Zilla Rocca likes Tribe Called Quest more than he likes Hammer. Though he does like the girls with the “pumps and a bump.”

The first time I heard Lupe, he was spitting a forgettable verse about anime, peach fuzz and Mrs. Butterworth on Kanye’s “Touch the Sky.”  I didn’t like his voice, nor his rhyme scheme, nor the fact that his name was Lupe Fiasco.  It sounded like a Spanish liquor or something.  At best, I thought he was a new GOOD Music weedcarrier like Really Doe or GLC who would only pop up on Kanye albums but never actually release anything.

My next encounter with Lupe was at Tower Records, looking through the magazine section and seeing an issue of Fader with the bespectacled one on the cover.  I thought “Hey it’s the Lupe dude with the shitty verse on Kanye’s song.  Why the hell is he on the cover of this magazine?”  I do this a lot with new artists who are on magazine covers when I’ve never heard of them—I hate their guts for no real reason, then 6 months later I discover them on my own, buy their music and try to convert everyone else.   See: Bloc Party.

I ended up hearing “Kick, Push” and was quiet impressed.  The beat was dope as hell, the concept was original and the hook was catchy.  I even did a freestyle to it on the Clean Guns mixtape.  I also picked up the DJ Envy assisted mixtape titled Chi Town Guervera and downloaded some random joints from his Revenge of the Nerd mixtapes.

Finally, Food & Liquor dropped and I listened to it about 10 times straight, front to back, while in NYC last September for a week.  I was hella impressed with Lupe’s lyrics and unconventional concepts, especially “American Terrorist” and “The Cool.”  I knew he wouldn’t sell tons of units, but that didn’t matter—there was hope in the land of commercial hip hop.  He was truly an emcee’s emcee.  Some of his beats were a little too Just Blaze-lite for me after repeat listens.  Nevertheless, I championed him and his record to my friends and fellow hip hoppers.

Since that time, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the guy.   I love the fact that he spends a lot of time concocting intricate metaphors and ripping off stories from anime’s I’ll never watch.



Here’s what I don’t like:

 1.   He goes out of his way to say how much he doesn’t like hip hop.  He talks about how he only listens to jazz and that he never got into Tribe or De La.  He wanted Pink Floyd on his new album.  He prefers It Was Written to Illmatic.  He seems to enjoy being contrarian.  Remember when he was supposedly getting Three Six Mafia on his album after it leaked?  I’m sure a Muslim from Chicago and three southern ding bats who wrote “Tear Da Club Up” have a whole lot to say on a track together.  Thankfully, he did that shitty song with Mike Shinoda instead.  If you don’t like hip hop, don’t do hip hop.  Make your Electric Circus or Love Below and get it out of your system.

2.     He started the craze of overcrowded-designer hoodies along with Pharrell.  It’s officially over now because you can buy the knock-off joints at Forman Mills for $13.

3.     One of the producers on his label, Prolyfic, is a certified douche.  Peep his MySpace bio:

4.   He messed up the lyrics to “Electric Relaxation” on VH1’s Hip Hop Honors.  Since he clearly did not grow up listening to Tribe, why did he agree to do this song?  Was Little Brother unavailable?  They’ve spent their entire career trying to re-make this song.  Throw them a frickin bone.

5.  Lupe is known for being “internet savy.”  Call me old school but I don’t like major label rappers posting comments on blogs or forums on a weekly basis.  Phonte from Little Brother does this sometimes and it annoys me too.  They are still fans.  They read these sites and may catch feelings when someone talks about them.  But if your full-time job is to be an emcee, leave the bitching and crying and hyping to us rap dorks who have jobs that give us internet access.  If I wanted to know your direct thoughts on why cats like snap music but don’t buy the latest Mic Geronimo internet-only release, I’d send you an inflammatory email on MySpace because I know you check it every day on your phone.

 Get Down, Do You?



Things I’d like to see on The Cool:

1.   Ten or more songs produced by Kanye (“The Cool” is Kanye’s best produced album cut since “Never Change”) and Soundtrakk (of “Kick, Push” fame.  Kid is nice and he’s Hawaiian.  Bonus!).  Less songs produced by Douche Lord Prolyfic.

2.     One CRS supergroup song.  “Us Placers” was interesting from Kanye’s Can’t Tell Me Nothing mixtape.  This is highly unlikely though—Kanye has too much ego to get outshined by Lupe on a consistent basis as an MC.  And Pharrell is too busy rapping about Italian bandaids and Peruvian shower curtains to make a coherent song on a real album—just look at his verse on “Mr. Me Too.”

3. Three tracks produced by Q-Tip.  I really think the Abstract’s loose, warm, jazzy style would be a good contrast to Lupe’s nasal voice and layered lyrics.  There were too many loud, epic bangers on Food & Liquor that drowned out Lupe, and he was too complex for his own good sometimes.  Pharrell made “I Gotcha” specifically as a Native Tongues-style track and Lupe was right at home—bouncy, fun, simple (even though he posted somewhere on the internet that he is NOT a Native Tongues fan but Pharrel thought he was…so he did the track anyway?!?  Whatever, it’s hot still).

4. Two club records produced by Needlz.  They did a joint called “Tilted” on the Best Buy version of Food & Liquor that was f*cking FIRE!!!  More please.

5.  No more hoodies or skateboard references.  It would be cool if he did a De La Soul is Dead theme and put to rest the anime/video game/hipster fashion persona.  I think people are drawn to Lupe because he has substance as an emcee, he offers an alternative to coke/ringtone rap and he definitely makes you hit rewind several times during the course of an album.  Right now, he strikes me as MF Doom shopping at Urban Outfitters.

Unlike my love/hate relationship with Mos Def, Lupe is capable of putting out another record that actually has some raps on it.  He also has the capability to make a classic hip hop album that could cross over.  I just hope realizes it’s okay to rock out to Low End Theory.

MP3: Lupe Fiasco-“Daydreamin'”
MP3: Lupe Fiasco-“Kick Push”

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