Lupe Fiasco Interview
|Next Project:||The Cool (Available Now)|
|Twitter:||Lupe Fiasco on Twitter|
|Website:||Lupe Fiasco's Website|
When the Grammy Awards are distributed on February 10th, Lupe Fiasco will be in attendance at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Fiasco was nominated with Jill Scott for their song, Daydreamin’, for “Best Urban/Alternative Performance”). With two critically-acclaimed albums now in pocket, and a third (and possibly final album) on the way, Fiasco has achieved a level of status for years he’s tried so hard to achieve.
His recording colleagues applaud his work and his worldwide fan base memorizes every word to every song in his growing catalog. For an artist who works in a field full of word-play wannabes, Fiasco’s critics struggle to truly critique the work of a lyrical genius. His current album, “The Cool,” is the work of a man who doesn’t need to cater to the masses; they will follow anyways.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” Lupe steps inside the booth to discuss the “coolest” moment in his life thus far, whether or not he fears the stardom he has achieved and what the topic of conversation would be at a dinner with Malcolm X, the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus Christ.
Listen to the Interview
Lupe Fiasco Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is simply the coolest man in hip hop today. From my hometown of Chicago, Illinois, otherwise known as the best city in the whole wide wide world, please welcome Lupe Fiasco.
Lupe Fiasco: Yo! What up, what up, what up, sir?
DJ Booth: How you doin’, man?
Lupe Fiasco: I’m good, strollin’ through the streets of NYC.
DJ Booth: We have a lot in common, because hip hop saved my life, and I heard it saved yours, too.
Lupe Fiasco: Yeah, it saved every rapper’s life, you know what I’m sayin’? Everybody who’s ever been in the grind before, tryin’ to shine and feed their family, and hip hop paid for that, hip hop saved their lives – yes, hip hop saved all of our lives!!
DJ Booth: You have your Go Go Gadget Flow, but what if you were given a second gadget attribute? What helpful cyborg gadget would you want built into Lupe Fiasco’s anatomy?
Lupe Fiasco: Oh, wow… I’d have a Go Go Gadget Moneymaking Machine.
DJ Booth: Okay! [laughter] Your stellar debut, “Food & Liquor,” received critical acclaim, but was leaked prematurely, heavily bootlegged, and then delayed multiple times. Taking that experience as a learning tool, what did you change this time around while preparing, “The Cool”?
Lupe Fiasco: Keeping it close, really standin’ on people about not lettin’ them get music, and only have one copy in existence so if it does leak I know where it came from. Just keepin’ the music really close.
DJ Booth: Some artists, Lupe, love the spotlight; others hate it. I listened to your single, “Superstar,” and it’s clear that the lights, camera, action lifestyle is not what you’re all about. Do you fear stardom?
Lupe Fiasco: No, not at all. I think that the song in itself tells you to have no fear, especially if that’s what you signed up for; you know what I’m sayin’? It kinda calls you to arms for what the lifestyle that you chose to lead and everything that you chose to do and be prepared. So I think I’m pretty much prepared for it. Whether I want it or not, it happens. If I want controversy, or even if I don’t want controversy, it happens.
DJ Booth: You mentioned being prepared for what you sign up for. Looking back at all the years that you were on the grind, tryin’ to do what you’re doin’ right now, is this what you envisioned signing up for?
Lupe Fiasco: Yeah, and no. Some of it, you have to be there to actually experience it, to see if you really want to do it. Some stuff you can kind of foresee from afar, but there definitely is some parts about it, you know it’s there, and you know people are capable of it, you just don’t know how long you can stand it. You don’t know how long you can last and how thick your skin is till it’s actually bein’ tested.
DJ Booth: You stated that you plan on recording one more album, which will be entitled “LupEND,” and then you’ll hang up the mic. We’ve heard from plenty of artists before, that’s what their plan is, but then they’re right back in the studio. So, how sure are you that you only have one more album left in you after, “The Cool?”
Lupe Fiasco: Pretty sure, 85 percent sure.
DJ Booth: 85 percent – I’m gonna hold you to that after “LupEND,” right?
Lupe Fiasco: Yeah, you can. [laughter] I won’t be doin’ interviews around that time, but, you can definitely hold me to it.
DJ Booth: Well, we can talk off the record, and I just won’t broadcast it to the world. In your song, “The Coolest,” you rap, “She would be my queen, I would be her king/ Together, she would make me cool, and we would both rule forever.” Are men only as cools as the influential women they surround themselves with?
Lupe Fiasco: No, I don’t think that’s it at all. It was more the streets talkin’, as opposed to just a woman. That song, “The Coolest,” is the rise to power of the cool; you know what I’m sayin’? This “hustler type” who falls in love with the streets, literally, so the streets promise him all the fame, the fortune, the royalty of being the biggest hustler on the block, and makes that promise that it’s going to last forever, when it doesn’t. I definitely think women are important, and if you’re tryin’ to do something huge, I think you’ve definitely gotta have the female touch as a support factor. A woman has a lot of power; women have a lot of power and a lot of areas, a lot off different aspects. It’s always good to have women on your team.
DJ Booth: No disagreement there. Lupe, who is the most influential woman in your life?
Lupe Fiasco: My momma, my momma!
DJ Booth: You said that women have the power, and that’s why you gotta keep one on your team. What powers did your mom use to turn Lupe Fiasco into the man I’m talkin’ to today?
Lupe Fiasco: Her powers of intellect, her powers of wanting to articulate the world to us so we can articulate it, and holdin’ discourse with us, all her kids, about the ways off the world and what’s goin’ on in the world – politics, social, everything which influences exactly what I do. I talk about exactly what my mother talked about; we’d just sit and discuss international affairs when I was like fourteen years old.
DJ Booth: It’s a lot more than a lot of fourteen-year-olds could say. New segment, - it’s called “He wrote what?” I’m gonna read you a quote by our very own Nathan S., in his review of your brand new album, “The Cool.” You can agree, disagree, or completely abstain from comment. And I quote, “‘The Cool’ is the most expansive hip hop album of the year, and Lupe’s ability to sound at home on each track is the true sign of his talent, but that also means that the album takes some work to fully enjoy.” Agree, disagree, or abstain from comment?
Lupe Fiasco: Abstain.
DJ Booth: You’re not gonna give me anything?
Lupe Fiasco: No, I abstain. I don’t like to comment on comments sometimes. I just like to let it be, because everybody’s interpretation is different, and music is objective, and the comments are just supposed to be taken for face value, for what they are for that particular person. Some people take nothing from it, some people take everything from it, some people take half, but I guess that’s the way it is. The conception that I would clear it up, like, “No; this is what this is about,” on something that’s that thoroughly subjective – I’ll just let it be.
DJ Booth: Well, let’s roll off of it for a second. Nathan wrote, “Lupe’s ability to sound at home on each track is the sign of true talent.” Do you feel that a certain beat is easier for you to write over? What makes you able to essentially work over anyone’s production and sound like it was built just for you?
Lupe Fiasco: That’s what I’ve been doin’ because I always had to get the bottom beats since I was comin’ up. It’s what we could find. When I first started rappin’ over music, and we did little mix tapes, we could go to the flea market, and the beats that they had to rap over was the beats that they had, you know? The selection was very small, so I kinda built an affinity for that, makin’ sure that it actually helps me, makes me step it up. Sometimes a beat might be ten percent, and it might just be something in the beat that inspires me, inspires an idea. So it don’t matter what it is or what it sounds like. It could be anything – it could be a record with no drums in it – as long as it inspires something, then I let it go. I don’t silence it for the sake of, like, “This beat’s harder than that beat, so I should try and force myself on that beat, when it flows so freely over this one.”
DJ Booth: What’s interesting, too, is in an era right now where it seems as though the beat makes the MC, in this case the MC makes the beat. Let’s go over the history of Lupe Fiasco’s “Coolest.” Up to this point, and including this very interview, what has been the coolest moment thus far in your life?
Lupe Fiasco: Coolest moment in my life? Maybe birth.
DJ Booth: Okay. How about the coolest moment you remember?
Lupe Fiasco: [laughter] I remember my birth. I remember everything being black. I remember that for some reason, like my earliest memories are just black – bein’ aware of my surroundings and everything being black! I don’t know if that was birth, but I’m just sayin, it was my birth, I wish I remembered my birth. Well, let’s say beyond two years old; let’s put it like that. Illest memory beyond two years old, shoot, probably when my father took us out on a camping trip with mad guns, and we got to shoot every weapon on earth. At like four years old, shootin’ an AK-47.
DJ Booth: That’s not an experience everyone gets to have, that’s truly a memorable moment…
Lupe Fiasco: [laughter] Yeah, that was pretty ill.
DJ Booth: Lupe, I’ve seen some pictures of some places that you’ve gotten the opportunity to visit while on tour. Out of all of those destinations, what is the coolest place you’ve been able to visit?
Lupe Fiasco: Probably Tokyo.
DJ Booth: What is it about Tokyo?
Lupe Fiasco: Actually, it’s Osaka. One night we were drivin’ back from a show and we were on the freeway, and their freeways, the walls on the side of their freeways are really high for noise control. I actually got to see how the city is built; you see all the lights on top of the buildings. It’s like I woke up on a miniature movie set, and it was raining at night, and it was just the illest night in Osaka. It was crazy.
DJ Booth: I know you’ve had the good fortune to meet damn near everybody in the music industry, but who is the coolest person you have yet to meet, that you’d still like to?
Lupe Fiasco: I don’t know. There’s people that come out of the woodworks every day, that are legends in their own right, but are just kinda obscured from the spotlight, and then I’ll hear about [their] history and I’m like, “Damn!” and become a fan. I haven’t met Tom Waits yet; I really wanna meet that guy.
DJ Booth: What about people that you studied when you were growing up or idolized, that unfortunately are no longer on Earth, so they’ve passed. Who’s the coolest person that you wish you could go back in the past to meet?
Lupe Fiasco: Malcolm X. And prior to that, the Prophet Muhammad. And Jesus, but he’s comin’ back.
DJ Booth: If all you guys were in a room together, what do you think you’d all talk about?
Lupe Fiasco: God. [laughter]
DJ Booth: Well, that certainly would be the topic at hand. Lupe, finish this sentence for me: “And so to sign off, this beat I rhyme…”
Lupe Fiasco: And so to sign off, this beat I rhyme…?
DJ Booth: Fill in the blank. It’s one of your lines…
Lupe Fiasco: And so to sign off, this beat I rhyme… I don’t know – that’s one of my lines?
DJ Booth: Yeah, from, “I Gotcha.”
Lupe Fiasco: Oh! “And so to sign off, this beat I rhyme/is from the Thelonious P and Hugo Mind boss.” Yeah, that’s the line!
DJ Booth: That’s the line! [laughter] Lupe, I wish you nothing but the best of luck on the new drop of “The Cool.” Give everybody a website or a Myspace page so they can find out more about what you got goin’ on.
DJ Booth: Lupe, I wish you nothing but the best of luck. You’re my Chicago brethren, and that means you’ve got a special place in my hip hop heart.
Lupe Fiasco: Man, I appreciate that. Thanks, sir.
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