July 03, 2014 via Pepsi
Artist of the Week: Lupe Fiasco
There are very few rappers who have experienced a more consistent career than Lupe Fiasco. The Chicago native has released four albums, with each one displaying his growth as an artist and individual. That, and his lyrical prowess, something his fans are probably still trying to catch up to years after the fact. When Lupe released his debut album Food & Liquor in 2006, he delivered a message that was as socially conscious as it was entertaining, and he shared it in a way that transcended your normal listening session. In doing so, he joined an elite class of rappers. And he hasn’t looked back since. With Lupe planning the release of his fifth album Tetsuo and Youth, we’ve highlighted his journey up to this point, which includes some very impressive achievements as well as interesting anecdotes that have shaped his path. From working with Kanye West to learning from greats like Jay Z and Nas to topping the charts all the way in Australia, Lupe Fiasco has made exceptional strides in his career, and it’s clear he has no plans to slow down.
1. Growing Up in the Windy City
Lupe Fiasco’s story starts in Chicago, where he was born and raised with nine other siblings in the Windy City. He took an early interest in martial arts thanks to his father, and excelled at it, while also performing well in grade school. Ironically, Lupe wasn’t too fond of rap in his earlier years because of the vulgarity that commonly took place. However, he came around to the creative allure of the genre as he got older.
2. Being Influenced by Nas and Jay Z
While Lupe Fiasco certainly kept an ear out for regional acts like Crucial Conflict and Do or Die, he credits New York rapper Nas and his 1996 sophomore album It Was Written as a major musical influence on his life. Nas’ short-lived supergroup The Firm also played a role in Lupe Fiasco choosing his rap name, which was influenced by the mafioso track “Firm Fiasco.” Jay Z was another artist that Lupe looked up to during his teen years. Both rappers gave him a lyrical blueprint to follow, which Lupe used to his advantage as his career began to take shape in the early 2000s.
3. Navigating the Music Industry and Signing to Atlantic Records
Lupe Fiasco’s skills as a lyricist surely didn’t go unnoticed. By the age of 19, he already had a major label deal with Epic Records as part of the group Da Pak. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long, and the group broke up. Lupe would sign a solo deal with Arista Records soon after, but that too didn’t go much further than his name on a contract. With the assistance of Jay Z, who described Lupe as a “breath of fresh air” when he met him, the Chicago rapper secured a deal with Atlantic Records and soon got to work on building his legacy.
4. Hooking Up With Kanye West
It was only a matter of time before fellow Chicagoans Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West finally bumped shoulders, and that brilliant musical moment was captured on “Touch the Sky.” The song was featured on West’s critically acclaimed 2005 album Late Registration, and Lupe delivered a breakout performance that couldn’t be denied. For an artist who had largely built his reputation through the mixtape circuit, “Touch the Sky” was proof that Fiasco was ready for the spotlight.
5. His Debut Album and Rise to Fame
Lupe Fiasco released his debut album in 2006 and it immediately established him as one of the best lyricists in the rap game. Tracks like “Daydreamin” and “The Cool” displayed his ability to brilliantly weave tales with a verbal edge, while “Kick, Push” became a seminal anthem that younger fans connected to. Conceptually, Food & Liquor touched on love, heartbreak, inner city struggles, world politics, and everything in between. Lupe even outperformed one of his hip-hop heroes, Jay Z, on “Pressure.” Considered by many to be a classic, his freshman release propelled Lupe into a space that he may not have even expected, but he certainly deserved it nonetheless.
6. Continuing His Success on Later Albums
Since his first, Lupe Fiasco has released three more albums. Each one shares a particular snapshot of his flourishing career. His 2007 release The Cool offered an upgrade in lyricism, while still preserving his passion for storytelling on tracks like “Hip Hop Saved My Life” and “Little Weapon.” A few years passed before he released his third album Lasers, but the Chicago rapper didn’t lose a step despite going for more of a pop appeal at the behest of his label. Lupe followed that up with The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 in 2012, which found him dealing with more pressing issues like consumerism and misogyny in hip-hop. Lupe Fiasco has never shied away from discussing topics that are controversial, which is why he is such a respected voice in rap.
7. Owning the Music Charts from America to Australia
Along with being respected by rap peers and fans alike, Lupe Fiasco has also proven to be a bankable artist when it comes to mainstream success. Three of his albums have debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard 200, with Lasers topping the charts in 2011. That album and The Cool have both been certified gold for selling 500,000 copies, no small feat in the digital era we currently live in. Lupe Fiasco also has a number of hit singles, including “Superstar,” “The Show Goes On,” and “Battle Scars.” The latter track, a collaboration with Aussie singer Guy Sebastian, ended up spending six weeks at the top of the Australian Singles chart when it was released in 2012. By the end of the year, it was the third highest selling single in the country. From America to Australia, Lupe is making his presence felt in a big way.
8. Earning Grammy Nominations Left and Right
Lupe Fiasco is no stranger to the Grammy Awards. Over the course of four albums, the Chicago rapper has garnered 12 Grammy nominations, winning the Best Urban/Alternative Performance award in 2008 for his record “Daydreamin” with R&B songstress Jill Scott. He’s also been nominated four consecutive times for Best Rap Album, which shows just how consistent Lupe Fiasco is when it comes to releasing music. This achievement is one that few solo acts can claim; he’s only surpassed by Jay Z and Eminem.
9. Working With Ed Sheeran on “Old School Love”
Lupe Fiasco has always been open to pushing his musical boundaries, and in 2013 he linked up with celebrated British pop star Ed Sheeran on his single “Old School Love.” The record features a nostalgic theme, with Lupe going down memory lane and describing how things have changed, and not all for the better. Still, there’s a charming vibe surrounding “Old School Love,” which makes it a lock for success on the charts. Moreover, it shows Lupe Fiasco has a knack for making great music out of unexpected collaborations.
10. What He Has Planned on His Upcoming Album Tetsuo and Youth
2014 looks to be another banner year for Lupe Fiasco, as the Chicago rapper is prepping to release his fifth studio album Tetsuo and Youth. Along with “Old School Love,” he has previewed a handful of songs from the project during his recent tour, and they all sound amazing. Guests on the project will include hip-hop heavyweights like Rick Ross and Big K.R.I.T., as well as established singers like Chris Brown, Guy Sebastian, and Ty Dolla $ign. Even with the big name features, Lupe Fiasco will undoubtedly deliver the most memorable moments on Tetsuo and Youth, and we can’t wait to hear them.