WBEZ | Lupe Fiasco http://www.wbez.org/tags/lupe-fiasco Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Lupe Fiasco gives us (an only slightly flawed) masterpiece http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-10/lupe-fiasco-gives-us-only-slightly-flawed-masterpiece-102858 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1lupe_0.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Like his early mentor and Chicago homeboy Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco has done his growing up in public, working out both his complicated persona and his sometimes contradictory but generally laudable philosophy under the harsh glare of the spotlights. From the <em>Star Wars</em>- and videogame-loving urban nerd of &ldquo;Kick, Push,&rdquo; to his mid-period embrace of Pink Floyd and concept albums, to the current political history grad student and fiery alternative to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-09/battle-soul-chicago-hip-hop-102642">Chief Keef and all that young rapper represents</a>, Lupe&rsquo;s evolution has not always been smooth or pretty. But it <em>has</em> been absurdly ambitious and thoroughly gripping, and never more so than on his awkwardly titled fourth album <em>Food &amp; Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1.</em></p><p>As with last year&rsquo;s <em>Lasers</em>, Atlantic Records didn&rsquo;t share the artist&rsquo;s vision for this release, which Lupe wanted to issue as a double album; whether as a dig at his corporate overlords or an aesthetic statement, the new disc takes a cue from Spinal Tap and features a solid black cover devoid of all markings. But the record company might have been right this time: With 15 full tracks (plus brief spoken introductions and conclusions), this already is an incredibly dense album, musically and lyrically. It amply rewards the effort required to plumb its depths, but more might have been way too much.</p><p>Lupe continues to have a great ear for big, melodic choruses, following the model of his early hit &ldquo;Superstar,&rdquo; with memorable, R&amp;B-flavored hooks sung by artists such as Jane $$$ (&ldquo;Cold War&rdquo;), Guy Sebastian (&ldquo;Battle Scars&rdquo;) and Casey Benjamin (&ldquo;Strange Fruition&rdquo;), combined with layered, atmospheric backing tracks and a wide-ranging palette of well-chosen samples&mdash;including the bite from Pete Rock &amp; C.L. Smooth&rsquo;s &rsquo;92 classic &ldquo;They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)&rdquo; controversially fueling &ldquo;Around My Way (Freedom Ain&rsquo;t Free)&rdquo;&mdash;creating lush and alluring settings for his supple and often inventive rhymes. This is a good thing, because he has a lot to say&mdash;some of it a little addled or a bit heavy-handed (&ldquo;hectoring&rdquo; has been many critics&rsquo; favorite word in assessing this album). But that&rsquo;s a flaw that&rsquo;s easily forgiven since the message so obviously comes from the heart&mdash;and so desperately needs to be heard.</p><p>In a classic example of Lupe setting his agenda, setting the troubles on the streets of his hometown (and yours) in the context of the Great Global Struggle, as well as reviving an old controversy (over his comment that &ldquo;President Obama is &ldquo;the biggest terrorist&rdquo; because of his use of drones) while simultaneously claiming he&rsquo;s not doing that, we have these verses from &ldquo;ITAL (Roses)&rdquo;:</p><blockquote><p>Called the president a terrorist</p><p>Corporate sponsors like, how the f--- you gon&rsquo; embarrass us?</p><p>Ain&rsquo;t my fault, I was just repeatin&rsquo; this</p><p>Professor Emeritus from America</p><p>But my tone was like an Afghani kid without a home</p><p>Blew that bitch up with a drone</p><p>An Iraqi with no daddy, Palestinian throwing stones</p><p>The f--- you think they call him, I&rsquo;ma leave that all alone</p><p>Cause this, the focus on this new s--- is that hopeless</p><p>Place that I was born into systematic brokeness</p><p>Took that downpression and developed it to dopeness</p><p>It&rsquo;s that great American rap-rap ferocious</p></blockquote><p>And the &ldquo;Professor Emeritus&rdquo; is indeed ferocious on the target of his rhymes, which include the abuse of the word &ldquo;bitch&rdquo; (&ldquo;Bitch Bad&rdquo;), the consumerist trap laid to pressure the poor to buy things they can&rsquo;t afford (&ldquo;ITAL (Roses)&rdquo; and &ldquo;Lamborghini Angels&rdquo;), drawing parallels between the African-American battles of the past and those of the present (&ldquo;Audobon Ballroom,&rdquo; named of course for the Harlem venue where Malcolm X was assassinated, and &ldquo;Strange Fruition,&rdquo; with a title that plays on the timeless protestation of a lynching made famous by Billie Holliday), and a veritable college textbook full of other timely topics.</p><p>Hectoring? Heck, no. Overly earnest bordering on messianic at times? Well, yeah&mdash;and, as noted earlier, that&rsquo;s the flaw that places this album one notch below an unqualified success. But even at his most preachy, Lupe leavens things with a welcome burst of humor and a well-placed nod to cultural silliness, as in this nod to Connie Chung&rsquo;s spouse in &ldquo;Heart Donor&rdquo; : &ldquo;I hope my stories can keep you off Maury&hellip; Keep your sons out the slums and your daughters out of orgies.&rdquo; Hey, you can&rsquo;t blame him for trying something so noble. And why should Bono be the only pop star trying to save the world?</p><p><strong>Lupe Fiasco, <em>Food &amp; Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 </em>(Atlantic)</strong></p><p><strong>Rating on the four-star scale: 3.5 stars.</strong></p></p> Wed, 03 Oct 2012 09:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-10/lupe-fiasco-gives-us-only-slightly-flawed-masterpiece-102858 The battle for the soul of Chicago hip-hop http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-09/battle-soul-chicago-hip-hop-102642 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1Chief-Keef-550x537.png" style="height: 439px; width: 450px;" title="" /></div><p>Even after the phenomenal worldwide success of Kanye West, in recent years Chicago hip-hop took a back seat to the sounds coming from the left and right coasts, as well as the Dirty South. You know the knock: The Windy City is the home of backpackers, granola-eating hippies and feel-good rappers like Common, Rhymefest, Lupe Fiasco, the Cool Kids, Kid Sister and Psalm One who, even if skeptics begrudgingly granted their skills, just weren&rsquo;t &ldquo;real hip-hop.&rdquo;</p><p>That idiotic slight comes, of course, from the fact that if any one thing ever has characterized the diverse group of musically inventive Chicago-bred rappers who&rsquo;ve grabbed the national spotlight in the past, it&rsquo;s been the refusal to exclusively pander to gangsta stereotypes, the same old nihilistic celebrations of hopelessness, sexism and violence, instead collectively painting a much more nuanced, often more positive and ultimately more realistic portrait of the lives of the majority of young African-American men and women.</p><p>In the hip-hop underground, the rise of the troubled teenage rapper Chief Keef and so-called Chicago &ldquo;drill music,&rdquo; with its celebration of all those tired but still lucrative gangsta clichés, has been the major story of 2012. And thanks to Keef&rsquo;s repellant shenanigans&mdash;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-04/more-trouble-congress-theater-98249">from the use of a weapon in a run-in with police that first gave him bad-boy bragging rights</a> to his <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/marcus-gilmer/2012-09/chief-keefs-taunting-tweet-has-him-hot-water-102220">now-infamous Tweet about the shooting of rival Lil Jojo</a>&mdash;the &ldquo;new Chicago hip-hop&rdquo; is becoming a topic for the national mainstream media, with stories running side by side with coverage of the city&rsquo;s increasing gang problems and skyrocketing murder rate.</p><p>And let&rsquo;s not even go near <a href="http://www.theroot.com/views/chief-keef">the more exploitative end of things</a>, including Pitchfork taking Keef to a gun range for a video shoot and then <a href="http://pitchfork.com/news/47032-watch-chief-keef-freestyle-at-a-gun-range/">pulling the clip from the site</a> once things got a little too controversial and too real.</p><p>Disappointingly, West has given Keef&rsquo;s soulless rap his endorsement by including a remix of the 17-year-old&rsquo;s &ldquo;I Don&rsquo;t Like&rdquo; on <em>Cruel Summer</em>, the new and largely underwhelming compilation album from his G.O.O.D. Music crew. Not that Keef is signed to &rsquo;Ye&rsquo;s label: He&rsquo;s inked a multi-million-dollar deal with Interscope for his forthcoming major-label debut. As the man behind Dr. Dre, Marilyn Manson, 50 Cent and Eminem, and a tireless champion of cheap shock and desperately offensive schlock, we expect Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine to be a Keef fan. But we expected better from West.</p><p>In recent days, other established Chicago stars have reacted differently to Keef&rsquo;s rise. Common, who also appears on <em>Cruel Summer</em>, has called for a summit between the old-school rappers and Keef and the new breed. &ldquo;I feel like we just gotta sit &lsquo;em down and build with them,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.bet.com/news/music/2012/09/19/common-wants-to-host-peace-summit-with-chief-keef.html">Common told BET</a>. &ldquo;Talk to them, get some type of peace thing going. It&rsquo;s bigger than rap. Kids is dying. I would tell Keef and all of them cats, &#39;Man we gotta sit down and figure out how we&rsquo;re gonna get to a peace meeting.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, even as he&rsquo;s dropping his fourth studio album <em>Food &amp; Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1, </em><a href="http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1693272/lupe-fiasco-chief-keef-considers-retirement.jhtml">Lupe Fiasco is saying he&rsquo;s considering quitting rap</a>, largely because the success of artists such as Chief Keef disgusts him. The two rappers fought it out on Twitter after Lupe said the following in a radio interview: &ldquo;Chief Keef scares me. Not him specifically, but just the culture that he represents&hellip; The murder rate in Chicago is skyrocketing, and you see who&rsquo;s doing it and perpetrating it&mdash;they all look like Chief Keef.&rdquo;</p><p>Fired back the ever-eloquent Keef: &ldquo;Lupe fiasco a hoe ass n---a And wen I see him I&rsquo;ma smack him like da lil bitch he is.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1Keef_0.jpg" style="height: 297px; width: 450px;" title="Chief Keef." /></p><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1lupe.jpg" style="height: 310px; width: 450px;" title="Lupe Fiasco." /></div></div><p>Will empty nihilistic drill music come to represent the new sound of Chicago for the world, flipping the script on what Keef&rsquo;s predecessors have built up as the city&rsquo;s hip-hop legacy? Is it part of the problem on the streets, or a symptom? And what are its merits and demerits on a purely musical level?</p><p>These are complicated questions that this blogger only is beginning to wrap his head around. Meanwhile, <a href="http://thedailyswarm.com/swarm/rational-conversation-fake-shore-drives-andrew-barber-chief-keefs-rise-amidst-chicagos-murderously-successful-hip-hop-moment/">the most cogent and insightful conversation on the topic that I&rsquo;ve encountered</a> to date was posted yesterday by the invaluable music-news aggregate <a href="http://thedailyswarm.com">The Daily Swarm</a> (which has its roots in Chicago). The latest installment of the site&rsquo;s &ldquo;Rational Conversation&rdquo; series, editor Eric Ducker talks Keef and drill music with Andrew Barber of the Chicago hip-hop website <a href="http://www.fakeshoredrive.com/">Fake Shore Drive</a>. Among his comments:</p><blockquote><p>The scene still has its supporters and stars. It&rsquo;s by no means dead, and there is more to Chicago than just the &ldquo;drill scene.&rdquo; That&rsquo;s what bothers me the most about the coverage Chicago is getting right now. All anyone wants to talk about is Chief Keef, but there are a ton of other artists here whose content is completely different. Artists like Rockie Fresh, YP, Spenzo, Chance the Rapper, Sir Michael Rock, and Kids These Days are incredible talents and deserve the same recognition. Around ten artists and producers from Chicago were signed in 2012; many of them sound nothing alike and have their own styles and movements. Record execs and A&amp;Rs hit Chicago like the gold rush this past spring and summer, and I think a lot of artists&rsquo; stuff will see the light of day on a major label. Now the artists just have to stand out, but all eyes are on Chicago right now, good or bad&hellip;</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>I can say that as far as cities go, Chicago has had a big year&mdash;its biggest since Kanye first emerged, and arguably the biggest in all of hip-hop in 2012. I just hope that when it&rsquo;s all said and done, the scene is remembered for the music instead of the controversy surrounding it.</p></blockquote><p>The interview is a must-read. And here is another, <a href="http://gawker.com/chief-keef/">a provocative think-piece from Gawker</a>. As for Keef&#39;s music being a must-listen... well, as I said, I&#39;m still grappling with that.</p></p> Tue, 25 Sep 2012 10:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/jim-derogatis/2012-09/battle-soul-chicago-hip-hop-102642 Daily Rehearsal: Chicago women are funny http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-02/daily-rehearsal-chicago-women-are-funny-96050 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-02/set.jpeg" alt="" /><p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>1. Matt Damen and Lupe Fiasco</strong></span></span> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-02/matt-damon-and-lupe-fiasco-bring-peoples-history-chicago-students-96046">talked to WBEZ's Tony Sarabia</a>. The duo were in town together&nbsp;for The People Speak, Live!, which had Chicagoans reading from historian Howard Zinn's work.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>2. <em>Bachelorette</em> is at Profiles Theatre</strong></span></span>, and the movie just closed at Sundance, thus proving that young women who are a mess are in right now. I can't vouch for how it hits someone who is not in their twenties -- it could be revolting -- but I found it full of enlightening moments, as well as moments with entirely unrealistic dialogue. There's some value in being totally uncomfortable because the people in front of you are all over the place.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-02/set.jpeg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 180px; height: 112px; " title=""><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>3. Stage 773 has announced</strong></span></span> that they are launching a women's-only comedy festival, along the lines of the Sketchfest. It's called&nbsp;<a data-hovercard="/ajax/hovercard/page.php?id=182071785204472" href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chicago-Womens-Funny-Festival/182071785204472">Chicago Women's Funny Festival</a>, and will run from June 4 to 10. They say they're looking for "Anything from stand-up, sketch, improv, burlesque, musical-comedy, and much much more. As long as you're a chick!" Hmm....</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>4. The city is pushing to <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/politics/10372811-418/city-wants-publics-input-on-arts-culture.html">get citizen opinion</a></strong></span></span> on what kinds of arts and culture initiatives it should take on. Attend a town hall meeting, give your thoughts (and ask them how some of this stuff will get done with all those staffing cuts).&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>5. If you were an art student</strong></span></span>, you played the game Exquisite Corpse and loved it. Now you can see it live from Claymore Productions the second Saturday of every month, starting now (it's February, woah). They say "<a href="http://claymoreproductions.com/exquisite"><em>Exquisite Corpse</em></a>&nbsp;is an entertainment event. It is the only place in Chicago to get a monthly mix of short films, comedians, music and the best new talent on the sketch comedy scene." Um, so that's probably not true, but still, excellent idea.</p><div>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</div></p> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 16:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-02-02/daily-rehearsal-chicago-women-are-funny-96050 Matt Damon and Lupe Fiasco bring 'The People's History' to Chicago students http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-02/matt-damon-and-lupe-fiasco-bring-peoples-history-chicago-students-96046 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-February/2012-02-02/Damon_edit.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For some students, high school history can be a drag. But some schools and teachers mix things up from the standard lesson plans. One alternative is to teach from Howard Zinn's seminal 1980 work <em>A People's History of the United States.</em></p><p>Actor Matt Damon is a fan of the book and actually grew up next to Zinn in Boston. He's executive producer of the film <a href="http://www.thepeoplespeak.com/" target="_blank"><em>The People Speak</em>,</a> based on Zinn's book.</p><p>Damon joined other performers Tuesday night at the <a href="http://metrochicago.com/" target="_blank">Metro</a> in Chicago for The People Speak, Live! featuring Chicagoans reading from Zinn's work. Earlier that day, he and rapper Lupe Fiasco <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/matt-damon-visits-school-englewood-96006" target="_blank">visited Englewood High School</a> to talk with students involved in the project.</p><p>Damon started by telling Tony Sarabia about the project's collaboration with the school.</p></p> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 14:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-02-02/matt-damon-and-lupe-fiasco-bring-peoples-history-chicago-students-96046 Occupy UChicago protest deemed a success on a night others face challenges http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-11-15/occupy-uchicago-protest-deemed-success-night-others-face-challenges-9 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-15/occupyhydepark.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="333" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-15/occupyhydepark.jpg" title="(Flickr/Avi Schwab)" width="500"></p><p>A planned protest at the University of Chicago against former Goldman Sachs CEO and former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice went on without the pair Monday night, while Occupy protestors across the country faced increasing police pressure.</p><p>The event, titled "<a href="https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=305998036077355">Unwelcoming Paul and Condi</a>&nbsp;- Occupy Hyde Park", had almost 300 people attending on Facebook. The plan was to rally outside the International House in protest of Paulson and Rice, who, in the words of the protestors, represent the "interconnections between corporate money, political power, and academia." Paulson was&nbsp;appointed to the University in July as a distinguished senior fellow at the Harris School of Public Policy.</p><p>In a curtailed email to the student body sent Sunday night, University Provost Thomas Rosenbaum supported the University's decision to allow the former United States Cabinet secretaries to discuss, among other things, Rice's recent book&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.randomhouse.com/book/196659/no-higher-honor-by-condoleezza-rice/9780307587862/">No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington</a>.</em></p><p>"We must protect a speaker’s right to be heard, just as we have a responsibility to challenge their ideas with honesty, vigor, and respect," wrote Rosenbaum. "No speaker is to be expected to present all views on a subject, but as a community, we offer the possibility of additional fora for exploration of contrasting opinions, so that taken together inquiry can proceed untrammeled in the service of scholarship."</p><p>"We will continue to respect the rights of protesters to express their views in a peaceful manner that does not prevent invited guests from speaking," Rosenbaum continued. "However,&nbsp;should individuals violate these expectations and attempt to shut down the speech of others, we must take action to protect our fundamental values."</p><p>But come Monday morning, the talk had been <a href="http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2011/11/02/henry-paulson-host-condoleezza-rice-nov-14-event">indefinitely postponed</a>&nbsp;"due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict." The <a href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2011/11/condoleeza_rice_rep_schock_chi.html"><em>Sun-Times</em> credited it</a> to Rice's double-booking; she was also scheduled to&nbsp;attend a fundraising dinner for Illinois Republican Representative Aaron Schock that same evening.</p><p>The rally still went on, as these images show, with little police involvement. Organizers credited it for pressuring the cancellation of the talk, and deemed it a "success." Earlier in the day, the protest had drawn supporters from outside the movement, with musician <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/LupeFiasco/status/136133889893744640">Lupe Fiasco tweeting</a> about Occupy Chicago's protest being held on the South Side, using the hashtag "#occupythehood."</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="333" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-15/occupyhydepark2.jpg" title="(Flickr/Avi Schwab)" width="500"></p><p>It appears that the event may have inspired protestors within the University community to become more involved in the Occupy movement; as of this morning, about 100 people had joined the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/228030710585503/">UChicago Occupy</a>&nbsp;group. In <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-11-02/what-role-should-student-play-occupy-chicago-93697">previous weeks</a>, students from the UofC had not been considered a hugely visible presence in the Occupy Chicago student movement.</p><p>Meanwhile Monday night marked the first drastic change within the Occupy movement, as protestors at the hub of the action in New York <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-11-15/morning-parlor-game-what-was-suspicious-package-zuccotti-park-94050">were ousted from their encampment in Zuccotti Park</a>.&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 15 Nov 2011 16:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-11-15/occupy-uchicago-protest-deemed-success-night-others-face-challenges-9 A Lupe fiasco at the House of Blues http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-03-29/lupe-fiasco-house-blues-84384 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-March/2011-03-28/LUPE_DIGITAL_FLYER_WEB.jpg" alt="" /><p><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt; text-align: center;"><img width="500" height="350" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-28/LUPE_DIGITAL_FLYER_WEB.jpg" alt="" /></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">Showing disdain for your record company is one thing, especially when you&rsquo;re an artist who&rsquo;s been as royally screwed as Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco.</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">Evincing contempt for your audience is another issue, however, and it&rsquo;s disconcerting that, rightly or not, people now are hurling that accusation at Lupe.</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">Trailing his debut album <a href="http://jimdero.com/News%202006/LupeFiascoSept17.htm">&ldquo;Food &amp; Liquor&rdquo;</a> (2006) and its follow-up <a href="http://jimdero.com/News2007/Lupefiasco.htm">&ldquo;The Cool&rdquo;</a> (2007) by a delay of more than three years, the third album by the artist born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco was subject to endless commercial tinkering by his label, Atlantic Records, which, in the classic music-biz cliché, &ldquo;just didn&rsquo;t hear a hit.&rdquo;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">At one point, fans protested outside Atlantic&rsquo;s corporate offices and produced a petition signed by 30,000 people urging the company to let the artist follow his own muse. Meanwhile, Lupe wasn&rsquo;t shy in complaining about his ordeal&mdash;to Greg Kot at the <a href="http://leisureblogs.chicagotribune.com/turn_it_up/2011/03/lupe-fiasco-discusses-the-making-of-lasers-it-was-destroying-me.html">Tribune</a>, to Thomas Conner at the <a href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/music/2011/03/lupe_fiasco_does_what_hes_told.html">Sun-Times</a>, and to pretty much anyone else willing to listen.</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">We could applaud Lupe&rsquo;s frankness and feel his pain when he confessed to Kot, &ldquo;I hate this record, the process of making this record.&rdquo; On the other hand, when it finally was released on March 4, &ldquo;Lasers&rdquo; did score the rapper&rsquo;s first No. 1 hit, debuting at the top of the Billboard albums chart and raking in first-week sales of more than 204,000&mdash;an impressive accomplishment in this digital era.</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;"><a href="http://audio.soundopinions.org/streams/2011/03/lupereview.mp3"><span>When we reviewed the album on &ldquo;Sound Opinions,&rdquo;</span></a> my critical sparring partner gave it a &ldquo;Burn It&rdquo; while I went with an enthusiastic &ldquo;Buy It.&rdquo; Yes, there are problems on some of its dozen tracks: You can hear the influence of those commercially-pandering cooks in the audio kitchen, over-stepping their bounds by over-polishing and glossing-up club-bangers and pop ditties such as &ldquo;The Show Goes On&rdquo; (with its nod to &ldquo;Float On&rdquo; by Modest Mouse), &ldquo;Coming Up,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Beautiful Lasers.&rdquo; And, sure, some of the guest cameos are unnecessary&mdash;though for once John Legend actually is a welcome addition to the atmospheric &ldquo;Never Forget You.&rdquo; But this is hardly Black Eyed Peas-styled piece of fluffy pop product.</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">Lupe&rsquo;s voice emerges loud and clear on the most striking tracks, which are some of the strongest musically and lyrically that he ever has given us. The political satire is sharp and the anger is righteous and unrelenting, even when it is unexpectedly directed toward another hometown hero, Barack Obama, as it is on &ldquo;Words I Never Said.&rdquo; And it&rsquo;s all the more effective for being leavened with a heaping dose of humor and those much-maligned but sometimes subversive pop hooks.</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">Witness the stunning &nbsp;&ldquo;All Black Everything,&rdquo; which envisions an alternate universe where Bill O&rsquo;Reilly reads the Koran, Somalia is a great vacation spot, the all-black Vegas Rat Pack inspires a young group of white brothers named the Jacksons, and the artist only drops the sledgehammer-serious point of this exercise at the very end: &ldquo;And we ain&rsquo;t get exploited/White man ain&rsquo;t fear it, so he did not destroy it.&rdquo;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">Though his mixed feelings about the finished version of &ldquo;Lasers&rdquo; are a given, now that the disc is out and Lupe is free to present what he considers its best material in concert in whatever form he chooses, you&rsquo;d think it was high time for him to be looking on the bright side and moving forward with every public appearance. But that&rsquo;s not necessarily what&rsquo;s been happening.</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">First the rapper canceled without explanation a high-profile show at South by Southwest that was one of the music conference&rsquo;s most anticipated gigs. (Cracked one music-industry insider: &ldquo;Now that he&rsquo;s No. 1, he doesn&rsquo;t need to come to Texas to play for the rock critics.&rdquo;) Then his Chicago homecoming to the House of Blues on Saturday was nothing short of&hellip; well, a fiasco.</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&ldquo;This event was a total catastrophe on all fronts,&rdquo; one correspondent wrote me via email. &ldquo;Doors opened at 7:30, with Lupe set to perform at 9.&rdquo; The opening acts started that that time and finished at about 10, but there was no sign of the headliner. &ldquo;No DJ, no emcee, nothing.&rdquo; About an hour later, the club started playing music again, but &ldquo;the crowd became restless, booing and letting their frustration be known. Then they announced that Lupe was not even in the building but was on his way. Craziness ensued. Fans became restless, throwing beer cans (which I do not condone), one fan jumped on stage and grabbed a mic, asking where Lupe was, just a total mess&hellip; Lupe eventually came on stage, but not until well after midnight, then proceeded to do a set [that lasted] less than half an hour, and only snippets at that. It was a total waste of time and money. I mean, five hours of standing before Lupe even comes out, and then he does four and a half songs?&rdquo;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">Though this blogger wasn&rsquo;t at the show, the details in the account quoted above are confirmed by more than 452 posts&mdash;many of them much harsher in their language and sentiments&mdash;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/LupeFiasco/posts/10150117539087282">posted on Lupe&rsquo;s fan page on Facebook</a>. (And yet another similar account can be found at <a href="http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/the-chicago-snob/2011/03/lupes-fiasco.html">ChicagoNow.com</a>.)</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">Nearly as loquacious and new media-savvy as his mentor Kanye West, Lupe addressed the controversy on <a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/LupeFiasco">his Twitter account</a>:</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div><blockquote><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">To be clear to everyone that attended the House Of Blues Laser release thing in Chicago. It was NEVER supposed to be a show...&nbsp;</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">The promoters didn't stress to the public the fact that it was supposed to just be a party.</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">As far as me being late I literally drove about 6 hours to get there and I ran out of gas around Springfield!!!! Shout to AAA 4 the save!!!</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">I love my fans. I'm sorry u guys had to go thru some BS. Again me and my crew had NOTHING to do w/ how the event was ran or organized.</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">Also all the money for the event from my side is and always was going to be donated to charity so at least for me it was a free event</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div></blockquote> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">The problem with Lupe&rsquo;s apology is that the artist ultimately should control anything that happens under his name, and if things were not being done up to his standards, he has a duty to step forward on behalf of his fans.</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">In this case, neither the club nor the promoters were completely clear in advertising the House of Blues gig as a party, not a concert. &ldquo;Buy Lupe Fiasco Record Release Party concert tickets for the show at House of Blues Chicago,&rdquo; read the blurb above the link to purchase tickets on the House of Blues Website: $32.50 for general admission or $97.50 for V.I.P. seats, plus egregious service fees tacked on by the venue&rsquo;s owners, Ticketmaster/Live Nation.</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">Just as misleading was a press release issued on March 18 by Chicago-based <span style="color: black;">Christi With an Eye Public Relations, a firm hired to trumpet the event by promoters MPD Studios. In it, publicist Christi Harber wrote:</span></div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <blockquote><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: black;">On Saturday March 26th Grammy Award winning superstar, Lupe Fiasco will return home to celebrate the release of his highly anticipated third studio album &ldquo;LASERS&rdquo; at the House of Blues Chicago along with a sold out crowd of his most dedicated fans. &hellip;</span></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: black;">Fans will have the opportunity to celebrate and hear all of Lupe&rsquo;s latest hits at &ldquo;The LASERS Official Celebration.&rdquo; &hellip;</span></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: black;">Doors at the House of Blues will open at 7:30pm and show time will begin at 9pm. Prior to Lupe hitting the stage guest will be treated to opening acts In-Zo, Nakia, Melody Angel and Cap D. &hellip;</span></div><div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div></blockquote> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;"><span style="color: black;">&ldquo;We never promoted the event as a concert,&rdquo; Harber wrote via email on Monday when asked about the marketing of the event. &ldquo;It was always a celebration for his new album &lsquo;Lasers.&rsquo;&rdquo;</span></div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">Well, yes, the words &ldquo;celebrate&rdquo; and &ldquo;celebration,&rdquo; not &ldquo;concert,&rdquo; do figure in the release, as quoted above. But there also is that line about fans having &ldquo;the opportunity to celebrate and hear all of Lupe&rsquo;s latest hits.&rdquo; How many fans could reasonably be expected to read that and discern that they were paying $32.50 for general admission or $97.50 for V.I.P. seats, plus egregious service fees, to listen to a recording of those songs, not live a performance?</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">&nbsp;</div> <div style="margin-bottom: 0.0001pt;">The lion&rsquo;s share of the fault here does seem to belong to the venue and the promoter, but Lupe shouldn&rsquo;t entirely be let off the hook: As noted, at the very least, he shouldn&rsquo;t be allowing his name to be used without approving all of the marketing. And despite his contention in his Tweets, there is no mention in the press release or the venue&rsquo;s Web site of his share of the proceeds going to charity.</div></p> Tue, 29 Mar 2011 11:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/jim-derogatis/2011-03-29/lupe-fiasco-house-blues-84384 Lupe Fiasco: Two Sides To Everything http://www.wbez.org/story/music-interviews/2011-03-11/lupe-fiasco-two-sides-everything-83600 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/lupe_vert.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Wasalu Muhammad Jaco grew up in rough neighborhoods in and around Chicago, where crack addicts would pass out on his front stoop. But, while his friends were drifting in and out of jail, he joined the chess club and the academic decathlon at high school. He was also a drama geek.</p><p>This is the story of <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/15332413/lupe-fiasco" target="_blank">Lupe Fiasco</a> — that's Wasalu Jaco's stage name. Now 29, Lupe Fiasco is arguably the most innovative rapper to hit the scene in more than a decade. He raps about cops and drug dealers, but he's also known to quote Nietzche, Orwell, Chomsky and Howard Zinn. Fiasco celebrates the idea of being an oddball — he is a living juxtaposition.</p><p>"I always saw two sides of life," Fiasco tells <em>Weekend All Things Considered</em> host Guy Raz. "I saw the dudes who would be the gangsta, big-time guys on the block, but would also be dedicated fathers. It was kind of weird to see that dual story that everybody has."</p><p>Fiasco's parents divorced when he was young, and he spent time with both of his parents, who each exposed him to the world outside his neighborhood.</p><p>"My mother had a massive collection of <em>National Geographic</em>s," he says. His father's tastes were even more eclectic: "There would be a massive collection of swords from Pakistan, and then a ton of <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17093771" target="_blank">Ravi Shankar</a> vinyl, and then a set of bagpipes, and these vases from China. It was just all these little knickknacks and pieces of the world strewn around the house."</p><p>Music was a big part of Fiasco's global education. He listened to <a href="http://www.npr.org/artists/16853156/n-w-a" target="_blank">N.W.A</a> in the car with his father, but also had access to an extensive record collection that spanned world music and jazz. Known to use a range of styles in his songs, Fiasco says his father was instrumental in building this base of music knowledge.</p><p>"I have an understanding of <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90283085" target="_blank">Queen</a> and the way Freddie Mercury did his harmonies," Fiasco says. "I know what tablas sound like, because my father played a lot of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan." Fiasco says his knowledge base has made him uncompromising as an arranger: "I can't play any instrument for the life of me, but I know what I want to hear."</p><p>In "Words I Never Said," from his new album <em>Lasers</em>, Fiasco explores another part of his upbringing: Islam. Growing up around potentially dangerous influences in his neighborhood, Fiasco managed to keep out of trouble. He attributes this in part to the tradition of faith in which he grew up.</p><p>"I was born Muslim, but for a large part of my life, I wasn't necessarily raised Muslim," he says. "My father always kept everything around us, from Western philosophy to Eastern philosophy." That air of tolerance is reflected in the song, which is in part a reaction to Islamic extremism. Take this couplet: "Jihad is not a holy war, where's that in the worship? / Murdering is not Islam, and you are not observant."</p><p><em> </em></p><p>Fiasco says he sees his music, which pulls influences from prog and experimental rock, as a way to bring different groups of listeners together — including those who are wary of hip-hop. "Kick, Push," the Grammy-nominated single from his first record, <em>Food & Liquor</em>, became a skater anthem, popular with skateboarders black and white, urban and suburban.</p><p>Fiasco has continued to experiment. Last year, he introduced Japanese Cartoon, a post-punk side project in which he affects a mock British accent in the mold of Joy Division's Ian Curtis. Even <em>Lasers</em> was originally meant to be part of a genre-spanning three-disc set — which he'd hoped would satisfy his current contract and release him to take a new direction.</p><p>That decision, he says, "got lost in translation" — but he says he isn't discouraged.</p><p>"This will not be my last album," Fiasco says. "I have three more to do with my record company, and I will continue to do music until I decide to stop." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. </p> Fri, 11 Mar 2011 17:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/music-interviews/2011-03-11/lupe-fiasco-two-sides-everything-83600 Lupe Fiasco: Thoughts on Kanye's Apology to Bush http://www.wbez.org/story/george-w-bush/lupe-fiasco-thoughts-kanyes-apology-george-w-bush <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Lupe WBEZVOCALO for WEB_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago rapper <a href="http://www.lupefiasco.com/">Lupe Fiasco</a> sat down with Vocalo's Jesse Menendez and WBEZ's Richard Steele this week to talk about the release of his upcoming album<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lasers_(album)"> <em>Lasers</em></a>, and his views on electoral politics. Fiasco believes strongly that hip hop can be a tool for community organizing, and wasn&rsquo;t shy about saying so.</p> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>In the clip below, he shares his thoughts on Kanye West's recent <a href="http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/40108402/ns/today-today_people/">controversial apology</a> to former President George W. Bush. He says Bush doesn&rsquo;t deserve an apology; what he really deserves is a trial.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Listen to the full interview soon at <a href="http://www.vocalo.org">www.Vocalo.org</a></div> <p><iframe width="601" height="338" frameborder="0" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/17137757?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ff9933"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 24 Nov 2010 16:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/george-w-bush/lupe-fiasco-thoughts-kanyes-apology-george-w-bush