In 2006 Lupe Fiasco released Food & Liquor and was pushed to the forefront of lyricism and conscious rap. This nerdy kid from Chicago created an album full of creativity, sharp rhymes and stellar production. Its been nine years since that debut and Lupe’s career is in an interesting place. Tetsuo & Youth is projected to sell 30,000 copies in its first week, and for the most part, no one is talking about it. This is stark contrast to Lupe’s fanfare upon the release of his second album The Cool. People were excited and even the mainstream knew of its arrival with the popular single Superstar. The Cool was a loose concept album, but it was more Fiasco at its core. Great rhymes, more beats from Soundtrakk and odd ideas. This is Lupe at the peak of his popularity. Casual rap fans were aware of the album, and hip hop heads gave it their stamp of approval, despite its “out there” concepts. Lasers is where everything went south. Surprisingly, the albums single The Show Goes On became his highest charting single to date. Despite issues with the label the album debuted at number 1, but it was panned critically. After that people stopped checking for Lupe Fiasco. I began hearing things like “what’s wrong with Lupe?” and “Lupe fell off.” It was hard to argue against the claim. My only talking point was that Lupe was, and remains, one of the best technical rappers in the business. He’s continued to prove that with songs like SLR and more recently with Mural.
Lupe hasn’t gone anywhere. Tetsuo & Youth is another solid album on his resume, but even if it was album of the year material no one would know… because no one is listening. He’s never been terrible. Lasers, his worst album, had several songs I still play, and F&L 2 was unremarkable, but worth a listen. Its partially his own fault. Lupe is his own worst enemy at times. He often doesn’t pick the best beats, he alienates casual fans with some of his political views (i.e Calling Obama a terrorist) and his message and objective as an activist has been unclear at times. All of these things don’t take away from the music. The guy can still rap his ass off! Its been about a week and I’m enjoying T&Y. He’ll never make another Food & Liquor, nor will he reach the creative heights of The Cool. It seems he’s only interested in keeping the fans that are left happy, and I believe he can continue to do that.