The Diminishing Returns of Lupe Fiasco

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Photo by Shot By Drew from The Come Up Show

Lupe Fiasco recently reached into his bag of controversy and pulled out a weird, broken record performance at the StartUp RockOn presidential inauguration party.  According to the noted hip-hop journalists over at Politico, he was kicked off the stage after 30 minutes of repeating his anti-Obama lyrics from “Words I Never Said.”

I like “Words I Never Said” and I support artists including political content in their work.  I like giving the middle finger to the man.  But I don’t like screwing over paying customers.  Disruptive activism should piss off the people who’ve abused their power and not the ones who happily pay your bills.  Instead of bringing people’s attention to the very real reasons not to vote for Barack Obama, Lupe Fiasco comes off less like a political firebrand and more like a petulant asshole.

It pains me to say that I’m not surprised by the incident.  I’ve been a Lupe supporter since his guest feature on Kanye West’s “Touch The Sky” and I consider Food & Liquor a minor classic.  He was young, weird (name-checking Lupin III), and possessed of a unique voice capable of rhyming from the perspective of an anime mecha-warrior without sounding cheesy.

Things have changed dramatically in the times since “Kick, Push” was his signature track.  There’s been label drama, retirement announcements, and enough general BS to make me sick of the baggage that he brings.  But this all helps to mask the fact that there has been a remarkable decline in the quality of his music since The Cool.  For all the fighting it took to get Lasers released, it probably shouldn’t have been, and Lupe has never sunk lower than he does on the atrocious “Bitch Bad.”

The song is mind-bogglingly terrible.  There is so much wrong here: the stilted rapping, dangerously high levels of didacticism (an 8.7 as measured on the Nas Scale), the beat Lex Luger would make if he was sad and bored, and a vocabulary that displays no faith in the intelligence of its audience.  “Bitch Bad” is “conscious” rap at its preachy worst and what it preaches doesn’t fly.  Mychal Denzel Smith offers a spot on analysis of it’s shortcomings, but it suffices to say that Lupe’s politics are a little lacking (women infect the boys, girls infect themselves, and the women need to be lectured to).  It all makes the false retirement announcement seem like a broken promise.

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2 responses to “The Diminishing Returns of Lupe Fiasco”

  1. Laurin says :

    Well I am fan of how you used “petulant asshole” in this post. Nicely done. I have to ask though, are we raising the question of if Lupe is done? Surely some of your favorite artists have issued records or albums that you can’t quite get behind. Sometimes the messaure of a true fan is how long they can edure the ride. Are you getting off the Lupe train now? Or are you willing to say this latest stop is not the greatest, but he may still have a good lyric or two in him. It’s hard to stay put when an artist we like totally falls short. I have yet to listen to the album fully yet, so as far as individual tracks are concerned, I can offer no input. But I can think of this post in terms of how we handle artists when they release material that we dislike. What do we do with our fan status then? I’ve often pondered this growing up as some of my favorite alt. rockers released things I couldn’t get behind.

    • radiologicalsociety says :

      I guess this post is really two things. It’s a little bit about how the drama and the meta-details surrounding Lupe’s records has soured me on his music in general and it’s also a little bit about how his records have become something that I can’t look forward to anymore. Lasers was terrible and Food & Liquor 2 was only so-so. But for the most part, I’m consumed with this idea that by trying to be political and “conscious” he’s allowed his proselytizing to be put ahead of his actual music. Instead of being honest with how he feels, Lupe has become more concerned with telling you how you should feel about things. If he was a film director, he’d be guilty of telling and not showing.

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