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'Food & Liquor' at 10: Revisiting Lupe Fiasco's debut classic and genius

Celebrating 10 years of Lupe's masterpiece.

AR Press // Atlantic Records

10 years ago today (September 19), a Chicago native by the name of Wasalu "Lupe Fiasco" Jaco, winged past the crumbling infrastructure that was gangsta rap to soar above the rap scene with splash of much-needed sunshine. This level of sunshine featured skyscraper-tall robots fighting the White House, the coolest hustler to ever get mentioned on wax, and compositions from Pac, Nas’s It Was Written intermixed with realities, feelings, race, religion, ignorant wisdom and artistic vision. All in all, 2006’s Food & Liquor represented a loud scream from within the underbelly of America that turned into audible portrait detailing the constant tug of war between good (food) and evil (liquor).

While Kanye West often gets credited for breeding this current generation of rap stars and upstarts, Lupe, too, deserves similar recognition as a rap deity. Like College Dropout and other classic debut releases, Food & Liquor changed lives and restructured a game that was leaning too heavy on gangsta rap and the bubbly commercial lane. If it wasn't for Lupe’s game-changing debut, the game would be a whole lot different.

To celebrate the 10 year mark of Lupe's bulletproof classic, REVOLT gathered a few masterminds to revisit the impact of Food & Liquor, its influence, and how its architect would go on to change the game with his genius.

Robert Hansen, REVOLT Photographer: First off, Lupe Fiasco is an incredibly talented emcee. If Food & Liquor didn't prove it back in 2006, then there's just no way to convince you otherwise. At the time, I didn't recognize his underground importance and my first true introduction to Lupe was when I saw his video for "Kick, Push." While the song is/was a coming-of-age anthem, it stood unique in its portrayal of escaping the traps (particularly those of Chicago) but without playing basketball, moving weight, or rapping. The skateboarding subculture was thriving long before Lu decided to use it as a metaphor for kicking and pushing through the struggle, but it nonetheless became even more popular in the ten years since.

"Kick, Push" is hardly the best song on the album, and its sequel might even be a contender for overthrowing its quality. Tracks such as "Sunshine", "Daydreamin'," and "Hurt Me Soul", are also responsible for the album's overall popularity. Lupe's lyrical mayhem was accompanied by contrasting beats that often guides his audience to sing along without necessarily catching the subtleties of his skill at full throttle. A great example of his talent being exercised is "Theme Music to a Drive-By." Lines like, "No honor amongst fellows, it's harder than sitting with a blind man and trying to describe yellow," is just one of the many reasons Lu's revered in hip-hop culture, but his intellect and take on the craft also isolates him from his peers. It's hard to believe that we've reached a point in time where Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor is considered a classic and is a fantastic project across the board. Let's not forget that the album received a co-sign from Jay Z.

Lawrence Jackson, On-Air Host: I would like to start this piece by simply saying that Lupe Fiasco was the chosen one. He was supposed to be the top MC and lyricist and for a while on my scale, he was. So many feelings and thoughts surround this album. This album is powerful. That's the simplest word I can come up with to describe it. I put this album, and a few of Lupe's quite frankly, on the top shelf of rap albums, period. I will admit that back when Lupe first announced that his album would be called Food & Liquor, I was immediately upset because here was this very intelligent, different, and progressive brother coming up in the game and he settles on titling his album with such a shallow first impression. It's not until you actually put on F&L and realize that this is just another pawn in Fiasco's game of getting his point across.

As soon as you tune into the intro, you hear the every powerful "Food & Liquor stores rest on every corner…" skit and you can't help but have a physical reaction to it. Lupe delivers this message on uplifting tracks like "Real" and "Just Might Be Okay" while still managing to deliver heavy rap bars and wordplay on songs like "I Gotcha" and "The Instrumental" all alongside soulful classics like "Sunshine" and "Daydreamin'." Gahdammit "The Cool" as a track alone birthed an entirely separate album which is also a classic and completely challenges what we all consider to be "cool" or "lit."

Lupe naturally has and never will be the most popular MC because he makes a lot of people and institutions look at themselves in the mirror. All Lupe haters who haven't done their research and given any of his real music a chance will always bring up how they feel "Kick, Push" is a corny debut single on the surface, but wont dig deeper to hear Jay's massively underrated verse on "Pressure," where Hov clearly sharpened the sword for that one. Lupe's music is easy to jump back and listen to because he was far ahead of his time. We as a nation are just now starting to have clear and raw conversations on a national level about a lot of the issues Lupe tried putting us on to in his music a decade ago. It's never too late to go back and get acquainted with one of the most woke rappers of all time. lupEMPEROR !

Driadonna Roland, Sr. Editor: Have you ever been in a college newsroom? It's a headquarters for chaos. A resting place between classes. Your final destination the night the paper goes to print. I don’t know who among us was the first to play Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor, but I know that in a room where we debated everything and scrambled (struggled) three times a week to make a great product, Food & Liquor brought us together. No one ever yelled, "Turn that sh-t off!" In fact, no one said much of anything when it was on. We were calm, focused, in a collective zone. To me, Lupe was a smart and soulful rapper whose observations as a young man on life in Chicago weren’t that different from mine as a young woman growing up in Detroit. Ten years later, _F&L _will always remind me of my time on The Famuan, bonding with people from all walks of life over something that can never be denied, despite our differences: great music.

Corey Colvin: Growing up on the Southside of Chicago, I really didn't know many or kick it to tough with the Westside of the City. The two sides have pretty different looks, feel, people, food (Harold's Chicken over Uncle Remus all day!), styles, culture and music. Back in the day, I remember the Westside sound running the Chicago music scene with artists like Twister, Do or Die, Malik Yusef (more of the wild 100's really), Crucial Conflict, Da Brat, and Shawnna. As time past, the Southside sound started to boom with Common, Really Doe, GLC, Kanye, Bump J, and RhymeFest. Then on August 30, 2005, Kanye introduced me and the world to the new buddy from the Westside, Lupe Fiasco. He featured him on one of the greatest album of all time, Late Registration, for the track "Touch The Sky". Soon after, Lupe followed up with the release of his single "Kick, Push." Lyrically it's amazing, especially since the word play perfectly intertwines the skateboarding culture with street drug dealer life. The song had the Chi on fire. Later, he released the album Food & Liquor (what our corner stores are known as).

The album is a classic and continued to help springboard Chicago hip-hop. From the "Intro," to "Real," and features from Gemini, Matthew Santos, and Jill Scott as well as the rest of album with songs like "Just Might," "Kick, Push," "I Gotcha," "The Instrumental," "He Say She Say," "Sunshine," "Daydreamin'," "Hurt Me Soul," "Pressure," "Theme Music To A Drive-By" — without this, I'm not sure if the door would be open for the new wave of Chicago talents like Saba, Mick Jenkins, and Noname. Thanks Lupe for blessing the culture with a gem.

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