I’ll come right out and say it: At this point, Food & Liquor is the best hip-hop album of 2006.
Lupe Fiasco has gotten a shitload of love and hate ever since Jay and Kanye vouched for the skinny skateboarder from Chicago. Check any hip-hop message board and you’ll see hundreds of posts dissing Lupe for his “conscious” approach, his spaced-out album cover or his lack of ice and radio spins (then again, you should never base your musical opinions on a bunch of white kids posing as thugs from the ghetto, typing “no homo” after every sentence).
But no matter how much flak he received for pushing only eighty thousand units his first week, his debut is of near-classic material. Just check out the first four full-length songs on Food & Liquor: “Real,” “Just Might Be OK,” “Kick, Push” and “I Gotcha.” All of them are single-quality but hit just as hard without a music video. On Real, Lupe rhymes, “Life ain’t meant to come around twice/ Yeah, that’s why I gotta get it right/ They said I got it honest, now I gotta give it life/ But sleep on it, that’s why God give you night/ I mean, I had a dream that, God gave me flight/ Too fly for my own good, so God gave me plight/ If I wake up in the mornin’, now I gotta give ’em sight/ Make ’em see, break ’em free, ain’t a G, sho’ you right.”
Sarah Green, who sings the chorus on that track, also helps out on the melancholy “He Say, She Say,” but perhaps the greatest R&B collabo comes from Jill Scott on “Daydreamin’.” Lupe spits over Jilly’s soulful chorus, taking aim at one-dimensional hip-hoppers by rhyming, “Now come on everybody, let’s make cocaine cool/ We need a few more half-naked women up in the pool/ And hold this Mac-10 that’s all covered in jewels/ And can you please put your titties closer to the 22s?/ And where’s the champagne? We need champagne/ Now look as hard as you can with this blunt in your hand/ And now hold up your chain, slow motion through the flames/ Now cue the smoke machines and the simulated rain/ But not too loud ’cause the baby’s sleepin’/ I wonder if it knows what the world is keeping.”
Though songs like “Kick, Push” are catchy enough to keep most listeners entertained, it’s Lupe’s heartfelt lyrics that make Food & Liquor stand out. Just check out one more example from “American Terrorist”:
“Don’t give the black man food, give red man liquor/ Red man fool, black man “nigga”/ Give yellow man tool, make him railroad builder/ Also give him pan, make him pull gold from river/ Give black man crack, glocks and things/ Give red man craps, slot machines/ Now bring it back.”
Perhaps the greatest testament to Lupe’s debut is that the most highly anticipated track, the Jay-Z collabo “Pressure,” is middle-of-the-pack compared to the rest of the sixteen-track album (that can be attributed mostly to Hov’s mediocre sixteen). The release of Food & Liquor was pushed back multiple times, but it was well worth the wait. Most hip-hop fans today were too young or naïve to remember what it was like when Illmatic and Enter the 36 Chambers first dropped, and although it remains to be seen if Lupe has a career even comparable to Esco and Frank White, he sure is off to a damn good start.
“Daydreamin‘” MP3“I Gotcha” video: http://www.prefixmag.com/media/lupe-fiasco/i-gotcha-video/2057