Lupe Fiasco Is Not Cool

Lupe Fiasco Is Not Cool
Lupe Fiasco is excited. It’s been a couple of days since he was nominated for a Grammy for "Daydreaming,” a song from his 2006 debut album Food and Liquor and a few more days until his sophomore record The Cool hits. But in this moment all the Chicago MC can think about is the future and CRS (Child Rebel Soldiers), his super-group collaboration with Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. "My phone bill’s probably going to be a thousand dollars ‘cos I was downstairs talking to Kanye for two hours just now,” an animated Fiasco shares. "So it’s coming, the last great idea in hip-hop is CRS — Child Rebel Soldier,” Fiasco says in a moment of West-style confidence. "Knowing our minds and the way we see things, if we can bring that to life, it’s outta here.”

Of the three artists involved in the CRS project, Fiasco clearly has a leaner track record than either Williams or West, but given the rabid reception to "US Placers,” their first collaboration, and the accomplishment of his sophomore effort The Cool, he’s clearly a worthy participant.

A loose concept album and an unforgiving dense listening experience, The Cool brings into focus Lupe Fiasco’s prodigious lyrical skills. While some songs bring levity, The Cool features a cast of characters and a raft of themes delving into issues like the fallacy of fame, AIDS, immigration, rape and violence while attempting to tiptoe around being overly didactic. To match the weighty subject matter, a foreboding and dark musical atmosphere hangs over the album. Clearly, he is not rapping about skateboarding anymore.

The initial idea for the album stemmed from an event where Fiasco heard professor and cultural critic Cornel West speak a few years ago. "[West] was like if you really want to effect social change in the world you have to make those things which are cool, uncool,” says Fiasco talking about the message the intellectual put forward that day. "You have to make it hip to be square in essence. You kinda have to reverse those rules and make those cool things to do and you’ll see some progression.”

Progression seems to be a recurring theme with Lupe Fiasco. On this album, he indicates that his next solo album, tentatively titled LupEND, will be his last. But virtually any other MC who has announced their retirement has been eventually lured back to the mic. Why would he be any different? "I’m serious,” Fiasco says. "I don’t have the same goals and the same aspirations as a lot of other rappers, ‘cos of the sacrifice that’s involved in it. I’ve been in the music business a long time and it kind of tears at you. And then the other thing is that I don’t want to do the same thing twice. So it’ll get to the point where I feel like I’m rehashing.”

Lupe Fiasco says he will still be heavily involved in the music industry through his 1st and 15th Entertainment label and his roster of artists, and is currently flexing his creative muscles working on writing a book — about a window washer. "I’m good at music because I was good at writing and could tell a story,” Fiasco says. "There’s definitely a ceiling in music as far as the time limit of a song. It’s like damn, I really want to talk about this in-depth and the fact that you have to rhyme is in itself is another limiting factor, so it’s like a book would do it y’know,” he says. "There’s other mediums and stuff I want to go into and articulate. More expression.”