Monday, January 15, 2007

The top 10 albums of 2006: No. 8

Lupe Fiasco

Food & Liquor

With a fertile imagination and a nimble, lively flow, Lupe Fiasco dissects urban perils and pastimes on his debut, Food & Liquor.

On "Kick, Push," he sings about a skateboarder who perseveres despite busting his lip, being labeled a misfit and encountering one no-skating zone after another. "Sunshine" recounts finding a love in a club. The spoken-word-poetry portion of "Intro" mentions "prisons packed, bubblin' over in brown sugar."

The instrumentation is top-notch and complements the lyrics. A Curtis Mayfield vibe pervades the early highlight "Kick, Push." The horns surge and ease, the strings slide and glide, the beats bring to mind the clunk of landing jumps. "Sunshine," likewise, uses tiny chimes and a soft keyboard loop to craft its gentle, magical-evening feel. Strong backing vocalists and cameos throughout Food & Liquor, including Jay-Z, Jill Scott, Gemini and Sarah Green, pair well with Lupe's voice and style.

"Daydreamin'" blankets pops and crackles with stately strings and piles on warmth from Jill Scott as Lupe floats into a reverie about what life would be like if he were living in the head of a giant robot. Surprisingly, the track veers into a send-up of rap videos:

"Now come on everybody, let's make cocaine cool
We need a few more half-naked women up in the pool
And hold this MAC-10 that's all covered in jewels
And can you please put your titties closer to the .22s?
And where's the champagne? We need champagne
Now look as hard as you can with this blunt in your hand
And now hold up your chain slow-motion through the flames
Now cue the smoke machines and the simulated rain"

"Daydreamin'," like other tracks at the album's core, showcase Lupe's flair for storytelling.

"The Cool," for instance, follows a dude after his shooting, from his casket to the other side --- except that there's "no heaven for a gangsta," so he's cursed to wander the Earth. Over a menacing synth line and a wicked beat, Lupe describes how the dead man retraces his steps. When he boards a train, other passengers complain that he stinks, oblivious to his zombiefied state. He retraces his steps and bumps into some youths who try to sell him crack, then rob him "with the same gun they shot him with."

On "Hurt Me Soul," Lupe takes a page from author-broadcaster Studs Terkel and gathers anecdotes from his community. But, since he has to fit everything into one track, everybody gets about one sentence. The result is a collage of humanity:

"They say I'm infected
This is what I injected
I had it aborted
We got deported
My laptop got spyware
Say that I can't lie here
But I got no place to go

I can't stop eatin'
My best friend's leavin'
My pastor touched me
I love this country
I lost my earpiece
I hope y'all hear me
'Cause it hurt me soul"

Lupe plays with point of view on the absent-father tale "He Say She Say," too. He starts with Mom asking her man to "be a father" and follows it up with the son's perspective: "You ain't been kickin' it since I was old enough to hold bottles."

In the introduction to Food & Liquor, Lupe pledges us "my heart, my soul, my mind and my thoughts, my feelings, my experience."

What a potent, intoxicating combination to consume.


Janica said...

I have to admit that Lupe Fiasco was a highlight of Bumbershoot for me. "Kick/Push" is an amazing hip-hop song, so much so I bought it on iTunes after the concert with Kanye West.

Anonymous said...

nice read. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did any one hear that some chinese hacker had busted twitter yesterday again.