When he burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s, Lupe Fiasco (real name Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, born February 16, 1982) was called a breath of fresh air into what had been becoming an overly commercialized genre. By Jay-Z, no less. His first early success came when he appeared on Kanye West's "Touch the Sky". Not long after that, his debut album Food & Liquor dropped and the lead single "Kick, Push", a homage to skateboarding among other things, started to reveal the talent the young rapper had. The album was critically acclaimed and got him three Grammy nods.
A year later, his sophomore effort The Cool told the story of three different characters: The Cool (aka Micheal Young History), The Streets (the female personification of addiction to the high life), and The Game, a manifestation of the perils of urban living. There are numerous references scattered throughout both albums.
His third album, Lasers, was shelved in 2008 by his label because they thought it wasn't "pop" enough. A combination of Lupe caving to pressure and rewriting some songs (something he has said will forever taint his own opinion of the album) and general fan outrage led to the record finally being released in 2011.
Atlantic has promised to keep their hands off of The Great American Rap Album, and Lupe himself said it would appeal to some of his oldest fans. He also has an impressive arsenal of mixtapes that have become popular in their own right, notably the Fahrenheit 1/15 trilogy, and more recently Enemy of the State. Friend of the People, previously cancelled, was released on Thanksgiving 2011, like it was supposed to the previous year, before he cancelled it due to people leaking his songs.
Funnily enough, the genre that his Friend of the People mixtape is classified under is "Unclassifiable".
Food and Liquor II was released in 2012. While the album was generally well liked and earned him (yet another) Grammy Nomination, a lot of criticism came in the form of accusing Lupe Fiasco being a bit too Anvilicious and one critic accused his self-regard being greater than his actual skill. Fans, on the other hand, loved it.
In December 2016, he announced that he was "retiring" from rapping after releasing a single known as "N.E.R.D." and then cancelled three planned albums for 2017 under the name DROGAS, DROGAS Light, and Skulls. He later on surprised people by releasing DROGAS Light, and the future of the other albums remain up in the air.
In 2018, he released DROGAS WAVE, which has seen massive praise from fans, calling it one of his best.
- Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (2006)
- Lupe Fiasco's The Cool (2007)
- Lasers (2011)
- Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 (2012)
- Tetsuo & Youth (2014)
- DROGAS Light (2017)
- DROGAS WAVE (2018)
- Drill Music in Zion (2022)
- Pumpkin Seeds (feat. Aesop Rock, 2022)
- Alternative Rap
- Badass Boast: While he has long since left his gangsta rap days behind, he still does leave a few in his songs.If you came to box, you'll leave in a bag.
- Big Bad: His concept album character The Game, who is a large man in a suit with a Skull for a Head, glowing red dice for eyes, and crack smoke that billows from his mouth.
- Bilingual Bonus: "Drogas" is performed entirely in Spanish. Furthermore, "Drogas" is Spanish for "drugs".
- Black and Nerdy: From dropping references to Lupin III on "Touch the Sky" to being a huge gamer, Lupe is one of the finest examples of a nerd from the hip-hop world. The glasses help too.
- Call-Back: Occasionally references his older songs in newer ones. "State Run Radio" references "Dumb It Down" and "Superstar", two songs on a similar topic."Not too smart, and you'll be a superstar/ If if you dumb it some, maybe you can be number one"
'Can you feel it?' That's what I got asked/Do I love her? I said I don't know/ Streets got my heart, game got my soul/One times my sunshine will never hurt your soul..."
- "The Coolest" uses an altered version of the chorus to "I Don't Feel Too Good" and name-drops "Hurts Me Soul" and "Sunshine" near the end.
- Celebrity Song: "Joaquin Phoenix"
- Child Soldiers: The subject of the first two verses of Little Weapon
- Concept Album: The Cool
- Conspiracy Theorist: In "Words I Never Said", he references the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was an inside job and that diet coke actually kills brain cells.
- Continuity Nod
- Darker and Edgier/Deconstruction: "Kick, Push II". It continues where "Kick, Push" left off, but paints a depressing picture of the lives of The Skater and his crew. The original is romantic, idealized fantasy about leaving the world behind with your True Companions and the one you love, while "Kick Push II" reflects on how awful their lives would need to be to desire that kind of escapism.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Subverted in the extended version of "And He Gets The Girl". Just before the third verse we have the spoken lines:"And just like everything in life, things grow. People grow. And people grow apart. It's like some things were just never meant to be... but... then again, maybe... some things are."
- Dual-Meaning Chorus: Many, but "Intruder Alert" in particular.
- Epic Rocking: Tetuso and Youth features many songs that go over five minutes but special mention goes to Mural (8:48), Prisoner 1 & 2 (8:36), and especially Chopper (9:32). The last one is especially notable for being a result of seven rappers all making 32 bar verses because no one was given a length cap.
- Freestyle Version: One, Friend of the People features him subverting the trope slightly, as he freestyles over obscure dance and dubstep instrumentals on it (and also over John Coltrane's A Love Supreme). He also freestyled Que's "OG Bobby Johnson" as "THOT 97".
- Fun with Acronyms:
- L.A.S.E.R.S, or Love Always Shines Every-time, Remember 2 Smile.
- His first rap name was Lil' Lu with L.U. standing for "Lyrical Underdog"
- Geek Reference Pool
- Grand Finale: He was planning to have released a triple album to mark the end of his career by now, but contract disagreements with his record label has led it to being postponed thus far.
- Heroism Motivation Speech: A rare rap example, but "The Show Goes On" has a rather impressive example in lyrical form. The whole point of the message is that he will continue to be the artist who tries to direct the youth into a more positive direction than most mainstream rap."One in the air for the people in here. Two in the air for the father that's there.
Three in the air for the kids in the ghetto. Four for the kids that don't wanna be there.
None for the niggas tryna hold them back. Five in the air for the teacher not scared
To tell those kids that's living in the ghetto that the niggas holdin' back that the world is theirs.
Yeah, yeah the world is yours! I was once that little boy,
Terrified of the world. Now I'm on a World Tour.
I will give up everything, even start a world war,
For these ghetto girls and boys I'm rappin' 'round the world for."
"I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence.
- And "Words I Never Said" comes with yet another one as the third verse.
Fear is such a weak emotion; that's why I despise it.
We scared of almost everything, afraid to even tell the truth.
So scared of what you think of me I'm scared of even telling you.
Sometimes I'm like the only person I feel safe to tell it to.
I'm locked inside a cell in me. I know that there's a jail in you.
Consider this your bailing out, so take a breath, inhale a few.
My screams is finally getting free. My thoughts is finally yelling through!"
- He's Back!: With the release of American Terrorist III, as well as his Friend of the People: I Fight Evil mixtape, this has been many a fans joyous reaction.
- Lampshaded Double Entendre: Invoked near the end of Bitch Bad.
- Ludicrous Gibs: There's a slightly oblique reference at the end of Verse 3 of Super Lupe Raps.Game over, body parts.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Little Weapon", mentioned above, has a rather upbeat backing track.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1 is completely black (you could say All Black Everything), without the artist's name, the title, or anything except for the Parental Advisory label.
- Minored in Ass-Kicking: Remember, he's a black belt.
- And he finally shows it during the Words I Never Said music video.
- Misogyny Song: An In-Universe Deconstruction in the song "Bitch Bad" where it talks about how songs that portray women as objects and use words that mean bad things as good things can affect young girls and young boys.
- Music Is Politics: State Run Radio highlights this while intertwining the typical political topics. The irony of it is that it was one of the songs that were heavily edited to be marketed for radio play.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Skater and his crew."One's father was filthy rich, two was middle class, and one was homeless/ add in the paralyzed girl in the wheelchair who just liked to watch, and that was the whole clique."
- Shaped Like Itself: Used in Game Time"Now, that's 'L' as in 'little', 'U' as 'opposite of me', 'P' as in 'pistol' and 'E' as in......'E'."
- Story Arc: The first seven tracks on DROGAS WAVE tell the story of a group of slaves who jump from a slave ship into the Atlantic Ocean, realize they can breathe and live underwater, and sink other slave ships while making friends with the marine life.
- Supergroup: Two of 'em: Child Rebel Soldier and All City Chess Club.
- Super Mode: A rather hilariously dangerous Real Life example, after Soulja Boy said nobody could understand Lu's lyrics, Lu decided to record the song "SLR (Super Lupe Raps)"...the cover art for the song really reads SUPER LUPE FIASCO-SLR. Also, the track's artist is labeled as "Super Lupe Fiasco". The funny thing is, SLR is filled to the brim with metaphors, shout outs, and insults. And it's 6 minutes long.
- "O ye tormented souls! My goal is to sit on top of the world like North Poles..."
- "Flow's so nuts the track is getting teabagged..."
- "You can feel it in your chest, like Bruce Lee jumping on your vest. But I can't feel yours through my Superman "S" "
- "You can't understand me, nor mimic my miracles. All I see is me, and I'm a mother-loving-mirror-full..."
- And even better, after Kendrick Lamar set the world alight with his verse on Big Sean's "Control", Lupe returned to this and released "SLR 2" and "SLR 3: Round of Applause".
- Take That!: Occasionally, usually to more mainstream rap. Lupe may be clever with his meanings and rhymes, but his insults are usually not as subtle. A fairly direct one is made about 22 seconds from the end of "Gotta Eat", aimed at Soulja Boy. It's barely audible upon the first few hearings."Youuuuuuuuu..... that shit is so stupid..."
- Alternatively, "Gotta Eat" likens fast food companies to a drug dealer selling a product that they know is slowly killing people.
- "Dumb It Down" is basically a treatise directed at mainstream rappers and the record execs that push them.
- To the chagrin of rappers and their loyal, teenage fans who love music videos with guns, drugs and boobs in slow motion and think it's incredible and creative, "Daydreamin'" fires back by pointing out that they're played out and they were never really that cool.
- The entirety of "B.M.F. (Building Minds Faster)" is another shot to the mainstream, Rick Ross in particular.
- Soulja Boy got his (again) after he claimed that Lupe's lyrics were indecipherable in "S.L.R. (Super Lupe Raps)".
- "Words I Never Said" takes what was meant to be a love song and uses it to slam political pundits, Barack Obama and self-described revolutionaries who only listen to protest songs while doing nothing to bring about change.
- The entire first verse of "The Show Goes On" is spent telling Atlantic Records to collectively fuck themselves.
- "State Run Radio" is pretty self-explanatory.
- Kendrick Lamar, amongst others, is targeted in "SLR 2" and "SLR 3: Round of Applause".
- 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne have shots taken at them in "Peace of Paper/Cup of Jayzus"
- Arguably "Pound of Flesh/Paris, Tokyo 2" takes shots at Drake.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Does this twice in "ITAL (Roses)" stating that it's justified."And please don't excuse my language/ Cause I would hate for you to misrepresent the true expression of my anguish"
- Villain Song: Many of his songs in The Cool, even The Coolest.
- What If?: "All Black Everything" is a scenario that depicts what would happen if the Slave Trade never happened. The final verse subverts this stating that there is nothing you can do about the past, but can do something about the future.
- With Lyrics: "Hello/Goodbye (Uncool)" for "Chemistry".
- World of Pun: Every line of Gotta Eat is a food puns while describing a drug dealer... or describes food using drug dealing puns... or it's a Take That! against the fast food industry likening them to drug dealers... it's hard to say.
- Maybe it's all three?