Lupe Fiasco Speaks on Lasers [XXL Double Clicks]
[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
Explain your relationship with the blogs and the internet in whole.
Sometimes I wish I never found the internet. Sometimes I regret getting a laptop and Wi-Fi for logging into the internet because it is such a distraction. If you have any addictive personality, the internet will magnify it. You have to be careful on the internet. You’ll look up and be like, ‘Damn, it’s been six hours.’ I’m still trying to figure out a way to take Safari off my laptop. With the blogs, it’s like high school. I wasn’t the most popular person in high school, it was like 50/50. Some people liked me, some people didn’t, some people really didn’t fuck with me. Naturally, I’m going to go with people who like me and I’m going to stay away from the people who don’t fuck with me but when people go out of their way not to fuck with me then I’m going to go out of my way not to fuck with them. I’m going to feed off your energy. If I know that they are being dishonest or malicious, then I can’t fuck with them like that. My first record leaked months before it came out. It send everything into a tizzy and fucked up a lot of the momentum I had. That left me a little salty with the internet as a whole. Don’t steal. The dude from 2Dopeboyz had “Beaming” on his laptop. He had songs off Lasers and this was last spring. You going back a full year and the way it was done was, he took a screen shot of his Twitter page and was like, ‘Haha, You wish.’ People think that I’m lying. [He turns on his computer and shows me Tweet and the link to the iTunes page.]
Those songs never came out.
Yeah. “Beaming” wasn’t out. “Lean” and “Proceed” were old songs. So when you see this [points to the Tweet] and it’s Dopeboy Shake.
What happened between you guys in Vegas?
Nobody did nothing to him. We did a show in Las Vegas. He was at the show, Tweeting. It was like, ‘Where did you get these songs?’ ‘I got them from Atlantic.’ You lying because Atlantic doesn’t have them so how did you get them? People don’t understand that where I come from, everyone is either a convict, been in jail, been in a gang, is a hooligan of some sorts but those are my brothers, my family and the people that I travel with. Those are the people that I roll with. So when I say, ‘Where did you get the songs from and you lie,’ and you are sitting in a room full of goons, it’s like, ‘Let’s slap this muthafucka.’ No, let’s not do that. Let’s not slap this white kid who runs a blog in this dressing room. Let’s not do that. He got scared to see that. He came into my inner circle and my inner circle is not a bunch of skateboard nerdy backpack muthafuckas. My inner circle is a bunch of sinister looking characters. I’m the oddball in the crew. Nobody touched him. Nobody slapped him…People look at that and see songs. I look at that and see $300,000. The link was showing his iTunes. Why would you do that? He left it up for days. What am I supposed to do when I see you? What am I not supposed to do?
A lot of blogs and even your own fans think you should release more mixtapes.
That’s the funky thing with music and that’s the funky thing with the business. It’s like the amateurs and the pros are playing together. There is no line of demarcation between the amateurs and the pros, everyone is using the same tactics and playing in the same arenas. The only thing that separates them is radio but the artist doesn’t control who goes to radio and who doesn’t. As professionals, we want to be on World Star and the blogs too but everyone is there so you have guys who play for free mingling with dudes who get paid to play. Then, it’s just the amount of music. There is so much music. It is devaluing itself. It is creative inflation. Some people feel like they shouldn’t have to pay for music. Some people feel like that they shouldn’t be paid for their music. I don’t feel like that. That’s the duality. That’s the way things are, man. At the end of the day, the funky part, even with me crying, ‘Don’t steal my music.’ I don’t make any money on the music when it comes out anyway. I don’t get any checks from Atlantic. That’s the hypocrisy…I haven’t gotten a check from Atlantic Records that I didn’t have to pay back in forever. I don’t count advances as credit to my account. That is debt to me. Even me sometimes, it baffles me, ‘Why the fuck am I really tripping?’ It’s not about the money to me. It’s, ‘Let me control my shit.’ It’s the control freak in me. Let me put out the way I want to put it out. Let me mix it. Let me redo that third verse like I wanted to. When you lose that [control], that frustrates you.
Did religion help you get through the bad times?
Yeah, it definitely gave me, whether it was a distraction or moments of calm, of clarity, or moments of refocusing my attention to things beyond myself so I know the role I play in my family or my community or my role in the world.
How have your thoughts on religion evolved over the years?
Well, yeah. You learn more, you see things and experience the contradictions, especially me because I grew up secular. I didn’t grow up immersed. Islam was always there but I always looked beyond that to the human side of things. I always look at religion like it's software. The hardware, our DOS that we come with is our human side, our instincts. Humans have the capability of being the most compassionate and then turn around and be the most destructive. Once you start to understand that duality that comes with being human and filtering religion through that scope, it shocks the faith. People say that knowledge is the enemy of faith. Once you get certain knowledge and understanding, it definitely tests the faith. It’s still there, it’s still a part of me. I’m not saying I’m a heretic or an atheist but there are things that I recognize as being the way humans are no matter what religion you are. There are certain atrocities that human beings are capable of that just stun me. At the same time, there are acts of compassion, which have nothing to do with religion.