Released September 25, 2012 via 1st & 15th Records
In today’s Hip-Hop industry, the term “conscious rap” rarely finds it’s way to the top of the charts or trends. Lupe Fiasco, has the innate ability to conquer that. With talks about retirement, battles with his parent record company, and being trashed by fellow Chicago artist Chief Reef, the release of the next album seemed less than imminent. Luckily, overcoming fears and tribulations is one of Fiasco’s strong suits, subsequently giving us Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1.
“Even if I’m injured I’m gonna limp into the end zone”
Similar to the first two LPs, the record opens with a heedful message towards the youth and streets. As per the timeline, we get right into a deep, street-wise beat from go-to producer Soundtrakk. On a side-note, he produced half of The Cool and a quarter of F&L I, but found himself adding just one track to Lasers; the bonus track. “Strange Fruition” describes how the broken plans have been carried out (hence the track title), “when there was nothing equal for my people in your math.” Let’s get into the following track “ITAL (Roses),” because it’s a doozy. First things first, the triumphant themed beat that’s chock-full of horns, synths, kicks and snares is courtesy of 1500 or Nothin’. Now, ital is Rastafarian health food that is said to increase vitality and longevity. Lu plays on the theme by referring to a Camry being more fiscally responsible than a Ferrari, and uses hip hop’s culture as metaphoric parents, or rather warns us against it. Fiasco has the ability to take the most complex concept, dumb it down, and bundle it up in four or five minutes.
“Now I ain’t trying to be too complex, but let’s just say shorty has an undeveloped context”
The second single from the album was a brave choice, because unlike the aforementioned quote from “Bitch Bad,” the complexity is too deep for the radio. The again, worrying about radio play probably isn’t at the top of Lu’s ‘To-Do List.’ Speaking of brave, Lupe bares all on “Brave Heart,” with long-time collaborator Poo Bear. With the issues he addresses publicly, the people he calls out, all while remaining calm and collected, the line “courage under fire | gave me a brave heart” is far from a stretch. You don’t have to be a movie buff to know Denzel Washington is the definition of poised in Courage Under Fire, and Mel Gibson is a lionhearted warrior in Brave Heart. Being brave is easy to preach, and yet so many fail to follow through. Lupe is well respected (and hated by others) for pushing the envelope time and time again with his content, especially on track 5. “Audubon Ballroom,” which is the location where Malcolm X was assassinated, and at the end of the first verse, he adds Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life was taken. The focus is on how twisted black culture has always been, and how the proverbial Rubik’s cube is constantly toyed with. The intentionally ironic hook claims white people can’t say the N-word because it’s offensive to African Americans, and yet African Americans find the N-word offensive and demeaning. Lupe Fiasco’s objective that he declares over and over again, is not to “fix” America, but to spread the message through his music.
From the aggression of “Put ‘Em Up,” to the eloquence of “Battle Scars,” Food and Liquor II displays a wide range of emotions, lyricism and sounds. Lu even stayed true to a claim he made back on The Cool (“Fighters”), by adding one for the ladies with the help of Bilal; “How Dare You.” Finally, the outro “Hood Now” is simplistically clever. Lupe gently spits example after example of the progression of acceptance. “At the Oscar’s, P on the sticks | And the winner is…Three-6,” referring to when Three-6 Mafia won an Oscar for their track on the Hustle & Flow soundtrack. From Kanye sitting first row at fashion shows, to Obama occupying the White House, it’s hood now, it’s good now.
“You had Elvis Presley and he was crackin’ | But guess what? Here comes Michael Jackson”
Get Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album. Pt. 1
What did you think of the album?