The Circle Blog
I listen to a lot of music. A lot of different music. I am, however, confident in saying that across all the genres of music that I delve into and the roughly thousand artists you can find scrolling through my iPod, Lupe Fiasco's music always ends up getting pumped through my headphones more often than the other artists. He is the only artist I follow who I could truly, willingly listen to for days at a time.
When the sample or the beat of one of his songs starts in, and Lupe is shouting out his regular "uh"s or "FNF UP"s, I find myself getting excited and anxious for his verse to come in. I have never heard an artist be so consistently and noticeably excited about performing his music. He is enjoying every second of every song he is recording, and you can feel that excitement as much as you feel the bass in the beat. I subconsciously begin to picture him in the studio with a smile on his face bouncing to the beat, about to lay down some of the most clever and thoughtful lyrics I have ever heard. It seems like every time Lupe steps to the mic he's discovering his amazing ability to rap for the first time, and can't wait to show you what he can do. That's what separates him in my mind. That, and after spending weeks of sorting through his lyrics, it has become clear to me that this man is a genius.
I struggle to find other rappers who put out lyrics as clever and multi-faceted as his in the same consistent way. He doesn't take any verses off, and nearly every one of his lines challenge you to think about the underlying meanings of what he just said. His flow is sometimes hard to believe and his lyrics are more often than not perfectly matched and rhymed. He does an amazing job of telling a story in his songs, rather than just rapping disconnected verses. The stories of Lupe's songs are puzzles while each lyric is the next puzzle piece, which Lupe masterfully places down at the perfect time and spot.
After I heard Lupe's "Lu Myself", a freestyle over Eminem's "Lose Yourself", I just sat back and shook my head. Obviously when a song has "Freestyle" attached to the title, the listener has to realize that in most cases the rapper is not just thrown at the mic with zero preparation, but rather has several ideas floating around in his head and has a loose structure of what he is about to say. Regardless of that, the lyrics that Lupe comes out with are just on another level of freestyle:
First of all accuse myself, for bein' a fool
All attempts to school myself have failed
To improve means to remove myself
From this pool of sharks dark as the mood I felt...
I'm loosin' fuel, its all the food I refused myself
That's how you do (how we do) when you do yourself
And if I lose, I can never excuse myself
‘til I grow old, sit back and accrued my wealth
You don't stand a chance,
Matter fact, you don't have half the stance to stand if you stood half a chance
As I'm writing this circle piece I'm actually struggling to choose which Lupe lyrics to put into it, because there are so many lines and even full verses that I want you as the reader to look through and appreciate fully, like I was able to. Lupe's excitement in his words has flowed into me and I find myself wanting to make everyone go through all his lyrics in order to read the words and see the complex ingenuity of his rhymes. I've heard most of Lupe's songs several dozens of times, and I would argue that he is multi-layered enough that in order to fully appreciate what he writes it is necessary to give his words more than a few plays through your ears. I'll shamefully limit myself to only including lyrics from one freestyle and one studio song, but I strongly encourage you, even beg you, to take some time and look through all the lyrics we have compiled on this Lupe page.
While some rappers (I'm not going to point any fingers) bore me with exclusively talking about chains or cars or drugs or bitches, Lupe keeps me guessing on every single song as he has rapped extensively about political issues, social issues, race, ghettos, his childhood, skateboarding, and traveling the world, all while using other songs to tell stories of amazingly creative scenarios and characters. Books could be written based on half of Lupe's songs. Lupe gives off the impression that he knows he's a little cleverer than the rest too. The chorus in his song "Dumb It Down" consists of someone telling him different ways in which he is being too intellectual, or how he is not being like other rappers. Lupe matches this clear criticism of ‘dumb' hip hop with some of the utterly cleanest and frankly beautiful lyrics you'll hear:
I'm fearless, now hear this, I'm earless (less)
and I'm peerless (less), which means I'm eyeless
which means I'm tearless which means my iris
resides where my ears is, which means I'm blinded
But I'ma find it, I can feel its nearness
But I'ma veer so I don't come near
Lupe's flow is almost unmatched in the game today, and he can go slow, with two or three words per line, and then rap at almost Twista-speed in the next song. As the beat of the song comes in Lupe is simply waiting to let out a flood of words that sprint out of the mic without an awkward rhyme or unnatural pause. He truly is writing poetry, in ever sense of the word.
If you were to go out on the street and ask a handful of people who Jay-Z or Lil Wayne is, chances are, unless you're asking someone over the age of 60, all of them will tell you at least a few things about these rap giants. Ask those same people if they know about Lupe Fiasco, and even many 20 year olds wouldn't be able to tell you much. Lupe is not a household name at this point like Jay-Z or Weezy or Kanye. Is that because Lupe doesn't do commercials, hasn't had drug problems, doesn't interrupt Taylor Swift's speeches, or auto-tune his music? I think it is because Lupe is a little more, with all respect to those three amazing aforementioned rappers, complicated. And in this case, complicated is better. You won't hear Lupe talking too much about pussy or bling or smoking weed or hitting up the club and getting wasted. He doesn't smoke or drink. He's a dedicated Muslim and has a black belt in karate. He likes "zip-t candles and Maharishi sandals / Dita sunglasses and Purple Murder Service samples...Yohji Yamamoto and I might roll solo / Leather Gucci belts and Guilty Brotherhood polos / Mont Blanc pens and Moleskine paper / go-yard bags and green Now-n-Laters / Monical magazines and Japanese manga / Futura Nosferatu's and HTM trainers / I like street fighter 2 I just really hate Zangief ..." That is not an excerpt from an interview or a bio page; those are snippets of
lyrics from Lupe's second verse in "Gold Watch". Find me one other rapper who talks about being a fan of Japanese manga or street fighter 2 or Moleskine paper in one of their songs. Lupe has an entire volume of a mixtape dedicated to being a nerd. He's not trying to impress anyone. He is who he is, and he loves being that person, and he loves making music that reflects that person.
Lupe has a new album dropping soon and, simply put, if you like good music, go out and get it. He's not going to put out lyrics that are shallow and he's not going to put out a bad song. I'll come out and say that I think Lupe is the best rapper out there right now, and while you don't have to completely agree, you should still listen to everything this guy puts out. In our world of hip hop which has unfortunately been infested with people like Soulja Boy, Lupe's lyricism and music is a reminder that real hip hop still does exist.
Lupe is the next big thing. The fact that he is not already the big thing is a little puzzling, and it is even worrying because Lupe has been heard saying that his career as a rapper could be ending soon. This doesn't surprise me though, as he has stated his reasons for potentially leaving hiphop include writing books, producing more, clothing, and even cartooning. A mind like Lupe's cannot be caged into one line of work, and he will take his immense creativity and uniqueness wherever he goes. That said, we are all hopeful Lupe decides to continue giving us refreshing and intelligent hiphop for many years to come.
He is the most underrated player in the game, but will explode to immortal status at any moment.
In the words of another immortal, Biggie, "if you don't know, now you know."
Circle - Right Column Content
Lupe Fiasco - Dumb It Down