(Editor's note: Periodically we will ask true-blue fans to weigh in on issues/subjects they feel passionate about. This is the first of many.)
Lupe Fiasco named his first album Food & Liquor. It was an ill metaphor and the album was substantial. It was clear that he had something to say about the world – it wasn’t just party and bullshit.
But, he was versatile. He could give you "Kick, Push" and "American Terrorist"— equally dope songs – with neither seeming forced or contrived. He was a dope emcee and an artist. His follow-up, The Cool, was even better. Better rhyming, same stellar production – and he was still saying somethin. It appeared he could do no wrong.
And then it all fell apart. Somewhere between The Cool and Lasers, the dope emcee was lost and every issue posed as an opportunity for Lupe to climb onto his soapbox. Soapboxes aren’t new in hip-hop (see Public Enemy, Dead Prez, etc.) and, depending who you ask, they’re always needed in judicious doses, given the current state of affairs musically and socially. The differentiating factor here is that Chuck D, Stic.man, M-1, KRS and the like have never compromised the sonic dopeness of their products. They still recognized that they were actually making music, not just preaching to an audience.
If you took Lupe's latest effort, Food & Liquor II: Great American Rap Album, and combined it with Lasers, you’d probably have enough decent to good songs to make a decent album. Unfortunately those songs get lost in the muck of bad, preachy songs. This sucks for hop fans, since Lupe used to be capable of great songs and seemingly shootout really good songs, like “Dumb It Down” in his sleep. A decent album full of decent or boringly bad songs – for a guy that has two (arguable) classics under his belt – is a problem.
When I hear Food & Liquor II I wonder if Lupe ever has a good day. Is it ever a good time at the Fiasco crib? What happened? I will tell you, Lupe for whatever reason decided that creative entertainment wasn’t as important as message-backed-by-music. Gone is any sign of whimsical joints like “Paris, Tokyo” – instead he seems to solely focus on educating his listeners, which often comes across as finger-wagging and judgment. But, if you aren’t making entertaining music nobody is listening, so who, really is being educated? Perhaps a long study session with BDP’s “Edutainment” should be in his future plans…like tomorrow.