Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lupe Fiasco: Friend of the People or Enemy of the State?

If you happened to be up late around 2AM and follow Digital Drop on Twitter (do that if you don't...seriously) you saw that I sent out a series of tweets rather a rant about Hip-Hop fans. It was all inspired by a retweet I saw on my TL and basically the person was saying that Lupe has become nothing more than talk. Confused I went to the person's page to see if that clarified their statement. In which they did and as I read the rest of the tweets, it was nothing more than "Lupe has officially lost his mind. He just speaks, with no message. No one can understand him. He has become some shitty revolutionary and F&L 2 is just a bland album because of that." I immediately was confused because I couldn't understand how the person in question didn't see this coming or yet saw it already happen. This than inspired another rant about Lupe's fans.

I'll get back to Lupe in a second but I just want to speak on Hip-Hop fans in general. We're a stubborn group, probably more so than any other genre of music. We've become accustomed to a sense of tradition and if anything breaks that mold we become infuriated. We simply don't know how to move on. We're stuck in our old ways. Everything after Tupac and Biggie HAS to be Tupac or Biggie or else it's trash. Every great rapper no matter what type of Hip-Hop they make gets compared to Tupac and Big. Just as every great NBA player no matter what position he plays gets compared to Michael Jordan. We as fans need to learn that it's okay for rappers to be better or worse, or frankly put not Tupac and Biggie. 

That's not the only way Hip-Hop fans are stubborn. When it comes to albums, I think we all can agree that a artist's first album is their most important. Why? Simply because it's the introduction of their "sound" to the world. So when a artist drops a great or even a classic for their first album we tend to hold them in that mold and refuse anything but that. In 1994, Nas dropped Illmatic a album in which many consider classic and by some the greatest Hip-Hop album of all time. So when it came time to drop his second album Nas had a shitload of hype and expectations to live up to. Fast forward two years, Nas released It Was Written and it was seen as a disappointment compared to his previous work. For years Nas lived in the shadow of his first album. Yeah some of his albums were bad or too commercial but even when dope albums such as Stillmatic and Hip-Hop Is Dead dropped years after Illmatic they still were compared to it. Nas' latest album Life Is Good is finally seen as an acceptable follow up for Nas and it has received much love. Why did it take 18 years for Nas to finally get out of Illmatic's shadow? Answer: the fans.

Another classic example of this is poor rapper turnt rich rapper. Say your favorite rapper drops a true classic about the street life and the struggle of being poor. That album goes on to sell millions and overnight his life changes. A couple years and millions later your favorite rapper drops his next album, the album is full of lifestyle rap about money, expensive cars and fine women. Gone is the rapper who previously spitted about the struggle and selling drugs. That same level of lyrical skill is there but the subject matter is different. Now all of a sudden that rapper is seen as "fake" and a "sell out". As a true fan you're honestly telling me that you would rather hear a rich man rap about being poor and selling drugs when he no longer is/does that? If anything that would make him "fake". Why do we as Hip-Hop fans hold on to preconceived notions of these artist?

We need to open our minds and eyes to these changes. It seems as if everyone is surprised when change comes. We tend to forget that these artist are people too, they go through things in life and experience personal growth and change. When Earl Sweatshirt first dropped EARL the internet was taken aback about how a young 16 year old could rap about killing, rape, 666 etc. One thing we all agreed on for the most part was that it somehow was dope and that's because besides all the shock value rap, Earl was genuinely a dope emcee. After being sent away to Samoa and learning about himself, Earl returned two years later at age 18. It was apparent that Earl did some growing up while away. Even revealing in interviews that he no longer can listen to his debut EARL and sometime later tweeting that he won't rap about rape anymore. Just a few minutes after that tweet Earl retweeted a "fan" who said "Stop being a pussy and start rapping about raping bitches you faggot". Why as a fan would you want your favorite artist to rap about something he no longer wanted to rap about? That would mean the passion isn't there for it any longer. Just another example of us Hip-Hop fans and our inability to let the past go.

To finally get back to Lupe and end this rant editorial (which has become a bit longer than I wanted) no artist is more of a perfect example of Hip-Hop fans gone wrong. Lupe has all three of the elements I previously spoke on, the classic album, change of subject matter and personal growth and change. In 2006, Lupe Fiasco released his debut album Food & Liquor to global acclaim, he had a Jay-Z co-sign and even won a Grammy that year for his single "Daydreamin". His 2008 sophomore album The Cool was again highly praised and even spawned a hit single in "Superstar". That's exactly what Lupe became a superstar, a conscious rapper with a little radio appeal who was here to revive Hip-Hop after it was declared dead by Nas. That is until Lasers happened.

Lasers was seen as a huge disappointment and Lupe was labeled a sell out, the rapper who vowed never to "Dumb It Down" did. What us as fans forget to realize is that Lupe HAD to make Lasers for Atlantic Records, if not there would be no more Lupe albums. Lupe even openly discussed his dislike for the album and unlike his previous two albums it wasn't tagged as Lupe Fiasco's it was simply Lasers. The most important thing we as fans really seem to forget is that we asked for Lasers, protested for it. Myself included and thousands others signed our names on the online petition to get the album released. We as fans WANTED Lasers. Personally I didn't expect F&L or The Cool Lupe, I was just excited for a new Lupe Fiasco album. The only thing Lasers is guilty of is not being a "true" Lupe Fiasco album. You give that album to a artist such as B.o.B. and it's a career best. It still sold well, had multiple charting singles, it received Grammy nominations including Best Rap Album, a category which featured Watch The Throne and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This all constitutes as a more than successful album but ask any Lupe fan what is Lupe's worst album and they'll answer Lasers. How could an album with so much going for it receive so much hate? Again. The fans. We just couldn't let go of F&L and The Cool, we couldn't understand his label situation and didn't realize that we asked for the album in the first place. 

Hip-Hop fans, no Lupe's fans are his own worst enemy. We won't let him get pass his first two albums, we refuse to listen to his third and when he finally delivers what we want F&L 2 we criticize it. From the day Lupe called "Obama the biggest terrorist" I realized that the old Lu was gone. Something happened in Lupe's life to where his views became radically different from the norm and he wanted to use his music as a lane to express himself. This is why when I heard F&L 2: The Great AMERICAN Rap Album, I already knew what to expect. 

It was going to be Lupe expressing his views on America, and when he released his album cover featuring nothing but black I knew he was trying to make a statement with the album. From the interviews I saw he continuously stated that "This is the music I would want to listen to as a fan, I made this mainly for myself" "The album discusses my views on American culture, some of it's biased some not" and "People aren't gonna like it, I already know". Again Lupe gave us as fans signs and warnings that this wasn't F&L or The Cool, he even admitted that using Food & Liquor was a marketing ploy. He knew us as fans would instantly buy and compare it to the first one, so why not label it as such. Knowledge of all of these things is what lead me to being utterly confused by the tweets I saw last night. How could someone who calls themselves a Lupe fan be so surprised when it came to the actual content of the album? Did they not have access to the internet, watch the interviews or even listen to the singles? Did they not see Lupe expressing his right not to vote on Twitter and the various arguments over American politics and society? No it's none of these, they simply where just being a Hip-Hop fan. Stuck in the past, refusing to let go and move on and accept that just like we as fans do artist change. So I guess the person was only guilty of being a fan, just like me and just like you reading this article. Funny huh? 


Vova Dzyuba said...

This is the truest article I have ever read. Seriously, why are we as Hip-Hop fans so dumb sometimes. I'm glad that somebody shares the same views as me and brings sufficient evidence to the table.

As a big Lupe fan, I just don't understand why everyone is complaining about F&L2 when in fact it contains the same amount of content as F&L1 does but on a different subject matter...obviously it would be different to F&L1 because Lupe has grown and developed as an artist therefore different matters concern him in society. The lyrical content has virtually stayed the same and the beats might have changed slightly, but you can't expect Lupe to keep rapping about skate-boarding when there are other issues and values affecting his life.

Get real people, you can't compare F&L1 with F&L2 just because the title is similar. The albums are destined to be different, because nobody can stop evolution, not even Lupe Fiasco, and as Lupe fans you should know that.
Huh, funny...and sad in a way.