Retrospect for Lu: One Year Later...

LUPE: “Turn your umbrellas upside down! Did you even catch the change in—"

ANGRY FANS: “No you bitchass motherfucker!!!! We don’t like change!!!! Give us hunnid or give us nuttin, little hoe!!!!”

LUPE: “Yo, damn… WTF, let a nigga breathe. Geez.”

JR. GET MONEY:Aiyyo mah boi dis id be a great tyme for u 2 get me back on da hook for ya, bruh!

LUPE: “Uhhhhhhhh…. I mean, that’s cool and all but I think it’s best if I go back to my old shit for a bit, nahimsayin'?”

OBAMA: “Not so cool now, is you nigga?"

It’s been one hell of a year for Lupe Fiasco.

Within the turn of a simple 366 days we witnessed the career of a talented rapper rise back out of label-forced limbo and into a relatively successful resurgence. Such success, however, does not come without a price, and the tag hasn’t been too appealing to Lupe’s die-hard fans. Lasers — despite an increasingly delayed release that later sparked a notable protest from fans and in turn led to Lupe being catapulted back to the forefront as a champion of conscious rap — was also released to mixed reception by critics and fans alike. While selling over 200,000 copies the first week and spawning a top 10 single with “The Show Goes On” is no small accomplishment, the stylistic change towards more pop-oriented production left some critics baffled and some fans disappointed and disillusioned. “Unlike his previous efforts,” reported RapRadar, “Lupe ditched his lyrical wizardry for Top 40 appeal,” and many OG followers of Lupe agreed.

And then, of course, there was the fallout over Lupe’s unblinking criticism of President Barack Obama, who he on CBS' What’s Trending called “the biggest terrorist” :

I’m trying to fight the terrorism that’s actually causing the other forms of terrorism. You know, the root cause of terrorism is the stuff that the U.S. government allows to happen, and the foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists. And it’s easy for us because it’s just some oil.

Explained by Lupe to be a further explication of the same political ideals he expressed in the viral single “Words I Never Said,” the “terrorist” comment was met with serious backlash by both those within the news media (particularly Bill “I-Don’t-Know-Shit-About-Hip-Hop” O'Reilly) and the hip-hop community as well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22l1sf5JZD0&ob=av3e

Last but not least, there’s Lupe’s own ongoing battle with Atlantic Records for creative control. Lupe’s initial conflict over Lasers‘ musical direction, stretched over two years, became much-publicized, and remains a notable modern example of how severe business can turn when an artist is unwilling to submit to corporate executive demands. According to Lu, upon his refusal to accept label-manufactured singles like “Nothin' On You” and “Airplanes” as his own work, Atlantic executives in turn stalled promotion of his then-recent records “Shining Down” and “I’m Beamin”, setting the release of his album back even further. The “beef” between Lupe and Atlantic Records reached a fever pitch when it seemed like Lasers would never see the light of day, and this sank Lupe into depression and, by his own admission, thoughts of suicide:

That was the tipping point. It was less about the bruised ego but more the audacity of it. It was mentally destructive. I say it with a certain laissez-faire now because I’m past it, but back then, hearin' that shit, it fucked me up. I was super-depressed, lightly suicidal, at moments medium suicidal – and if not suicidal, willing to just walk away from it all completely.

Intervention by way of the fans' petition and protest allowed for agreeable negotiations to be reached behind-the-scenes, and, while appreciative of fan support, Lupe emerged more than ambivalent towards the overall output:

I hate this album I don’t hate the music, but I hate the process. When I look at it, I don’t see song titles and artwork, I see the fight – I see the emotions, the blood, sweat and tears. There are a couple of songs on there that I love; but Lasers is a little bit of what you love, a little bit of what you like, and a lot of what you had to do.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CChmGOhCCCg

Perhaps as a response to the accusation of abandoning his trademark lyricism on Lasers, as well as a gift to fans, Lupe released the mixtape Friend Of The People on Thanksgiving of 2011. The highly-anticipated sequel to his well-received 2009 mixtape Enemy of the State, Friend of the People displays Lupe back in ferocious lyrical form, while sonically touching on virtually every genre imaginable — dubstep, rock, trap, jazz, electronic, and more. While critics applauded Lupe’s lyrical skills, the perceived embrace of dubstep and electronica was considered by some to be a continuation of the style change seen on Lasers and was fire for further criticism.

And now, as 2012 continues, and only a year after finally succeeding with the release of his third album, Lupe Fiasco finds himself in yet another dilemma: “How do I appease older fans of my previous sound while continuing to progress in this ever-changing landscape that is music?”

And it seems that lately, while continuing to experiment with different sounds, Lupe has begun to hark back, in some ways, to the beats and storytelling that made him so loved back in ‘06. On Robert Glasper’s new album Black Radio, Lupe delivers a brilliant performance on “Always Shine”, while continuing in the same thematic range as several Lasers tracks and admitting “the balance between the comic and the conscious [is] the challenge” over exquisite jazz instrumentation. On the L.E.P. Bogus Boys’ track “Zombie Land”, Lupe Fiasco raps with a hunger comparable to his Food & Liquor days. On “Double Burger with Cheese”, Lupe deftly transforms a haunting Justice sample into a masterful breakdown of various “Afrocentric” films from the 80s and 90s. And on the street singles “Go To Sleep” and “American Terrorist III”, Lupe takes us back to his F&L gem “American Terrorist”, while teasing us with the potential of what his next effort Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album could very well be.

By its very title, Food & Liquor II establishes an incredible weight that Lupe himself acknowledges: “The old masterpiece is what I have to live up to now, and if I don’t surpass it, or at least remain on par with it, I’m in deep shit.” But when Lu revealed that “All Black Everything”, a favorite off Lasers of fans and critics alike, was originally intended for the next album, it was another sign of his self-awareness of the significance that this future work holds. It’s no understatement to say that Food & Liquor II will be THE most important album of Lupe Fiasco’s career.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rmp6zIr5y4U&ob=av2n