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Old 02-03-2009, 04:38 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Lupe Fiasco - Food and Liquor



1. Intro
2. Real Feat. Sarah Green
3. Just Might Be OK (ft. Gemini)
4. Kick, Push
5. I Got’cha
6. The Instrumental (ft. Jonah Matranga)
7. He Say She Say (ft. Gemini and Sarah Green)
8. Sunshine
9. Daydreamin’ (ft. Jill Scott)
10. The Cool
11. Hurt Me Soul
12. Pressure (ft. Jay-Z)
13. American Terrorist (ft. Matthew Santos)
14. The Emperor’s Soundtrack
15. Kick, Push II
16. Outro

Released in 2006

It's a testament to Lupe Fiasco that he wasn't swallowed up by the expectations and hype that built up around him before he ever released an album. Heralded as the 'saviour of hip hop', the pointless label followed him wherever he went. Fiasco exploded into the spotlight with a cameo on Kanye West's hit Touch the Sky, an album leak in March was received very positively and ratcheted up the pressure even further.
In the face of all this Fiasco delivered a resoundingly strong album that mixes an accessible pop hooks and melodies with lyricism rarely found in the mainstream, bravely striding past the tired clutches of the Gangsta Rap which dominated the genre.

Food and Liquor gets off to a shaky start, with a too long spoken work intro. The poetry by an uncredited women is quite nice, and stylistically reminiscent of 'Exhibitionism' from Dissertation Honey. In short vignettes she sketches scenes of the food and liquor stores in Chicago, and the contradictions of their patrons.
The winos crooked stagger
meets the high stride of the youth searchin for the truth

The problem arises when Lupe hops on the track, accompianied by some violins and repeats the same message in a patronisingly blunt fashion, along with some dull shout outs and earnest platitudes.
Following the good-bad, food-liquor spectrum, the album does begin on a lighter note, and as it progresses it darker elements begin to creep in. This is just a general trend mind you, and Food and Liquor is definitely not an album where the sequencing matters that much.

The next track, 'Real'picks up with a bouncy guitar riff, and it's a relief to finally reach some rapping. Although the lyrics are not particularly focussed, and the hook with it's back up singers isn't spectacular either. Overall the track feels a little crowded, and might have fared better being pared down slightly.
This is a complaint that could be levelled at a few songs on the album, the production is unrelentingly lush, but happily, the layering is generally handled much better than on 'Real'.

The next track, 'Just Might be Okay', is a great example of when it works well. Musically it is very dense, but doesn't take long to grow on you and the hook work grabs you from the get go. The lyrics revolve around a black family and it's family home. He weaves a skilful little story around that structure, but once again it is pretty standard stuff.

Kick Push, the first single is a sign of the brilliance to come. Surging horns provide the backbone for a story of a young skateboarder. He uses it to explore universal themes of adolescence and the allusive power of escapism. The skateboard is a powerful metaphor for freedom;
And it wasn't like they weren't getting chased no more
Just the freedom is better than breathing they said (they said)
And they escape route, they used to escape out
When things got crazy they needed to break out (they'd head)
To any place with stairs, any good grinds the world was theirs, uh
And they four wheels would take them there
Till the cops came and said "There's no skating here"
Although tinged with melancholy, it is ultimately an uplifting track and showcases Lupe's gift for story telling.

In "I Gotcha" Lupe indulges himself in some classic rap braggadocio, which isn't a move that I would normally like, but the track is infectious and the flair and air of absurdism with which he tackles the verses make it a winner.
The Instrumental is a turn for the surreal, beginning with strumming acoustic guitar and a whining synth, at first it appears as a sort of anti TV rant, but as the protagonist swings between adulation and hatred of the box, gradually the song begins to incorporate sinister themes of paranoia, entrapment and mental illness. Lupe maintains a stellar flow throughout.
So he chained himself to the box, took a lock and then he locked it
Swallowed the combination and then forgot, it
As the doctors jot it all down, with they pens and pencils
The same ones that took away his voice
And just left this instrumental, like that


Daydreamin', is a standout. The production is stunning, a mass of strings builds to a quivering crescendo before the chorus sample of I Monster's 'Daydream in Blue' kicks in. Jill Scott puts in a great vocal performance, and Lupe delivers two killer verses. First examining his place in the rap industry, before having some fun puncturing the ludicrous image that Gangsta Rap has created for itself.
Now look as hard as you can with this blunt in your hand
And now hold up your chain slow motion through the flames
Now cue the smoke machines and the simulated rain


The Cool, produced by fellow Chicago rapper Kanye West, is a significant track, showing us the birth of the titular character of Lupe's second album. He spins us a tale of a man awakening in his own grave. The first two verses in particular really show Lupe at his best, with brilliant imagery, and a lovely rhyming flow.
Smelled the Hennesy from when his niggas got reminded
And poured out liquor in his memory, he didn't mind it, But...
He couldn't sip it fast enough
So the liquor was just filling the casket up
Floating down by his feet was the letter from his sister
Second Grade hand-writing simply read "I miss ya"
Suit jacket pocket held his baby daughter's picture
Right next to it one of his man's stuck a swisher
He had a notion as he laid there soaking
Saw that the latch was broken, he kicked his casket open
And he...


Hurt Me Soul is another great track, giving us some insight into Lupe's entry into hip hop, showing us a very human character. The following song 'Pressure' is a return to the upbeat style of the earlier songs and is solid enough, Lupe manages to hold his own against a guest verse from Jay Z, which is impressive.
Kick Push II is the last song on the album, it deals with the same themes as the single, but the story takes on a much darker hue. Probably not quite up to the standard of the original, it is a quality track.

Outro closes the album on a disastrous note, quite literally twelve minutes of Lupe thanking people who helped him on the album. I've never bothered to listen to it and it's inclusion is baffling.

Food and Liquor is an excellent debut album that cements Lupe Fiasco as the most vital voice in current mainstream hip hop. It's inconsistency runs a little too deep to reach classic status, but it shows us a glimpse of what is to come.

Last edited by Fruitonica; 02-03-2009 at 05:58 AM.
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Old 02-03-2009, 05:49 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I remember everyone was going bananas for this upon it's release so I gave it a listen. I have to say that I was extremely dissapointed. Maybe on the strength of this review I may give it a fresh listen.
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Old 02-03-2009, 05:56 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I think it might not be for you. From the hip hop I know you like, you consistently go for a slightly more experimental and less poppy sound, which this definitely isn't. Additionally, not many of the songs are really what I would consider big 'growers'. By all means give it another listen though..
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Old 02-08-2009, 01:20 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Your take on Daydreamin' is uncanny.
No one could put it better.
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Old 02-08-2009, 01:35 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Hella good review! You hit the nail on the head with Kick, Push.
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Old 02-15-2009, 03:04 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Lupe is just original. His music is so dope.
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