Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (album review)

JuicyJC's photo


Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor
Released September 19, 2006

reviewed by FreeJC

Chicago has always provided a strong game with artists like Kanye West, Common, and Twista, to name a few. Almost five years ago, Wasalu Jaco a.k.a. Lupe Fiasco only helped to cement Chicago’s rap talent after dropping Food & Liquor, his debut album. After releasing a couple mixtapes, Lupe’s debut was well anticipated. At the time, he was also leading production company 1st & 15th (named after the days of the month when welfare arrives).

On Food & Liquor, the Muslim MC finds himself battling the good and evil elements in everyday life. Lupe said:

In Chicago, instead of having bodegas like in New York, the majority of the corner stores are called ‘Food and Liquors.’ The store is where everything is at, whether it be the wine-o hanging by the store, or us as kids going back and forth to the store to buy something. The ‘Food’ is the good part and the ‘Liquor’ is the bad part. I try to balance out both parts of me.

The self described nerdy, skateboarding rapper pulls together an exceptional debut album packed with uniquely strong beats, deep messages, and Lupe’s trademark lyrical prowess.

The album begins with Iesha Jaco, Lupe’s sister, reading poetry over the background of what is supposed to be a busy Chicago street corner. Then Lupe explains the thesis of the album.

2.“Real” featuring Sarah Green
“Life ain’t meant to come around twice/ Yeah. that’s why I gotta get it right” Lupe rhymes over a beat with orchestral ties and guitar riffs. Right off the bat, he pairs up with 1st & 15th singer Sarah Green on a pretty good opening track describing the focus of his music and how it ties into his life, promising people close to him he will always remain “real.”

3.“Just Might Be Ok” featuring Gemini
Producer Prolyfic uses “Humphrey’s Overture” by Paul Humphrey to back Lupe’s autobiographical lyrics. In the end, Lupe tries to make a case as to why he’s a great rapper with an average track.

4.“Kick, Push”
This track is probably Lupe’s most notable, as it was his breakout single. The audience hears the story of a boy who grows up skateboarding through his childhood, successes, and love life. “Kick, Push” demonstrates storytelling rap at its finest over a Cuban orchestra’s smooth horns and delicate strings. The first standout track thus far on Food & Liquor

5.“I Gotcha”
The fifth track features dope production by The Neptunes, leading Lupe to compare Pharrell to jazz composer/artist Thelonius Monk. The second single off Food & Liquor features Lupe’s sharp lyrical tongue using soap and scents as ideas for extended metaphors. I’ve been listening to this song forever and I still catch double entendres and second meanings I never recognized before. The second notable track on the album.

6.“Instrumental” featuring Jonah Matranga
A rather bland song featuring former Far frontman Jonah Matranga, “Instrumental” has Lupe telling the tale of a man who is addicted to television. The production is nothing special, and the hook is forgettable.

7.“He Say She Say” featuring Gemini and Sarah Green
Despite another lackluster hook, the vocals provided by Lupe’s 1st & 15th counterparts are very compelling. Lupe delivers the same verse twice, but changes the viewpoint from a single mother to a fatherless son. The production is just right, nothing over the top. This track also ties into the saga presented in The Cool, as the boy in the story is probably Michael Young History.

Don’t sleep on this track. This gently produced ballad to finding true love in the nightlife is a very solid track that contains Diana Ross samples and a delicate hook from Lupe, seasoned with a couple smart metaphors.

9.“Daydreamin'” featuring Jill Scott
Lupe showcases his excellent lyrical talent in this track, as he sits at the top of a walking project building. He mocks the materialism and misogyny of the rap game while Philly soul sister Jill Scott sings an amazing hook that samples I Monster’s “Daydream.” The third single off the album is a superb track.

10.“The Cool”
Kanye West produces this track telling of the revival of “the Cool,” a rapper that Lupe uses as a metaphor across two albums in a handful of songs. “The Cool” is a good track with more tales of Lupe’s, and another solid entry on Food & Liquor.

11.“Hurt Me Soul”
“Now I ain’t tryin' to be the greatest/ I used to hate hip hop, yup, because the women degraded,” Lupe spits on the most powerful track on Food & Liquor. On “Hurt Me Soul,” Lupe reveals that he never appreciated hip hop because he felt it portrayed a lifestyle with sinful desires. Over the lush strings and eerie beat, we hear Lupe talk about his Jay-Z boycott and describe how the principles of prostitution are prevalent all around him. Each hook and the final verse has Lupe stringing together problems throughout the nation and world, while the rest of the rap game looks the other way. Debatably the best track on Food & Liquor.

12.“Pressure” featuring Jay-Z
Jay-Z, the man who is partially responsible for Food & Liquor, joins Lupe as they both spill bars that lyrically on point. Lupe uses sewing jeans as a whimsically good metaphor for how he constructs his music. Prolyfic steps up as producer and provides a great foundation on this outstanding track.

13.“American Terrorist” featuring Matthew Santos
“American Terrorist” is the same idea portrayed in LASERS‘ “Words I Never Said” without sacrificing his hook to Atlantic Records. Prolyfic produces a politically charged track in which Lupe accuses America of being the biggest terrorist and poorly misconceiving Islam. Matthew Santos lays out a great hook and Lupe rhymes about the plight of the “black man,” “red man,” and “yellow man” on what is one of the top tracks on the album.

14.“The Emperor’s Soundtrack”
Chilling production backs Lupe’s great flow that discusses issues in the hood. Lupe also reference’s Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story,” but through the use of a generic hook. Nothing stands out about this track other than Lupe’s rhyming.

15.“Kick, Push II”
A second look at the skateboarding culture, this angle a little more somber and serious. As opposed to the optimism of “Kick, Push,” Lupe mentions the difficulty of life in hood and how skateboarding is the only thing young people can do escape their troubles. All of that paired with good production makes this a great final track.

Lupe thanks people for over twelve minutes to the beat at the end of “Intro.” That’s twelve minutes of names, radio stations, etc. …Twelve. Damn. Minutes.

Lupe followed up with The Cool in 2007 and eventually LASERS in 2011. Considered one of the smartest and sharpest minds in all of hip hop, Lupe Fiasco continues to write intelligent lyrics backed by cool beats and the solid team of contributors that is 1st & 15th. Food & Liquor made Lupe Fiasco a brand name and put him in the hearts of hip hop heads everywhere.

Overall rating: 8 out of 10 Geniuses

September 11th, 2011

Great review. Which album do you think is better, this? Or The Cool

September 11th, 2011

Good review.. i think it should actually be a higher rating though.
In My opinion this album was a “classic”.

September 11th, 2011

good review. i too think it should have a higher rating but im a little biased. also 1st and 15th only has one member on it now and thats sarah green. lupe cleaned house a year or two ago for unknown reasons as i feel alot of the artists he had signed were great on his first two albums. but it remains one of those things that will never fully make sense to me.

September 11th, 2011
T-Tone's photo


Wow this brings back memories. Believe it or not this was the first album I ever bought. i was only in 5th grade when I bought it.

September 11th, 2011

oh and also, his feature on kanyes touch the sky is what got my attention and im sure im not the only one. but yes his mixtapes also raised alot of hype, but who will ever know which got him more attention. i wonder what people on here think

September 11th, 2011
Rys's photo


I found him in Madden 07, “The Instrumental” was in the soundtrack. Ahhhh, the memories :)

September 11th, 2011
JuicyJC's photo


Thanks everyone.

I love Lupe Fiasco and own pretty much every recording he’s ever made. However in the grand scheme of things, I personally think The Cool is an overall better album. Also, I believe my rating is perfectly fair.

I appreciate the feedback and thanks again ya’ll.

September 11th, 2011
6xPlatinum's photo


He’s from my hometown and somehow I managed to not take note of him until I heard Kick, Push somewhere… Shame on me.

September 11th, 2011

You seriously think The Cool was better? You’re the first person I’ve heard say that lol

September 11th, 2011

haha rysarm, i actually found out about b.o.b. through madden i think it was 2009. but ya anything that gets you to check out the person is a success.

September 11th, 2011

oh and kick push was on nba live 07 which definitely got me to remember his name. oh 6th grade me, theres so much i wish i could tell you. and i personally like the cool better too but thats cuz i understood what he was saying more cuz i was in 7th grade (so much more mature haha) and i eventually looked up what he was saying on all of his songs during that time. i felt like i uncovered some huge artifact and i felt so enlightened so the cool will always have a special place in my heart.

September 11th, 2011
JuicyJC's photo


The Cool is such a dynamic album. So many ideas brought into one concept album that is masterfully plotted.

More Lupe reviews — For a great review of LASERS by 6xPlatinum, click here.

September 11th, 2011

if it wasnt for the cool, i wouldnt have cared about meaning in lyrics and started lookin them up online. had that never happened, i would have never found this amazing site in which i am home with my fellow lyrical nerds.

September 11th, 2011


Review The Cool lol

September 11th, 2011