Wasalu Muhammad Jaco raps better than you. He raps better than your favorite rapper too. He raps better than rappers still here. He raps better than the spirits of those who have gone Home.
Wasalu, professionally known as Lupe Fiasco, is an alien sent from the rap gods to waltz circles around your rudimentary lyrics. You literally cannot fuck with Lu at all. Even his hands are legendary. This isn’t meant to be primitive, but the hands have to be acknowledged. Lupe Fiasco’s hands are rated “R” for respect.
Man, that felt great to finally say in a space that wasn’t Twitter or a barbershop.
While they polka with the devil in our moon litten ghetto
Hello My Name stickers on the stickers of the veins
In rehab remembering the feelings when they used to get mellow
When they was all back of a nickel like Monticello
When the underworld had to be smarter than Donatello
No honor amongst fellows
It’s harder than sitting with a blind man and
Trying to describe yellow
“Theme Music To A Drive-by” —Lupe Fiasco
Everybody knows I love coke rap. No matter the form of it, I appreciate high-level lyricism. What I also appreciate is people being themselves. When I grew up, dumbing down your raps was uncommon. Soon after, the musical theme switched for the worst.
Enter Lupe Fiasco. I caught the Lupe Fiasco run right at the inception. I’d like to say I snatched it before there was a run. His 2005 mixtape, Fahrenheit 1/15 Part I: The Truth Is Among Us, is the drug that hooked me. “Failure,” on my life, is one of the most tremendous bar-for-bar songs I’ve ever heard. He tripled down to double entendre and metaphorically moonwalk all over that shit. The rest, as they say, is history…
They may indeed say that, but history is still current and doesn’t actually tell the entire story. Lupe, by my account, has three classic albums on his resume. And because I know you’re sitting there scratching your head, I’ll name them.
Food & Liquor
First off, I’ll assume by now you’ve heard of Food & Liquor, released in 2006. Classic. Should’ve gone triple. But what you may not know is before the retail release, the streets (me, I am the streets) were bumping the bootleg/unauthorized version.
Now that the statute of limitations is up I can tell you it was completely different from the official album version, yet it is again a classic. The South Side of Chicago skateboarding, Japanese manga-watching, gold watch-wearing brother of Ayesha is a man of many layers. “Theme Music To A Drive-by,” the song quoted above, is on that album. Need I say more? No, no I don’t.
In all seriousness, his first two albums have got to be in a museum as a top-five run in hip hop history. Lupe’s second album, The Cool, is a concept album with wondrous storytelling and supreme flows over jazzy beats. A backpacker’s nirvana. Lupe confesses narratives of the character “Michael Young History,” explaining his rise and fall throughout the album. Michael Young’s full name can also be pronounced “My Cool Young History”… clever as hell.
After this experimental record, Lupe soured on the music business and its messaging. He wanted to talk about the injustices and inequality people of color face while the record industry wanted him to push the glorification of death and despair. Ironically, he shouted this early and often, and now that’s the only thing on the radio.
Contrary to popular belief, Lupe still renders wonderful music. He’s not in the mainstream anymore, so you’re forgiven for not realizing. Lupe (rightfully) dubs himself “blackballed,” as he also dismisses the industry game.
Being that he’s one of the more talented rappers to grace a microphone, yet no longer gets play, it’s tough to think differently. Lupe’s situation reminds me of when Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf stopped standing for the pledge of allegiance at games. Both men are Muslim-American and elite bucket getters. Both had no support from their peers
And I’m brainless, which means I’m headless
Like Ichabod Crane is
Or foreplay-less sex is, which makes me saneless
With no neck left to hang the chain with
Which makes me necklace-less, like a necklace theft
And I ain’t used my headrest yet
They said they need proof like a vestless chest
About the best-fed F-F jet in the nest!
“Dumb It Down,” —Lupe Fiasco
Drill Music in Zion
Enter into his latest body of work, Drill Music In Zion. According to Lupe he found a folder of beats from producer Soundtrakk and decided to make an album with it. The caveat being he wanted to record the entire album in only 24 hours. That didn’t pan out, but it still only took three days to complete. This timeline is, by all ideals and motives, still foolish given the comprehensive lyrics from Lu.
Almost as a skillful middle finger salute to that self-imposed deadline, Drill Music In Zion is a ten-pack of beautifully composed and well-thought-out songs. We also have the return of Ayesha Jaco, delivering a sermon of verbal expression from the Holy Land straight to our ears. The album is loaded with bars demonstrating Lupe is still skillfully in shape and can go bar-for-bar with the best of them. But for Lu, well, that’s not enough. He is actually trying to rap his way into Zion.
Generally, every belief has some recognition of Zion, even if it’s not technically named “Zion”. For ease of purpose, I will refer to Zion as a “Utopian Society”. If you’re in the United States of America right now, any version of such a society is unimaginable.
We are being slammed by news of the repression and governing of women’s bodies on top of other horrors. The Constitution is a joke that needs amending and the government does not voice the rights of the majority.
Pardon me. Zion, in Lupe’s titular choice, seems to actually be a reflection of the last safe space for humans, like in The Matrix.
Even the seemingly straightforward aspects of the title are layered, as the album presents nothing of the drill sound. It’s more of a dark-colored examination of hip hop in its present state. And not even with finger-pointing type of behavior, which would be somewhat understandable coming from him. This is a we are better, we deserve better, type of compassion.
Drill Music In Zion is a labyrinth of Lupe’s mind, which is ever bending and changing. If you’ve ever played the video game Returnal, it’s a sanity-maze resembling that experience. Standout songs on the album include “Ghoti,” “Autoboto,” “Naomi,” and “On Faux Nem.” Yes, almost half the album stands out. Do yourself a favor and spend some time with this. Carerra Lu is back. Lito out.