Friday, December 4, 2009

Lupe’s New Mixtape is NO Fiasco [Part 1]

The one or two reviews I’ve read on Lupe’s mix tape are lukewarm. But let’s STOP, REWIND, & PLAY and give the brother some heat.

Fiasco’s whole reason for dropping the tape was to show that HE’S STILL HERE. MTV’s list didn’t bring him down, not even a notch, his flow is still STRONG. If you haven’t acknowledged that, then you DID NOT give the whole tape an intricate listen.

When I listen to ANYTHING, mix tape or album, official or unofficial, (it’s all music to me) I consider the beat, metas, puns, lyricism, and the intent of the artist.

We forget emceeing is an art, a craft. Everyone can get their hands on a brush. However, not everyone knows how to mix colors, whether acrylic, watercolor, or oil is best, or what the best canvass to use is.

You’ve truly become an artist when you’ve created a masterpiece. When every piece of the canvass is covered, when the paint is layered, and when your work exudes quality.

I’ve walked through the gallery of hip hop and lately I visit less frequently. The craftsmanship is shoddy, unfinished, and I’m not at all impressed.

Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed: There are random tracks thrown on mix tapes with a general theme to tie them all together. I understand you know how to rap, but where is your creativity?

There are ENTIRE albums where emcees have so many features I’ve only heard them spit about 6 times on THEIR own LP.

Hooks have become weaker and weaker (for the catchy-effect) and have NOTHING to do with the verses. Lupe Fiasco is an ARTIST. No if, and’s, or but’s about it.

“How you gon’ make hip-hop. Without all the ingredients?”- National Anthem, Enemy of The State: A Love Story, Lupe Fiasco

Here’s my PROOF:

National Anthem

“And Chi-town’s feelin' excellent//
We hit them with the President//
See we set the precedent//
I don’t feel I’m best//
I just feel I’m better than…//”

From the first track on the album, not including the intro, LUPE FIASCO is calling every snap-your-fingers-sambo-dance-killing-hiphop emcee OUT. All the way out.

One thing is for sure, Chi-Town has always held their place down in the game. From Common’s classic cut, “I Used to Love H.E.R.” to Mr. West’s “Homecoming” and even Fiasco’s “Go-Go Gadget Flow.”

All these emcees are excellent at storytelling, hidden metaphors, and paying homage to their city. He said they SET the precedent and I’m sorry, I can’t really argue that. NYC, I love you from the bottom of my heart, but I’ve never been drawn to a “prevalent” New York Emcee unless your name is Mos Def or Talib Kweli.

It is clear from the first verse that Fiasco asks to be recognized as an individual. When I ask anyone about their feelings on Lupe, I always get, “Oh that skateboard kid who Kanye put on?” I’m sure Fiasco is very appreciative of the “Touch the Sky” feature, however, that track and “Kick, Push” do not define his career.

“My new nickname is Ghengis Khan//
But without the ‘Ye, but his last name’s my side”

He first compares himself to Genghis Khan, one of the most powerful emperors and overthrowers of one of the largest empires (industry) in history.

Of course at first listen you would think the “ye” comment came from the fact that he just mentioned “khan.” (Get it, Khan-Ye) However, I personally feel that one bar separated him from being underneath the emcee, (Kanye was on the MTV List), and establishes his individuality. The last couple of words just refer to the fact that he’s from the “West” side of Chicago.

Fiasco then proceeds to compare the “rap game” to a school:

“School of Hard Knocks, I dean it//
I done it, as well as a celebrated alumnus//
I donate to the campus and my name’s on the arenas//
But you can’t bring it to my court//
Not even with subpoenas//
Cause you can’t play my sport//
But you can still cheer-lead us//
And you can’t sit there//
That section’s for the seniors//
And the sexy senoritas//
So just move up to the bleachers//
How you gonna school me when I grew up with your teachers//”

Notice, again he expresses his uniqueness by calling himself the dean. He also speaks of his experience using words like “alumnus” and phrases like “grew up with your teachers.”

On verse four, NOTICE THERE ARE 4 VERSES (which is rare nowadays), he takes the art of metaphor to great heights. Lupe uses the physicality of a woman and uses vital social issues to form the shape of her body.

“And what’s written on her titties is what it's really about//
Then her vagina is some poor kids from China//
Nipples nuclear missiles//
Ass is a daughter without a dad//
Back is like Afghanistan, Iraq//
Health care hair//
Drive by thighs//
Education lips//
HIV eyes//
Environment feet//”

This is always an element of Lupe-ism that I’ve always appreciated, no matter what the song is about, he always manages to teach or remind you where the real issues lie. The ending of each track on the tape is FLUID. Pay attention, either the beat or metaphor flows perfectly into the next track.

Fiasco was smart for releasing the tape “cassette style.” You can listen to the entire 22:16 minute tape without ever skipping a beat. Throughout the rest of the review, I’ll show you where this fluidity occurs.

Turnt Up Freestyle

“I am on my "mmhmm," they are on they "Oh, No!"//
I am really in here (hair), they ain't real like Soul Glo//
Don't you know I'm so sho, them n****'s got no Glow//
Find a master 'fore you can come back into the dojo//”

Sometimes I’m confronted by a bar that either sends me through a time warp or triggers a memory. Lupe does this in this short freestyle.


He drops catch phrases which tie into random things like the movies, “Coming to America” or “The Last Dragon.” Fiasco has the ability to tie the most random things into his lyrics.

We’ve seen this technique in his “materialism” track, “Gold Watch.” CREATIVITY is taking something that is irrelevant and making it significant.

The fluidity that I mention earlier takes place at the end of this track:

“And it's set to Tire Barn, Get ya fire-fighter on....//
I ain't worried 'bout you hoes (hose), I don't even need to roll//
I turn down your ex like how you put your tires on//
Once I get these tires on, I buy a bomb and tie it on//
And ride this around the entire song, find a line to drive it on//
Park it near a metaphor, wait for it, the timer's on//
You can turn your hydrants on, I'll just turn my wipers on//
Wipe it off then wipe me down but don't forget about my bomb!//”

Notice all the mentions of bombs, hydrants, fire-fighter’s and hoses? Did you realize that “Yoga (Flame)” is the next track on the tape? The beat is Weezy’s “(Fire)man.”

Does he give clues to the next track? Give you warning of that he’s about to demolish Weezy’s attempt at rap? Yes, he does. FLUIDITY.

Yoga Flame

“Uh, meditate//
On the floor, fold your legs, resonate//
Breathing speed, regulate//
Clear my mind till it levitate//

Dhalsim, I beat the game//

Level 8, Hella good//

Never great cause God is great//”

For all those confused about the title: The title is derived from one of the tactics of Dhalism, a street fighter character in Street Fighter II. (Sooo RANDOM, I love it.)

His fighting style is “Yoga based”, which includes a lot of stretching and makes him a great hand-to-hand fighter. He also uses many fire-based attacks, one of which is the “Yoga Flame.”

This track is Lupe’s form of a fire-based attack, his heat, his fire. On who’s beat? Weezy. Repeat-a-pun, weak-metaphor, Weezy.

“Take that cool shit, make it lame//
Take that nerd shit, make it bang//
Yeah, you heard us make it bang//

Yeah, you heard me make it bang//
Melt the change and make a ring//

Take that ring and make a bracelet//
Take that bracelet make a chain//

Look how far my necklace hang//
Connect that chain up to a crane//”

Lupe stated in an interview I read awhile ago that he wanted to take the “cool and make it un-cool.” We know from his Lasers motto that Lupe is for the “outcasts” of society. In the beginning of this verse he expresses exactly that.

In the verse before this he says: “Ororo Munroe make it rain, Not with bills, I make it change” Now he emphasizes how much change he would like to affect within society. He goes from a ring, to a bracelet, to a chain. The change in essence becomes larger. This is his goal.

Here’s where he GOES IN:

Everyone feels as if he’s personally attacking every emcee on the MTV List.

Yes, it’s true that he shouts them out: “Shouts to Drizzy, shout to Wayne//Yeezy, Jeezy, Ricky, Fifty, Raekwon, Loso, Gucci Mane/”

However, he doesn’t personally attack ANYONE. He uses a word that can encompass any part of the game’s ignorance. He continues to use words such as “these” “they” and “them.”

That’s Lu’s style, he never comes after anyone’s head, and I respect that. However, I must contradict myself here a bit. Lupe DOES have some hidden metaphor in here that can be taken as an attack.

However, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and as Mr. Genius says, “It’s not like he can’t back it up.” Yes I heard the Zach Galifianakis vs. Weezy comparison, the net worth mention, and the mixtape/blogosphere (ushare, zhare, and information highway) lines.

However, we’re staying positive in this review and I’m not going to elaborate on it here. Lu throws disses with subtlety and class. My mother used to tell that I can use the positive to say something negative. It all depends on your tone. I never quite understood what she meant, UNTIL NOW. “Rest in peace to wackness.” Yes Lu, I agree.

Allow an emcee his time to shine, to enlighten you, to il-lu-minate you.

For the reviewers who are careless with their adjectives, "sophmore", "attempt", "okay", and "alright". Remember the intent of the artist who you write about. Decipher the code wthin his lyrics, allow him to fill you with words that vie for change.

Lupe is an artist, his beat selection, lyricism, feature choice, and change of genre prove that he indulges his craft. Take a walk through his wing of the gallery: Run your finger through his last album cover like you would over an oil painting, consider his mixing, his blending, the elements he includes. No blank spaces, no fingerpaint, no flick of a brush. Just straight....Picasso.

And this is only part 1......ENEMY!


  1. Excellent review, can wait for part deus! FNF UP!

  2. fantastic review... i loved the tape before, but now i have a new appreciation for the metaphors and meanings lupe is throwin down.

  3. WOW..... I AM A Dude From The CHI... Lupe Is My Third Favorite mc below Hov and Common... This DAMN review Made me rearrange That!!! Lupe 1.. Common 2......3______...... Great REVIEW!!! Index, Ring, Middle, Pinky & Thumbs WAY UP!!! PEACE... Feel Free To Visit the Blog Spot... Hekhernandez...

  4. Lovely review, it's not often I find myself spending time reading long texts about other peoples thoughts on music, but this one was well worth the time. Good one, sir!

  5. @Magnus er... Riva's a young lady lol.

  6. Excellent review. Looking foward to Part 2.

  7. "oh that skateboard kid"...lupe is my favorite rapper and has been for a few years now but before i actually listen to him that how i thought of him, he would be way mroe popular if kick push wasnt his first single, it alienates ppl lol

  8. Miss Riva, I must admit, that even though I initially expected this review to be either similar or just like XXL's poor attempt to review; I had some hope, mainly because it came directly from il-lu-mination. And I was not disappointed at all. This review was superbly written! I'm eagerly waiting for part two.

    Keep up the great work!

  9. Amazing review made me think of stuff in a new way. That Khan line went so over my head.. I even read it and was like WTF still makes no sense. Now i feel like a moron such a simple like and i was confused.

    @ the skateboard kid thing.. I think people who don't like him because of that song wouldn't like him anyways because he is a different kind of rapper from the normal. He put out I gotcha which was catchy and lyrically was pretty disgusting and not even that hard to understand yet people didn't like him so to each his own.

  10. The only thing I dont like about the mixtape are a few of the beats. But lyrically he MURDERS the shit

    That and it was a lil short, but again there's soooo much in those 22mins its ridiculous. I'm not even sure I could take anymore. And said he was dropping something on Christmas.

    I give it 4.5/5 just cause there were a few beats i'm not a fan of.

  11. bshrop i agree with you 100% Some of the beats just don't move me but his lyrics are so great as usual.

  12. "Microphone check (Cheque),
    I make 'em all bounce."

    That's one line I feel truly captures the essence of the mixtape. There are hidden meanings everywhere that can change the way you look at the entire song, how you interpret the art.

    Outstanding review, I completely agree.

  13. Nice Love The Review, But If U Realize Lupe Took his Flow Frm "Food & Liquor" And "The Cool" And Mixed Them 2gether, Amazing, Rite? Like Pay Attention 2 Lupe's First Video He Evr Put Out "Failure" And Compare It 2 Let's Say Umm.. "Streets On Fire," Fuse Both Flows 2gether And Ull Have Urself "Lasers" Lol And Any Other Mixtapes He Puts Out. Great Stuff Rite?

  14. all the beats are fire and the selection of beats is perfect just to mix and mash it shows that hiphop game rap can go in any direction and still not be trash from radio head to travis porter thats speaks volumes for the creative space rap can cover. THis article was written well, thanks Riva for your thoroughness, you expounded on some of my thoughts universal mind, and u poointed out somethings i missed. know part two will be just as superb. IM glad il lu mination is up now we can actually discuss lupe.

    what yall think about the proposed lupe and jay elcectronica battle.. Even though lupe already dead the idea. what do yall think?

  15. Lupe is a genius. I would do anything to be with him int the studio for one day.

  16. Thanks for the love guys. Cooking up part 2 as we speak. :-)

  17. all the names he drops are names on MTV's top 10 rappers. He didnt murder lil wayne though... you crazy

  18. he didnt murder him correct but eradicate him on his beat yes... rap circles around him yes,make a lil fun of him yes, discredit all the lame shit he talks about yes, n did it with dope rhymes about real stuff check and barely any swear words. Black rap zack galifainakas.. Im waiting for wayne to reply

  19. In the make it rain line of fireman, Ororo Munroe is actually Storm from the X-Men. That's why he said Make it Rain also.

  20. This was an incredible review! Lupe's metaphors are insane! Great job breaking them down. This tape is fire.

  21. I wish you would have pointed out that jay z is the only person from the top 10 he didnt mention and thats obviously not a mistake other than that excellent review but where is part 2??? lol

  22. Lol. I've just finished w/ finals guys. Give the girl a sec.


  23. Hey Riv,
    Excellent analysis and review; you are an incredible writer!

  24. Hey Riv,
    Do you write for other magazines; we would like to see more of your written published work.

  25. I've been asked that often....I publish reviews, poetry, and memoirs on my personal blog I'm currently working on a mixtape and a book...I'll post it when they're finished. Thanks for the love.

  26. It's the 28th of October 2010. Nothing special. Justed to show you that this article is timeless. I do know how to express my feeling on a comment, but you took the words right out of my mouth and said some things that I didn't even know about but definately agree on.

  27. niiiiiiiiiiiiiice!

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