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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Lupe questions

Published: October 1, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Now that the hype of the 50-Kanye clash has somewhat died down, it may be time for cooler and weirder things. Im talking about rapper-turned-skateboard pop icon Lupe Fiasco, of course.

His sophomore effort The Cool is scheduled to drop sometime in October. His first single off the new album, Superstar, gives us all the things we Lupe fans have come to love and expect from this artist: some wicked production, multi-tiered and rich lyrics, and an overall positive yet contemplative outlook on what Lupe sees as a troubled world.

In this particular song, featuring fellow Chicago native, vocalist Matthew Santos, Lupe questions the role of superstardom in society, criticizing society itself for buying into superstars.

In the last verse, as he has done in prior songs like Daydreamin and Twilight Zone, Lupe gives us a glimpse of a euphoric world of his own invention, limited only by the reaches of Lupes very unique imagination.

In Superstar, Lupe shows us a world without competition. One where Everybody gets a nice autograph picture/ One for you and one for your sister/…/ Every song's a favorite song/ And mikes don't feed back/All the reviewers say you need to go and see that/ And everybody claps cuz everybody is pleased/ Then they all take the stage and start performing for me.

Like friend and part-time collaborator Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco is highly introspective. In the first lines of the song Superstar, Lupe admits that he wants to believe [his] own hype but its too untrue… illustrating his own struggle with self-pride and discerning the truth from the hype.

After some self analysis, Lupe uses the second verse to execute a lovely and somewhat shocking reversal of perspective in which he scrutinizes societys obsession with pop culture. He describes a scene in which a convicted criminal is freed from the death penalty by a last minute intervention.

He then proceeds to tell us of how The audience aint fazed/ And they aint goin' clap and they aint goin' praise/ They want everything back that they paid/ Cuz they been waiting since ten to see the lights get dim.

The scene described draws one back to the thoughts and acts of barbarism in another society, that of the Romans. Lupe gives us a gladiator-esque situation where the death of the entertainer is inconsequential when compared to satiating the crowds needs. This is a powerful allegory for the lengths that music artists today are forced to go and the reward they usually receive from their fickle-hearted fans.

If you cant already tell, this is some soulful stuff. Lupes new album, The Cool, is definitely bound to serve up some delightful surprises. The title is the first hint that Lupe will fulfill this promise.

Lupes song entitled “The Cool follows a day in the un-dead life of a fallen gangster raised from the grave only to find that hes no longer wanted in the world that he died for. Possible allusions to this song include Lupes website picture in which we see a skeletal hand and above read the words Hustler for Death.

Lupe's use of intrigue might end up being a crucial tool, as he has a lot to recover from. His last album, Food and Liquor, although an artistic masterpiece in my opinion, was a huge flop by the industry's count. The running joke amongst many of my hip-hop head colleagues is that Lupes album didnt even go wood. As mean as this joke, inspired by legendary rapper Big L in his song All Black, may seem, it does not change the fact that Food and Liquor despite the skateboarder craze it proliferated was not the financial success it was expected to be. Frankly, it went over a lot of heads.

This brings me to Lupes next challenge. Lupe still refuses to Dumb it Down. As the aforementioned song, also off of the new album, explains in complicated detail, Lupe will not simplify his lyrics. In fact it would seem that hes become even more confounding with wordplay and concepts this time around. It took me several listens to hear the socio-political statements in Superstar. At first I though it was just another song complaining about fame.

Will Lupe hit the jackpot? Only time can tell. I personally hope so. To end this piece Ill reference myself in a little quote I came up with that Im sure Lupe would appreciate: What Ive learned in life is that everyone has their day in the sun, so be patient, and while youre still in shade, remember to stay cool.