Welcome to Musical Appreciation and IT’S MY 200th POST!!
Never have I thought that I would get this far into music reviewing. I’m no Todd or Rap Critic or Spectrum Pulse, but I’m fine with where I’m at and where I’m going. You, the readers, are my motivation for doing this site. I couldn’t do it without you. On a side note, as much fun as it is ripping on a bad song, there’s no feeling quite like talking about your favorite song or album. It just fills you with so much glee and happiness. I’m glad I created this series since it gives you lovely people a sense of what kind of music I listen to. As one might notice, even though my music taste is diverse, hip-hop still remains one of my favorite genres even with its highs and lows. The ability to manipulate words to either tell stories or move the listener in some way is a talent that, in the right hands, can contribute to some great music. And it’s appropriate that we transition the talk into Chi-Town’s own Lupe Fiasco, one of my favorite emcees who made me appreciate rap as an art. He has an ability to tell stories unlike many other rappers and pack multiple meanings behind them, leaving room for different interpretations for music lovers like myself. Plus, he’s unapologetic with the things he say, regardless of if you agree with him or not, and the way he carries himself is compelling. When I first started getting into hip-hop, Lupe Fiasco was one of the first rappers who made me a fan of the genre and culture. Today’s Musical Appreciation is Lupe’s debut album that was released a decade ago and it’s also one of my favorite hip-hop albums of all time. This is Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor.
- Intro: This intro pretty much tells you everything you’re about to get into with this album, with a poem from Lupe’s sister, Ayesha Jaco, describing the inner cities of Chicago and the youth that reside there. It’s like a Table Of Contents page, revealing the topics that’ll be covered in the album.
- Real ft Sarah Green: The first proper track is called Real, where Lupe wants to bring honesty and authenticity to the game because most rappers’ definition of “real” usually contains the following: smoking lots of weed, promiscuous sex, killing people, being in a gang, possessing a lot of jewelry, cars, etc. For Lupe, being real is about staying true to yourself and making music that you want to make that represents you.
- Just Might Be OK ft Gemini: The next track, Just Might Be OK, is more focused on the people who live in the impoverished neighborhoods in Chicago. Lupe is telling those who are disenfranchised that in spite of their shortcomings, there’s always a brighter tomorrow ahead and you can never give up hope. A sentiment that’s sadly still relevant in today’s climate.
- Kick, Push: An anthem for all skateboarders (and one of Lupe’s best-known songs), Kick, Push tells the story of a boy and his love for skateboarding. We go through different parts of his life, starting with when he decided to skateboard at a young age all the way to when he has a crew to skate with and a girlfriend who also loves skating. It’s also a good metaphor for life because it shows when you have a passion for something, you want to do everything you can to be the best in spite of the obstacles that you’ll eventually run into.
- I Gotcha: Next up is I Gotcha, where Lupe declares himself to be a new savior for hip-hop, bringing something to the game that isn’t just the same cars, chains, pimps, and gangsters shit that we’ve seen a bunch of times. With production done by The Neptunes, this is probably one of the more mainstream songs on the album and it’s still pretty solid.
- The Instrumental ft Jonah Matranga: The Instrumental is produced by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, which you can tell from the beat that leans towards alt-rock. This is a song focused on a young person obsessed with a box. This box can be a metaphor for people’s obsession with television and how it can influence the way people think and act. This is probably one of my favorite songs off the album thanks to the production and the metaphor behind the song.
- He Say She Say ft Gemini & Sarah Green: He Say She Say is a more bleak track that details the frustrations of a family with a deadbeat father. Both the mother and the son are trying to convince him to stay and take care of his family. Because of a lack of a positive male role model, the son starts acting up for attention and doing badly at school. It reflects a sad reality in our society, especially in the inner cities, where instead of raising their own children and being a father, some men would rather selfishly act like an overgrown child themselves.
- Sunshine: There are ways to make a love song without either sounding too corny or being overall disgusting. Lupe has found a way to do that with Sunshine, which is the obligatory love song for Food & Liquor. But unlike, say, Ja Rule, Lupe went for something more poetic in his approach for expressing his love to his woman. It’s also suggested that the song is also about his love for hip-hop not unlike I Used To Love H.E.R.
- Daydreamin’ ft Jill Scott: The song that won Lupe Fiasco a Grammy (look it up). The first verse in Daydreamin’ describes a robot made out of project buildings, which is used as a metaphor for the ghettos of Chicago while the second verse pretty much satirizes all of the cliched stereotypes of modern hip-hop. This song is a great example of Lupe’s creativity and his willingness to step out the box in terms of what you would expect in hip-hop. Add in soulful production and the lovely Jill Scott and you got yourself another hot song.
- The Cool: Here’s another one of my favorite songs off the album and it also has one of my favorite beats. The space-like production was done by Kanye, who sampled Life On Mars by Dexter Wanzel. The Cool tells the story of a gangster who came back to life after dying in a drive-by shooting. He pulls himself out of his own grave and heads towards his old neighborhood in order to start over, only to see that nothing in his neighborhood has changed. Some have suggested that it can also be a metaphor for the gang life and its repercussions. To this day, The Cool remains one of Lupe’s best songs to date.
- Hurt Me Soul: With Hurt Me Soul, Lupe expresses his conflicted feelings about hip-hop and how, at one time, he hated the music. He specify some of the things that rub him the wrong way about hip-hop, which included the materialism, the endorsement of criminal activities, and the misogyny. This, I can relate to a lot as a fan of hip-hop. I sometimes feel like a hypocrite for being against sexism even though I’ve listen to and enjoyed records like, say, Doggystyle that are neck-deep in misogyny. Ehh, who know?
- Pressure ft Jay Z: Now for the only song that features a big-name rapper, Pressure featuring Jay Z. This song is just Lupe spitting alongside Hov on some Renegade shit and he killed it. Jay Z was also good, but he’s done better. This was around the time when Jay made his “comeback” with Kingdom Come, which is considered to be his worst album to date. Still, this is a good track.
- American Terrorist ft Matthew Santos: The next track, American Terrorist, is a politically-charged look at the hypocrisy of white Americans that if they do something, it’s patriotism, but if someone else of a different ethnicity or religion does it (like Islam), then they’re automatically terrorists. To other countries, the United States look like terrorists, especially since we’re sending drones to bomb cities, killing innocents caught in the crossfire. And it’s not just other countries. Lupe brings up that Natives, African-Americans, and other races have been oppressed in many different ways since Europeans first set foot onto American soil. One of the heavier songs in terms of content and it has to be heard because it’s still relevant.
- The Emperor’s Soundtrack: Lupe is spitting once more in The Emperor’s Soundtrack. What he’s talking about, I have no idea, but this song is still pretty good. The production is epic and soulful. It sounds like something Just-Blaze would’ve made, it’s that awesome. The only downside is that it leaves you wanting more since it’s barely 3 minutes long. Oh, well.
- Kick, Push II: The sequel to Kick, Push, this song continues the previous song by detailing the struggles that the characters goes through like trying to scrounge up money for food, dealing with shitty parents, etc. We learn more about these characters and why they gravitate towards skateboarding. In terms of sequel tracks, this is one of the better ones that’s worth your time to listen to.
- Outro: The final track and the longest at over 12 minutes, Lupe is giving a shout out to all of the people who worked on and contributed to the album. So it’s basically the audio equivalent of the closing credits of a movie.
And that was Food & Liquor, a great debut for one of the best rappers in the game. With lyrics layered in double/triple metaphors and storytelling filled with intricate details, this album is a wet dream for those who appreciate lyricism and/or frequent Rap Genius. Most of these songs have more than one meaning behind them depending on the listener. The beats are pretty damn good all across the board, giving the songs their own identity. This album, along with The Cool and Tetsuo & Youth, showcase Lupe Fiasco at his best creatively and skill-wise. Check it out if you haven’t heard it before.
So that was Musical Appreciation. Next time, we’ll talk about something random.
SONGS OF THE WEEK
Forgotten Years-Midnight Oil
One Nation Under A Groove-Funkadelic