Lupe Fiasco - Food & Liquor

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“Kick, push, kick, push, kick, push, kick, push, coast …” Skateboarding has never sounded so sexy. Lupe Fiasco’s onomatopoeic masterpiece Kick, Push transcends story rap to depict a lifestyle. Strings elegantly introduce Fiasco’s frenetic flow and horns blast their way out of the chorus threatening to drown out the lyricism. The effect is similar to the first time you sat in a cinema and experienced surround-sound.

Dedicated to his Grandma, Fiasco’s debut release Food & Liquor is exceptional. Six years in the making, it elevates far above gangster rap and is infinitely listenable. Beauty lies in its simplicity. The arrangements are uncluttered compared to recent leanings toward the convoluted, such as Outkast’s Idlewild. The rhythm section keeps it simple and is hypnotically constant throughout. A marked dichotomy exists between lush melodic orchestral landscapes and Fiasco’s poignant lyrical content, aptly demonstrated in Hurt Me Soul. “They say I’m infected, this is what I injected, I had it aborted, you got deported…” It’s unnerving but provocative, easy on the ear at a distance then sinister to comprehend.

Even the innocent-sounding string infused Daydreamin’ simmers insidiously beneath the surface. Jill Scott’s vocals transport us via the chorus to a temporary escape from the bitter reality recreated in each verse; crack-heads, crime-scenes, drug-fuelled benders while the baby sleeps in the next room. Fiasco’s cadence is instinctive and draws you into his political commentary. The lazy groove of bongo rhythms welcomes American Terrorist as a worthy soapbox. “Close your mind, close your eyes, see with your heart. How do you forgive the murderer of your father? The ink of a scholar is worth a thousand times more than the blood of a martyr.”

Insert photography packs a further punch; children arriving at school wearing backpacks filled with ammo, teachers offering lessons in weaponry, drive-by shootings. The imagery is as harrowing as scenes from Dennis Hopper’s 1988 film ‘Colors’. Co-writing acknowledgements read like a who’s who of credible rap icons. Pharrell Williams lends his collaborative finesse to the toe-tapping I Gotcha, Kanye West assists with haunting track The Cool, and Jay Z represents on Pressure. The latter incorporates a sample that could be the theme song to a 70s TV show. Images of flare-clad gun-toting afros in high-speed car-chases spring to mind.

The bittersweet nostalgic narrative of He Say She Say features a Burt Bacharach sample and lies comfortably amidst Fiasco’s thought-provoking, political messages. Kick, Push II offers alternate lyrics over the original score and reveals the tragic circumstances of the Kick,Push players. “That’s why he kick, push. Over his shoulder he swore he’d never look, ‘cos wasn’t nothing back there but the blackness. Life wasn’t too attractive.” Familiarity with the melody provides sustenance for your receptors. This album is best consumed in its entirety.

A continuation on the cyclical motif brings us back to the beats behind Fiasco’s contribution to Intro. They provide a backdrop for gratuitous shout-outs that steal an outrageous 12:12 minutes of your life and include sponsorship plugs – staff members from specific Reebok stores are individually named, magazines including Billboard are bigged up for allowing Fiasco’s head to grace their covers, and artists he admires – such as Gorillaz – garner a mention.

Food & Liquor supplied the shopping soundtrack at Myer just the other day. This prompts the recommendation to jump on this LP with abandon, enjoy, then jump off before instrumental ‘muzak’ versions are piped out in elevators and supermarkets everywhere. “It’s a long time coming; I give you my heart, my soul, my mind, my thoughts, my feelings, my experience, nothing more and nothing less… So with no further ado, Lupe Fiasco’s ‘Food & Liquor.’” Guaranteed to nourish your soul and intoxicate your faculties, this stellar offering demands your ears. I’ll be kicking and pushing my way in to see him at Big Day Out 2007.

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