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Representin' That First and Fifteen: Lupe Fiasco

lupe3.jpgThe Archive has followed its profile of Jay-Z with this extensive look at one of the most refreshing and bright rappers we have today. Lupe Fiasco has been putting out dope songs consistently, but he has also flown a little under the radar throughout his career. That said, he is on the cusp of becoming the next big player in the rap game. Check out our page on the Chicago-reppin' MC, where we explored his untouchable lyrical ability and let you in on a few things you might not know about Lu. 

Chicago Rappers

Lupe reps Chi-City as hard as anyone, so following in his footsteps we compiled this tribute to the illest and freshest MCs that have come out of the city of Chicago.

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Video Compiled & Edited by Abi Polinsky for the Hiphop Archive

Lupe Fiasco Lyrics Lupe Covers

Enemy of the State

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Fahrenheit 1/15 Part 1

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 Fahrenheit 1/15 Part 2

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Fahrenheit 1/15 Part 3

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Lupe The Jedi

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Food & Liquor

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The Cool

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                             Download: PDF or Searchable Word Document

Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part 1

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Lupe Shouts Out Chi-Town
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1. "Intro" - 3:07 - Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor
2. "Kick, Push" - 4:14 - Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor
3. "I Gotcha" - 3:59 - Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor
4. "The Emperor's Soundtrack" - 2:57 - Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor
5. "Go Go Gadget Flow" - 4:10 - Lupe Fiasco's The Cool
6. "Just Might Be OK ft. Gemini" - 4:25 - Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor
7. "Dumb It Down ft. GemStones & Graham Burris" - 4:04 - Lupe Fiasco's The Cool
8. "Pressure ft. Jay-Z" - 4:47 - Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor
9. "Real ft. Sarah Green" - 4:03 - Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor
10. "Hi-Definition ft. Snoop Dogg & Pooh Bear" - 3:52 - Lupe Fiasco's The Cool
11. "Hello Goodbye (Uncool) ft. Unkle" - 4:27-Lupe Fiasco's The Cool
12. "Outro" - 12:13 - Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor

Lupe Fiasco Timeline

February 16, 1982

Born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco in Chicago, Illinois.


One of nine children, Lupe was raised in a Muslim household on the West Side of Chicago. His mother Shirley was a chef, which enabled her to travel the world, while his father Gregory, along with being an engineer, was a member of the Black Panther Party. His father was also a skilled African drummer and a karate instructor who owned several karate studios as well as army supply stores.  A few of Lupe's father's occupations and specialties had and continue to have a visible influence on the rapper. In concert, Lupe is often seen throwing quick punches to the beat of his songs, uses African-sounding drums in a handful of his songs, and he loves to dress in camouflage clothes, especially camouflage pants, on stage.  Due to his parents' unique occupations and associations, Lupe was able to witness and absorb an extremely varied patchwork of cultures and lifestyles.


When he was three years old, Lupe followed his father into karate. It took him only 7 years to gain his first black belt.


Lupe eventually got the nickname "Lu", which evolved into "Lupe," while "Fiasco" is from the song ‘Firm Fiasco' by The Firm. Lupe claims he "just liked the way it looked on paper." As surprising as it may sound, until Lupe entered the eighth grade, he detested hip-hop and rap, because he disliked its crudeness and degrading nature. As he aged, just before entering junior high at Thornton Township High School, he began listening to the likes of Nas, and Lupe cites Nas's It Was Written as the album that sparked his interest in the genre.


Now 19 years old, Lupe was a member of the rap group "Da Pak." They only released one single with Epic Records before they broke up.


After Da Pak split up, Lupe signed with Arista Records, a partnership that was soon dissolved due to the firing of Artista's CEO. At one point Lupe and his manager Chill, who Lupe references as a very good friend in many of his songs, were close to signing with Roc-a-Fella Records. The deal did not pan out, but the negotiations resulted in the emergence of a strong friendship between Lupe and Jay-Z. Lupe credits Jay-Z as a part of his ascent to success and states that the two "always stayed in contact because he respected my partner and me as a fellow rapper. He did [a lot] to help me boost my career." In this four year period, Lupe also appeared on a small number of songs as a featured artist, including Tha' Rayne's "Kiss Me."

2005-Early 2006

This was the period that arguably launched Lupe on to the hip-hop map. Kanye West featured Lupe on his single "Touch the Sky," a mainstream success, which brough Lupe into the limelight and enabled him for future success. Lupe rode this brief exposure to the greater public and followed up his appearance with Kanye with a series of mix tapes, Fahrenheit 1/15: Parts I-III.  In the second part of this series is a Kanye-inspired song called "Conflict Diamonds" during which Lupe raps over West's "Diamonds from Sierra Leone." Lupe's words are politically influenced and extremely thought provoking; "I'm just pushing the facts, fuck Bush, cuz there's people doing worse on this earth and they're black..." "We all know on foreign shores that they finance wars, but ask yourself do they finance yours..." The uniquely diverse combination of Lupe's appearance on Touch the Sky followed by his mix tapes caught the attention of hip-hop critics and listeners.

September 19, 2006

Look no further than the year 2006 to find Lupe's explosion on to the music scene. In September of this year Lupe released his first album, titled "Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor." The title, Lupe says, was inspired by his upbringing in the Muslim side of West Chicago: "Instead having bodegas like in New York, the majority of the corner stores are called ‘Food and Liquors.'" Lupe claims that the food stores of his childhood represent the good, the resourceful, while the liquor stores represent the opposite side of the spectrum; the bad, the deadly, the corrupt. Lupe does not drink or smoke or engage in any drugs, something that has become unprecedented for rappers or even most musicians. This 14-track album, despite not having any top 10 singles, debuted at number eight on the billboards. Three singles were released; one international, "Kick, Push," a song inspired by his passion for skateboarding, one exclusively in Europe, "Daydreamin' Featuring Jill Scott" and a third exclusively in the U.S., "I Gotcha," produced by Pharrell and the Neptunes.  

The subject matter of the album is impossible to narrow down to one sweeping theme, and that really is what makes Lupe so special. The first track of the album features Lupe reciting the initial several lines of the Qu'Ran. "Kick, Push" follows a young male who grows up with an obsession for skateboarding, and the lyrics tell a beautiful story of love, rebellion, youth, and eventual maturity. "The Instrumental" focuses on an addiction to television. Several songs touch on ghetto life, guns and violence, and race, while "American Terrorist" is centered on the Muslim religion. 


"Food & Liquor" garnered four Grammy nominations, including Best Rap Album. Lupe raked in one Grammy Award out of his four nominations, for Best Urban/Alternative Song for "Daydreamin'." All recordings for this album were held at the 1st & 15th studios in Chicago, something Lupe mentions in almost all of his songs, either shouting out "First and...fifteenth!" or "F-N-F!" The reception of this album, which sold 325 thousand copies was critiqued extremely favorably by almost all, and even resulted in Lupe gaining the title of a potential "savior of hip hop". Critic Nathan Rabin credited Lupe with "boldly expand(ing) the parameters of mainstream hip-hop." If all this success and praise was not enough, Lupe was voted as GQ's "Breakout Man of the Year." If you hadn't heard of Lupe by the end 2006, you needed to wake up. He was the next big thing.

December 18, 2007

Lupe followed up "Food & Liquor" with his second album, "Lupe Fiasco's The Cool." His second consecutive concept album, "The Cool" was based on a song with the same title from his previous album and loosely on the song "He Say She Say" from his previous album as well.  Again, the subject matter on the album is characteristically broad. In explaining the album, Lupe states he was developing the character of the child from the song "He Say She Say," and is introducing two new characters, the Streets and the Game:

"I expand on the story, I introduce two other characters, the Game and the Streets. The Streets is a female. She's like the action personification of the streets, the street life, the call of the streets. The Game is the same way. The Game is the personification of the game. The pimp's game, the hustler's game, the con man's game, whatever. Then they've got supernatural characteristics. Like the Cool, his right hand is rotted away. The only thing that rotted away was his right hand. It represents the rotting away of his righteousness, of his good. And the Streets and the Cool kind of have a love affair going on. So she's represented by this locket. And the locket has a key and it's on fire. And as a gift to the Cool on his rise to fame, she gave him the key. And the key represents the key to the Streets. So she wears a locket around her neck at all times. And the way the story goes, she has given that key to tons of people throughout time. Al Capone, Alexander the Great, whatever. She's giving them the key to the Streets. Fame and fortune - but also the prices. The Game, he's represented by a stripped-down skull, a skull with dice in his eyes and smoke coming out of his mouth. The billowing smoke is actually crack smoke. It's not a full concept album; it's more spread over like five [tracks], really abstractly."


Debuting at #15 on the Billboard 200, the album moved up one spot the next week, while debuting at #1 on the rap billboards and staying in that position for nine weeks. The album was eventually certified Gold. Yet again, the album was nominated for four Grammy's including Best Rap Album. The album sold just over 200 thousand copies in its first week, and was somewhat helped by being extensively featured as the soundtrack to the 2008 Winter X Games. The album's first single, "Superstar," with Matthew Santos, peaked in the top 5 on the singles charts.  

Aside from the success of his album, which, much like his previous one, was received with great appraise from critics, this two-year period was unimaginably tragic for the young rapper. During the production of the album, Lupe lost his father, a monstrous influence on his life and music, as well as one of his closest friends Stack Bundles. Adding to the hardship, his aforementioned partner/manager and mentor Charles "Chilly" Patton was locked up for 44 years for drug charges. "Chilly" is mentioned countless times throughout "The Cool" and even has a skit in his honor. Atlantic records CEO Craig Kallman described Chilly as "play(ing) a crucial role in the development of Lupe's career.  Through his invaluable knowledge, advice, and guidance, Lupe has developed into one of the most refreshing artists in hip-hop music." When asked about this time of his life, Lupe described it as follows: "Oh yeah. A lot of loss. I lost my father, I lost my business partner to prison, and I lost some friends. It was a very dark period. It still is in some aspects, but you know, I'm kind of coming out of it. But especially during the time that the album was being cooked, in my head it was a very dark kind of period."


There were rumors that the ever-experimenting Lupe was in the process of writing a novel called Reflections of a Window Washer. Also in this year, Lupe and his group 1500 or Nothin' joined Kanye West, Rihanna and N.E.R.D. on West's Glow in the Dark Tour. MTV ranked Lupe as the 7th "Hottest MC in the Game." At a concert in his hometown of Chicago in very late 2008, Lupe declared that the next album he releases would be his ultimate album, a three-part, three-disc album with the first disc titled LupE.N.D.


The beginning of 2009 for Lupe consisted of constantly changing the plans of his so-called final album. On January 30th, he told the public that LupE.N.D. was postponed until further notice. He then announced that he would release two albums in late-2009 and mid-2010, which would be followed by LupE.N.D. This claim however would also be nullified, as Lupe eventually publicized that his next album, which has not been released yet, but will be out in late-2010, will be titled "We are Lasers." The long line of edits to his plans continued even further as the album title was later shortened to a finalized "Lasers."

July 7, 2009

The first single from "Lasers," called "Shining Down" was released, featuring Matthew Santos and produced by Soundtrakk.

October 7, 2009

After being left off of MTV's top 10 "Hottest MC's" list in 2009, Lupe released a song called "Fire" as a response, and as a message screaming that he would not be denied the top spot on that list the following year.

November 20th, 2009

The cult film Twilight: New Moon was released, containing a song performed and produced by Lupe himself, entitled "Solar Midnite."

November 26th, 2009

Lupe released his mix tape "Enemy of the State: A Love Story."

January 7th 2010

Lupe, along with a group of other celebrities including Jessica Biel, Emile Hirsch, and singers Kenna and Santigold, trekked Mt. Kilimanjaro as part of the Summit on the Summit project in order to raise worldwide awareness of people deprived of clean water.

January 20th, 2010

Lupe released a song title "Resurrection" with singer Kenna as a reaction to the earthquake in Haiti. The song was a part of the Music for Relief charity compilation.

January 26th, 2010

The second single from "Lasers," called "I'm Beaming" was released. The song was apparently a "taste of what is coming" from the album. A video for the single was also released.

April 2010

Along with Pharrell, Lupe founds the group "All City Chess Club". The group contains the two aforementioned MCs, Asher Roth, B.o.b., The Cool Kids, Charles Hamilton, Blu, Diggy Simmons, Wale, J.Cole, and Dosage. This outrageously talented crew has thus far only put out one song, a remix of Lupe's "I'm Beamin".

July 16th, 2010

Lupe--correction; in this case, Wasalu Jaco, releases the debut album of his punk-band Japanese Cartoon.

October 26th, 2010

The first single from Lupe's album "Lasers" finally comes out and steadily recieves consistent radio play and attention. "The Show Goes On" puts a unique twist on Modest Mouse's "Float On" and Lupe dresses it with characteristically smooth flow."The Show Goes On" became Lupe's most successful single as far as the Billboard 100 goes.

February 8th, 2011

Just as the freshness of "The Show Goes On" was beginning to wear off, Lu hits the world with this profound collabo with Skylar Grey; "Words I Never Said", Lupe's second single off of Lasers.

March 8th, 2011

The album itself comes out. "Lasers" drops and recieves...various...reviews from the pros. The fans were much more welcoming across the board however, as the album opened number one on the billboard and sold 200 thousand copies during the first week.

W.E.B. Du Bois Reference

In the song "All Black Everything", off the album Lasers, Lupe references W.E.B. Du Bois in the following lyric:

Uh, and we ain’t get exploited
White man ain’t feared so he did not destroy it
We ain’t work for free, see they had to employ it
Built it up together so we equally appointed
First 400 years, see we actually enjoyed it
Constitution written by the W.E.B. Du Bois

May-June 2011

Lupe begins to get involved in politics. During an appearanc on The Colbert Report, Lupe stated his political stance as: "You should criticize power even if you agree with it." A month later, Lupe was sharing his view on CBS and asserted the following eye-opening comments: "My fight against terrorism, to me, the biggest terrorist is Obama in the United States of America. I'm trying to fight the terrorism that's actually causing the other forms of terrorism. You know, the root cause of terrorism is the stuff the U.S. government allows to happen. The foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists." (Video available in side bar)

Late 2011

Lupe involves himself in the "Occupy" movement, and releases the mixtape "Friend of the People: I Fight Evil" on Thanksgiving day. 


In this pivotal election year, Fiasco continued to stress his anti-vote, anti-war, anti-violence views in the media. He was very outspoken (appearing on the Colbert Report, O'Reilly factor, and dozens of other shows) about criticizing power and the fact that he can not bring himself to vote for anyone who will cause global violence of any kind.

On September 25th, Lupe released his latest album: Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part 1. The album is, not surprisingly, provoking to say the least. Some songs are politically charged, others attack societal issues or the rap game itself. Lupe's rhymes are complex, clever, and it is clear that a massive amount of effort and energy was displaced in the production and creation of the album and its lyrics. Reviews for the album were generally positive. Critics were impressed with Lupe's consciousness and profundity, as well as the focus and effort evident in the presentation of the music. 

The album debuted at 5 on the Billboard 200 and sold just under 90 thousand copies in the first week. It also managed to debut at #1 on R&B/Hip Hop and Rap charts.

Read Lupe Fiasco's Blog Entry In Memory of Gil Scott-Heron

Lupe Fiasco - "Dumb It Down"

Lupe Fiasco - "Hip Hop Saved My Life"

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Lupe Fiasco- "Bitch Bad"

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Lupe Fiasco - "Superstar"

Lupe Fiasco - "Paris, Tokyo" 

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Lupe Fiasco - "I'm Beamin"  

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Lupe Fiasco - "The Show Goes On"

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Lupe Fiasco - "Words I Never Said"

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Lupe Fiasco- "Daydreamin'"  

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Lupe Fiasco- "Out of My Head" 

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Lupe FIasco- Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)

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Lupe Fiasco- "Battle Scars" 

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Lupe Fiasco Appearance on CBS 

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Bill O'Reilly interviews Lupe Fiasco  

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Lupe Fiasco Interview at The Breakfast Club 

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Lupe Fiasco DIscusses "Bitch Bad" 

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Kanye and Donda West


Circle - The Coolest by Abi Polinsky
lupe3.jpgI 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...(read more)

 Bio: HHA Research Assistant -
Abi Polinsky

Learn more about the hiphop head that compiled the Lupe Fiasco materials on this page.

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