And yes, it does go against the mainstream to do that.

      I am looking at these ads for Wiz Khalifa wearing a snow leopard on his shoulders as I write this, he makes the youth think that is what they have to strive for and that if they don’t they are failures, call people bitches, go have promiscuous sex, tote pistols, smoke weed, be socially irresponsible. – “ITAL (Roses)”, “Strange Fruition”

      Lupe sets a good example for everybody that you can be a nerd/scholar and get out of your personal hood, to strive for something better than consumerism – “Audubon Ballroom”, “Brave Heart”

      Don’t believe all the “news” controlled by corporations – “around my way (freedom ain’t free)”, “Lamborghini Angels”

      Philosophically look at the world (people in the middle east probably do think the US are terrorists because we kill as many people as 9/11 did every few months) – “Lamborghini Angels”, “Cold War”

      Then he talks about the possibilities of we as a people if we stop hating on each other – “Unforgivable Youth”

      Then he brings it all together saying Go Black community because you all have been making popular culture and infusing “hood” culture and making it acceptable gaining influence rights right under white peoples’ noses – “Hood Now (Outro)” and that the community should be proud of that.

      Go listen to the album

      • LAW

        LMAOOO…. I’m looking at Wiz and this snow leopard right now also and It just puts everything in perspective doesn’t it? Its amazing the BS that we have been conditioned to accept as good in our music today. But heaven forbid that an artist talk about personal, social and fiscal responsibility, that’s crazy talk, Where the hoes at nigga!? Seriously, this is an incredible album, not just because Lupe is so lyrically gifted but because of his content and the era he is talking about it in. No other popular artist is Brave enough to touch this type of content in today’s music. That’s what makes Lupe and this album special and unique. Its the album we expected before Atlantic shoved LASERS down our (and Lupe’s) throat. But, some folks just want 808′s beats and bad bitches. Maybe Lupe should turn it down so Bawse and his friends can Go To Sleep

    • jay z n lupe

      uhh u did know that jay z personally paid to be lupe executive produce, because he was so into lupe, and even said “lupe is one the most talented writers of all time” n yeah jay z said that quote u put, but he wasnt talking bout lupe, u can understand lupe, but it might have more deeper meaning..its not like he saying celever shit n it doesnt go together…GTFO

  • SuperMario7

    I think an XL is just about right, I think an XXL rating should only be given if someone makes some world changing shit, Food and Liquor 2 isn’t that, I think someone mentioned Illimatic below, I’d include Stankonia, 2001, stuff you listen 10 years later, that kind of quality. Food and Liquor 2 is a very solid album, some great rhymes as usual but it’s very forgettable, not as good as The Cool, that was Lupe’s XXL album, I still listen to that all these years later

  • realist

    Good artist need more like him I know lup been taking some artististic direction from underground artist that have been spitting the same subject material for years

  • http://twitter.com/DLloyd24 D-Lloyd

    what type of fuckery is this! how you give this XL and give cruel summer an XL too? THIS IS A XXL ALBUM!!! IT’S LYRICALLY THE BEST RAP ALBUM IN YEARS!!!

  • Shelly

    Hey I think this should get a XXL fi real.. this is the best hip hop album i’ve heard this year.. truth be told I was kinna giving up on the genre until this dropped

  • http://twitter.com/WootJones Soularion

    I feel like there should be an XXXL rating for classics. Right now, XL is populated by both good and amazing albums. It should be
    S – Terrible
    M – Bad
    L – Decent
    XL – Good
    XXL – Amazing
    XXXL – Classic

    • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

      i agree with u .. this is very true . because this cant be rated thesame as rick ross

  • KingChandler

    I definately agree this shit should have gotten an XXL, by the looks of these comments, XXL needs to overturn their original rating and make that shit happen, the majority of the hip-hop community has spoken. I’m not even a super Lupe fan either, and I admit, he struck me as sort of an attention whore with some of the outlandish shit he was doing/saying in interviews before the album dropped, but after one listen all those feelings got pushed to the side. I think another thing that’s great about the album is how it was put together, the build up of the tracks is perfect, the opening track sets the pace for the entire album and the rest of the album coasts smoothly to the final track. This is my favorite project from Lupe. I can understand why he doesn’t have more supporters though, his lyrics are definately goin’ over alot of peoples heads, shit, there’s some bars I didn’t even get until the 2nd or 3rd listen. This is a quality hip-hop album point blank.

  • chiefgreen

    first off i thought this album was wack. until my second and third listen through. if you say preachy then go ahead. 4TH listen through shows me that he knows what he wants. taken as a whole this shit is banging!! good albums aren’t judged by the 1ST or 10TH listen. but beyond that. XXL albums are for those that listen to the song list until your dead. so for now its ok that the writer said what he said. but in 10 years what will i still through in my cd? lupe fiasco til he shows me i won’t.

    • http://www.facebook.com/brandon.qualls.31 Brandon Qualls

      Exactly! And I know I can honestly say that this is the album I continue to go back to when I get tired of listening to all the other BS.

  • Lebron

    So Slaughterhouse gets four bars for lyrics on welcome to: OUR HOUSE and Lupe Fiasco gets 5 on this…. Okay… That’s cool son. -______-

  • Shaun

    This album suffered from weak production. I was disappointed, mostly because I think this is the top of Lupe’s lyrical prowess, and it’s almost wasted on crappy beats.

  • 8====D~~~~(.)(.) = babies

    IM NOT OVERREACTING . BUT THIS ALBUM IS AN XXL . BECUASE ITS IS WAY BETTER THAN MOST OF THE XL THAT CAME OUT IN THE LAST 5 YRS ..

  • http://twitter.com/Eric_Relaxa Konohas Green Beast!

    This doesn’t get an XXL but cause Kendrick’s LP had been hyped it got it ??. Nahh, this is definitely up there…No disrespect to #gkmc

  • http://twitter.com/Stonity I Am.. Stone

    this album deserve to be XXL.. if you gave good kid XXL.. Originality should have been XXL to get that XXL.. ya feel me?