To think that Lupe Fiasco’s debut album, Food & Liquor, dropped all the way back in 2006 is a testament to how time flies. His first single, “Kick, Push”, was an ode to skateboarding that had everyone coasting to what was a decidedly non-hip hop activity, while also positioning him on the front lines of the conscious hip hop movement with his mix of complex lyricism and extended metaphors. Lupe was, and still is, a thinking man’s rapper who isn’t afraid to address social ills and issues such as racism, prostitution, drugs, politics, the media, and religion.
Admittedly, over the last few years I hadn’t really been keeping up with Lupe. This wasn’t really a conscious decision, more like how you might slowly lose touch with someone over time. But after hearing “Old School Love”, the super laid-back, nostalgia-tinged single off his upcoming album, Tetsuo and Youth, I figured why not check out the show and see what Lu’s been up to lately.
After an opening lineup that included Stalley and local rapper Terell Safadi, Lupe strolled onstage wearing all black everything, including a fitted cap and shirt both emblazoned with ‘DROGAS’, which is Spanish for ‘DRUGS. He was also wearing a pair of black sunglasses, which made me wonder, “What’s with rappers and wearing sunglasses in the dark?”, but I digress. Lupe immediately jumped into some new songs that showed what he meant when he described Tetsuo and Youth as “ratchet”. The bass of the beats boomed as they did have a bit of that trap dirtiness to them.
“Lamborghini Angels” was the first highlight of the night with Lupe rapping over a kaleidoscoping backdrop of fried chicken, dead presidents, pills, jewellery, bullets, guns, and boobs, that served as a sarcastic celebration of some stereotypical hip hop tropes. The song’s topics are quite heavy as he makes mention of the Illuminati, MK Ultra brainwashing experiments, pedophile priests, and the infamous “Kill Team” of rogue US soldiers.
After going through a few of his newer songs, a huge cheer erupted from the crowd as the opening of “Words I Never Said” came ringing through. It was obvious from the fan reaction that everybody knew this song. Too bad that it was a psych-out, because as soon as the chorus was done, Lupe exclaimed, “That’s enough of that!” and cut the music. This may have been a possible nod to his Washington D.C. performance of the song in January during Obama’s inaugural weekend, where he played the song on a loop for almost thirty minutes straight, repeating lyrics that blasted the President, before getting thrown offstage. After teasing the crowd with a song slamming Obama and the ongoing ‘War on Terror’, it was fitting that the next song was “Battle Scars” off Food & Liquor II.