Listening to Lupe Fiasco is hard. Because, while the beats are top-notch and the flow is tight and fast, the lyrics are on an entirely different level, almost unattainable. Yes, you can understand the social critique. Yes, you can register the variety of cultural references — everything from The Matrix to Sigmund Freud to the Trail of Tears to Charles Montgomery Burns (and that’s all in one song). Yes, you can relate to his attacks on economic disparity (I can) or the American black identity (I cannot). But the conviction? The complexity and density of the messages? Untouchable.
On Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt.1, Lupe Fiasco is on fire. Saying that the famously anti-establishment rapper is socially conscious is like saying Mötley Crüe is fond of lady folk. There are enough ideas on this album to write a thousand reviews; it would be like trying to hit on the main points of an encyclopedia.
With that in mind, though, you’ll learn something with every listen. Lupe and his pulpit are admirably candid. “Bitch Bad” makes a case for re-evaluating the use of a certain word in regard to women, “Audubon Ballroom” offers a grave history lesson of sorts, and “Strange Fruition” and “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)” gather enough frustration at the American condition in general that, if you weren’t indignant before, you will be after listening.
Seem like Mr. Fiasco is rehashing? He’s aware. On “Ital (Roses),” Lupe explains, “I know you’re sayin’, ‘Lupe rappin ’bout the same shit’/Well, that’s ’cause ain’t shit changed, bitch.” Food & Liquor II is not here for the same type of consumption as, say, a Flo Rida album (and thank your stars). Sure, the label probably hopes to move a few copies. But there’s more at stake here — it just happens to be wrapped in highly enjoyable music. Whether or not you’re on board with everything he says, the album feels like a conversation with an incredibly interesting man.
Bottom line? No one can tell you what this album is about better than Lupe himself.
(2) “Strange Fruition”
(5) “Audubon Ballroom”
(6) “Bitch Bad”