Food and Liquor: Not Actually Bad for You After All
Such is life in this strange Internet age that by the time Lupe Fiasco's debut record, Food and Liquor dropped last month, I was already over it. But it wasn't lack of talent that led to my apathy, it was more a combination of the dude's ubiquitousness paired with his brash arrogant attitude, paired with the fact that he hadn't actually done a thing. Before he'd even released one LP, I'd already felt like I could capably recite his biography, I'd already seen him turn in a decent but unspectacular live performance , and I'd already read his slander of Bol on the XXL blogs.
So when I finally got my hands on the official release, I gave it a few cursory listens on my computer and forgot about it for a month. Then last week, I actually decided to burn it to a CD to listen in the car, not expecting much more than three or four good tracks that would allow me a respite from making savage and wild declarations about the poor driving ability of LA drivers. But listening it in the car something changed. I realized an unmistakable fact that I'd nearly forgotten: rap was meant to be played in an automobile (And to think, I'd nearly forgotten this in spite of all the Masta Ace albums I used to listen to)
Indeed no other genre of music commands to be blasted from a pair of good strong speakers with the bass cranked up to levels capable of wounding the ears of small animals. Freed of my tinny apartment sound system, Fiasco's Food and Liquor album came alive, a symphonic mess of diving strings, shaking bass and of course, Fiasco's agile and dexterous flow.
Perhaps the Geekiest Album Cover of All TimeWhat struck me the most was how rarely Fiasco wastes a verse. People on the Internet wax philosophic about the greatness of mediocre rappers like L'il Wayne and T.I., as though they were making a Faustian bargain: forgetting the fact that 90 percent of what most rappers say is retarded, in exchange for the occasional clever punch-line. Look, I thought Wayne's "Leave you missin' like the O' Bannon's" line was relatively funny too, but it can't even begin to touch any of the dazzling wordplay on Food and Liquor. Take the complicated rhyme schemes of his first verse of "Pressure: "And so it seems that I'm, sewin jeans/And, 1st and 15 is just a sewin machine/So I, cut the pattern and I, sew in seams/And, button in this hustlin then publically I'm Buddy Lee."
It might not be the deepest thing I've ever heard but Fiasco can construct a rhyme as well as any rapper working today. Hell, even Fiasco's mixtape verses seem to bear the hallmarks of serious revision and an eye for alliteration, clever synonyms and double-meanings. Even though the "Intro" from Food's leaked version didn't make the final cut, his declaring himself to be "evil minded like Krang" reference has been stuck in my head for months.
But great lyrics wouldn't mean a thing if Lupe couldn't rap, but he can, as he displays the confidence of a veteran throughout, with a cool, calm and collected style. And unlike 99 percent of rappers working today, his songs actually having meanings attached to them. Throughout, one gets a sense of Fiasco as a human being, rather than the two-dimensional guns, bitches and coke canards that most mainstream hip-hoppers spit.
But For the Love of God Somebody Please Give Me This Guy Album Cover Advice
Is the album perfect? Not quite. "I Gotcha" has a pretty lackluster beat and Fiasco has yet to figure out something the Wu perfected many years ago: not every song needs an R&B singer on the hook. Occasionally, his hooks just don't blend, most notably on "The Instrumental" Jonah Matranga sounds sort of like a pedophile trying to seduce a young child, rather than a guy singing a few bars on a rap song. Furthermore, the last track "Outro" is a ridiculous 12 and a half minute shout-out to basically every person Lupe seems to have met since the 4th Grade. Yet there are more than enough bright spots to make up for a few bad moments. Hell, even Jill Scott sounds interesting for once on the dazzling cut "Daydreamin."
Additionally, Fiasco's braggadocio, self-righteousness and occasional conspiracy mongering can get a bit grating at time, reminiscent of the man who brought him into the game:Kanye West. Except whereas, Kanye relies on good beats to mask his torpid and average-at-best flow, Lupe has the rapping ability to merit such conceits.
The truth is that most of the songs on the album have been floating around the Internet for some time, blunting the impact of this debut. If the album hadn't leaked and the best tracks from the earlier version had been merged with this, Food and Liquor would've been a sure-fire 5 mic classic. As it is, it's probably the best major label rap album you'll hear this year from a man not nicknamed Tony Starks. Fiasco might not be hip-hop's savior, but with this debut, he's staked his claim as one of the best rappers in the world.
Passion of the Weiss Rating: 8.4
Lupe Fiasco: "The Emperor's Soundtrack" from Food and Liquor (left-click)
Lupe Fiasco: "Daydreamin'" from Food and Liquor (left-click)
Lupe Fiasco: "Intro" from the early leaked version of Food and Liquor (left-click)
So I'll be honest, I disagree with the blog Last Night a DJ Saved My Life on a few crucial issues, most namely his love of Justin Timberlake and My Chemical Romance. But hey, we all have our differences. However, those two gripes aside, it's author runs a pretty damned good site. One worthy of being added to your bookmarks.
As is Styched, whose writers recently turned in this very clever post on the fickleness of blogger tastes.
Songs For Silence just got the Elvis Perkins album this week and was very impressed. It's hard not to be. The album is flat-out outstanding. It's only available via Insound for now, but from what I hear, he should be announcing a deal with a relatively well-sized indie label in the near future.
Lastly, Ian Cohen delivers the best review you'll read all week, with his Stylus takedown of P. Diddy's gay dance club-inspired Press Play album. Sure, I have no proof that it was made for gay dance clubs, but as Straight Bangin' has already declared: if you've listened to it, it's the only logical conclusion to draw.