I feel for Lupe, I really do. Fam gets so much backlash, even though he is one of the dopest lyricists to enter the realm of hip hop over the past decade or so. Even on his worst day lyrically, he will run verbal circles around the majority of the game. So what exactly is the problem? There are a few layers to this somewhat complex story that need to be addressed to give a little clarity. The latest issue to come to the forefront is the Lupe Fiasco track "Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)", the slated first single from the album Food And Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album.
Taking advice from his business partner and manager Chill, Lupe decided to put a spin on the Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth classic "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)", rhyming over an interpolated version of the iconic Pete Rock creation. Per the unspoken rules of hip hop, this was a definite no-no. Why? Didn't Pete Rock sample the bulk of his song from a Tom Scott joint? I believe that the issue is two-fold. The first issue of contention was utilizing such a dope joint that had special meaning for Pete and crew. Just looking at some of the subsequent tweets from Pete Rock, you get that sense that he felt that the song itself is an untouchable one. I tend to agree with this mode of thinking. As a hip hop head, there are certain songs that you just don't touch, no ifs, and or buts. "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)" is one of those untouchables. The second issue that I believe comes into play is Lupe and camp reaching out to Pete Rock for input/blessing. This is up for debate, because Lupe contends that he tried to reach out for support from Pete Rock for the project, but The Chocolate Boy Wonda doesn't agree. I'm not exactly sure what to think in this instance. My thought process when I immediately found out about this controversy was for Lupe to hit up Pete or vice versa. What we have instead is a relatively quiet back and forth banter between the artists. Pete using Twitter to voice his displeasure on the less than stellar beat remake; Lupe going on Sway In The Morning to vent because of Pete Rock's reaction to the track.
It makes for good blog fodder, but I'm not one for the negative back and forth. Hip hop does have its issues that need to be addressed. I hope that soon, the two entities in question can come to an understanding about this latest Lupe "fiasco". Truthfully, I don't think Lupe meant any harm whatsoever. I think the issue is more generational than anything else. Remember, for VH-1 Hip Hop Honors, when Lupe was selected to pay homage to the venerable A Tribe Called Quest. He at first was apprehensive because he wasn't an avid Tribe fan (that caught me off guard given his lyricism). He later relented, at the request of Q-Tip. What transpired during the show was Lupe forgetting some of the Phife Dawg lyrics to "Electric Relaxation". He spent a good while explaining away that unfortunately unforgettable performance. I still remember though Lupe, but it's cool.
Bottom line is that Lupe, for all of his talent and quiet bravado, is at a crossroads. He is not as young as this newer crop of artists within the hip hop world, and he is not quite old school. His new album will be a make or break joint. L.A.S.E.R.S. was a disappointment in my eyes (the musical backdrops didn't live up to the lyrical barrage we come to expect from a Lupe Fiasco). I'm hoping that he returns to a more organic sound with the appropriately named Soundtrakk. I'm hoping that he is able to balance artistry and business so that it doesn't impact his creativity. I'm hoping that he doesn't abandon his left of center lyrics for a more emo-way of rhyming, which will cater to a less than palatable music. These are just the musings of someone that truly respects Lupe. I laud him time and time again, be it on Twitter or on my blog, because I feel that an artist of his caliber comes around few and far between. At this point, the wave that Lupe Fiasco was riding has now been occupied by a certain Cali artist with the name Kendrick Lamar. Lamar is now the chosen one, and he is handling his career properly from my vantage point. I can't say the same for Lupe. Can he reclaim his rightful place within hip hop, or has the tide turned (continuing with the surfing analogy)? We will find out Summer 2012, barring any more Atlantic Records issues. Right now, the album release is slated for September 25th.
In closing, I have so much respect for BOTH Pete Rock and Lupe Fiasco. Pete Rock will go down in lore as one of the dopest beat maestros in the still relatively short history of hip hop culture. Lupe Fiasco will be hailed as one of the dopest lyricists that hip hop has ever seen. BOTH artists can learn a thing or two from each other, and once the egos and bravado are put to the side, I sense that some truly dope things can come from this latest "fiasco". What do you think?