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The Rise and Fall (And Rise Again) Of Lupe Fiasco

Earlier this week I felt like giving up on Lupe, now, at the end, he's given us hope for the future in the form of a new track.
Ryan Bassil
London, GB
15.3.13

Earlier this week Lupe Fiasco announced that he had a new occupation. He’s now the creative director of a health and wellbeing app called Higi. In Lupe’s own words, he now believes he has a "legit 9-5" job. Although he had selflessly undermined the legitimacy of his one time position as a creative force in hip-hop, Lupe had swiftly added another rung to the “reasons to give up on Lupe Fiasco” ladder.

Annoncering

If I worked for Complex, I’d be compiling a lazy-listicle about why we should cast Lupe off. Except, Complex wouldn’t write that. They’re too indebted across shit-hop.

I’m not saying getting a 9-5 job isn’t a good thing. I’d kill for one (holla at me!) And I’m also not saying that I expect Lupe to ride a cab to Silicone Valley every morning. But, it was the pulled out of a bag career decision combined with the negligence of the past few years that earlier this week, I felt as though Lupe had fallen off.

Like a skydiver though, Lupe’s been steadily falling since he first "Touch(ed) The Sky".

When I first heard this song, I didn’t know who Lupe Fiasco was. I didn’t want to either. Why would I care about a random feature on the new Kanye track? But, in between lusting over Yeezy’s facial hair and googling the Pammy tape for later, Lupe’s verse shone through like the bronze to Kanye’s gold and aurally smacked me in the ears.

I sat up and listened. And, I’ve been listening ever since.

As soon as Food and Liquor hit shelves I bought it. Why would I spend my money on pointless things like McDonalds and Strongbow when I could have the best backpack conscious rap album of my generation?

I kick-pushed my way through town - not just because of the way he said “swanky” but also because it was fucking brilliant - and pretended that I understood what Lupe was talking about on "Day Dreamin". On The Cool, his music spoke louder than he ever could.

Annoncering

The amount of metaphors and multies in this song are enough to make Drake do a little cry. This song goes hard and makes me want to punch someone in the face (in a REALLY good way). Unfortunately, since The Cool, it felt like Lupe second-handedly punched fans in the face. See, being a Fiasco fan over the past few years felt like a form of self-abuse.

What happened Lupe? You used to be cool :(

I wish I could rid the last few years and go back to a time when Child Rebel Soldier - his side project with Kanye West and Pharrell - was more possibility than pipe-dream.

Fads have always been your thing though, haven't they Lupe? First, it was the moaning and groaning about Lasers. “UGH, my label hates me. They only want a number one record” you said. Aww, Lupey, you’ve heard of the internet, right?

Right.

Surely then, if you’re the political anti-agenda vehicle that you claim to be, then you’d have done a Death Grips and put out whatever you wanted. But, you didn’t have the balls. Besides, as anyone who has listened to the dubstep influenced diabolic of Friend Of Mine will tell you, the musical direction didn’t seem entirely label based.

Second, it was the random creative pursuits. Remember Japanese Cartoon? What the fuck? It sounded like a bad version of Blur. Except Damon would never listen to this. It’s shit. Why are you putting on a British accent? You’re American.

I understand that as an artist you’ve got to delve down different routes. What’s the point of a painters set if you don’t use all the brushes, right? But, at least do it with conviction. Even Beck can manage that.

Annoncering

More than anything though, it came down to Lupe himself. How did a fresh cool young Lupe turn into a stunted political leviathan? The messages were always there. Check, "Dumb It Down". Check, "Superstar". Check… etc. etc. But they were cool and subtle.

Now, he reminds me of the kids who’d pontificate at the back of class after smoking too much weed. Unlike their tightly packed joints, they lacked substance. Instead, they, and Lupe came off like a Cutters Choice roll up, snuffly put together by a teen who started the smoke game just to be cool. And, just like politics, if you don’t know how to puff proper, then it’s never cool. It’s lacklustre.

It’s also detracting from the point in hand. Outside of feigning retirement (didn’t you read our memo?), Lupe has acted as a political warrior. But, instead of cleverly and quietly executing his viewpoints like in the past, he’s brandished them in our face. Remember when he got kicked off stage for performing “Words I Never Said” for thirty minutes? What about the Fox News interview or the time he went on a Twitter rant about why people shouldn’t vote? He was fierce, too, to jump on anyone who disagreed with him. When Brandon Soderberg of Spin criticised "Bitch Bad" for being an impressive exercise in mansplaining (which, it kind of was), Lupe tried to boycott the magazine.

These instances would be interesting if they belonged to a monochromatic rapper going off the rails. But Lupe isn’t black and white, he’s colorful. So, why dumb it down to grayscale point and shoot?

The past felt like minor grabs of the spotlight from an artist who could no longer reach it with his own integrity, drowned out by his own voice.

That is, till now. At the conclusion of the week, Lupe put out a new track.

The track is dedicated to 6 month old girl Jonylah who died in Chicago on Monday after being shot five times. I'm not even going to attempt to delve into the subject matter. But, it seems to represent a Lupe who is back on terms with himself. Content with allowing the music and words to speak for themself, rather than feeling like he needs to projectile a point into our ears. It feels like a new lease of life. Let's forget about the past and start jetting back up to the top. It's about time.

Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanBassil