UPDATED COMMENTARY: Lupe Fiasco at perhaps his most politically charged, with a break-neck flow over a sample of one of my top 5 beats of all time - the 1992 hip hop classic Pete Rock & CL Smooth's "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)". Yeah... Kuda accurately predicted "Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)" would be all-caps *TIBS FAV.™ status.
Lu touches on a wide range of topics throughout his three verses - each verse consequently having a different set of memorable themes and lines. For me, it was verse 1's "emaciated models" and the contrast between the culture's focus on looks and aesthetics versus "crucifixes, racism, and a land grab. Katrina, FEMA, trailers, human body sandbags". Verse 2's "America's a big motherfuckin' garbageman" in reference to its treatment of Ghana and views on protests: "Say that we should protest just to get arrested, that goes against all my hustling ethics. A bunch of jail n****s say it's highly ineffective.." that connects with the last line of the chorus: "Cause freedom ain't free, especially 'round my way". And verse 3's "There's parts of Manila like the video of 'Thriller'. But the U.S. Embassy is reminiscing of a villa." (in part because of my Filipino heritage, heh.) And these moments are just a few of the many highlights in a song that comes correct lyrically from 0:00 to 04:19.
On the production tip... well, let's just say when I played NBA Street Vol. 2 religiously back in the day, I would delay the game, press the R1 button until "T.R.O.Y." came out of the game's boombox, and then proceeded to dominate the street ball circuit with Create-A-Player Sgt. Tibs (donning the MJ rook throwback, of course). So needless to say, I love this beat. It was hardly flipped by producers Simonsayz & B-Side in "Around My Way", which I'm ultimately OK with (because again, I love this beat), but I would have liked to hear it flipped or chopped even more. For instance, I liked the fresh flavor of the production's switch up at the beginning of the third verse and wish there was more of that throughout. Or perhaps if the iconic horns got some precise scratches to it, it would feel even more unique? Just minutes after the song's release, "Around My Way" drew a pretty emotional response from Pete Rock, as excerpted in tweet form below. Pretty interesting. I can feel where he's coming from honestly. But at the end of the day, I'm happy to hear "T.R.O.Y."'s legacy live on twenty years later as the backdrop to the new single of my favorite lyricist in the game today. Definitely lend your ears to Lupe's latest above and download it on iTunes when it comes up later tonight. The first single off Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part I., slated for a September 25th release!
UPDATE: Hit the jump for some comments on "Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)", the double album of F&LII, and much more from the DJ Whoo Kid-conference call for DJs, bloggers, and websites earlier this evening. Real informative and interesting words from Lu that are a must-read (shouts 2 RH for transcribing.)
On the Pete Rock sample in “Freedom Ain’t Free”:
“All the credit goes to my partner and manager Chill, he just felt like it was time to bring back a joint… Go back and take one of the iconic records of Hip Hop and put a new spin on it and put it back out there. I spit on it a couple times before, some mixtape stuff back in the day, Chill felt it needed a bigger look than that.”
The New Album As An Interpretation of America:
“The album is meant to be my interpretation of America. Politics, society, religion, class, race, food, all across the board. It was only right that we had to have a song that was a collage of that so people got it from the door that all these different things, topics that make up America, that make us Americans, the things that influence us and the things that we influence. You needed that first record to be the embodiment of that whole piece, the whole direction that we’re going in. This record is a collage, but it’s a more like an introduction. As you get into the album, as we release new records, and hopefully we’ll release the album in a few months, you’ll see that we focus on particular issues on particular songs. We will expand on something that may have came up in the second verse of “Freedom Ain’t Free”. There will be a whole song that speaks about this particular relationship in American society, or this particular phenomenon in American society, so people can get a good direction of where the album is going. You get it all in the first joint. But it’s not necessarily angry. The whole record’s not angry. It’s not coming from an angry place, it’s coming from a serious place.”
Making People Change Through His Music:
“Over the past couple years, in the midst of being on tours and doing L.A.S.E.R.S. and doing all that kind of rapper, professional stuff, I’m a human being too. You study, read, hear different people speak, come under the tutelage of certain people, and expand your mind. That’s nothing to do with music, or trying to make money later on, just for me personally. You start to come up and start to realize certain things, which are just gonna be what they are. It’s just human nature. We’re pre-conditioned a certain way, conditioned to act a certain way, conditioned to consume, and walk, and talk a certain way. There’s a lot of things that we may personally hate, but we professionally support. We may hate that the environment is being destroyed. We may want our kids to have a certain environment, but we don’t buy Prius’. We’ll go buy the muscle car that will spit out all the oil, and damage and destroy the environment and what have you. We don’t necessarily see the connection of what we actually do and how it effects the rest of the world. For me, I’m not even on that anymore. I’m not even trying to get you to change anymore... There’s people who don’t want to get beat over the head all day with lyrics and crazy wordplay and metaphors. There’s people that just want to sit down and listen to music for what it is, and not feel like they’re taking SAT’s every time they come to a show.”
Subliminal Messages In His Music:
“There’s definitely certain things that carry across from the beginning of my career up until now, that I’ll keep going. Whether it be a particular story line or a particular character. There’s certain key words, like “The Cool” record and my second album. There’s different characters on that, and I’ll bring them in every now and again on a song and there’s hardcore Lupe Fiasco fans that catch on to that and add it to the ongoing storyline about that. There’s definitely some kind of behind the scenes messages going on, but not like Illuminati or nothing like to hypnotize people if you listen to it.”
Connection to B.o.B., Pharrell, Kanye West, and fascination with space:
“It’s just a mode. There’s a certain things, you look at them in the sky.. It all depends on where you come from. The album cover for my first album, Food & Liquor, where I’m floating and got all the stuff around me, It ain’t that deep. That album cover came straight from a comic book. I was looking at a comic book that I had as a little kid and was like, ‘I want my first album cover to be like that, so there you have it.’ It’s not that deep. There’s definitely some things though in the music that’s less about me trying to tell you something brand new, but moreso trying to reinforce something that we already know. We already know we’re being watched or controlled in some way or another.”
Jay-Z and other features on the new album:
“It’s Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album Part I. Part I, which “Freedom Ain’t Free” is the single off of, is coming in the next few months. It really ain’t got no features on there. It got a few people on the hooks and stuff like that, but no other real features other than myself. But that’s part one. It’s a double album. We’re probably 80% finished with part 2, which is going to come out a little later. It’s not finalized. You don’t know who’s going to be on it… Part 1 is done and there ain’t gonna be any features on there, but part 2, it maybe somebody coming at the last inning to drop a verse. We’ll see.”
Next Leak or Remix:
“There’s a lot of life in this record ["Freedom Ain't Free]. I played the record for my man, DJ Timbuck2, who DJ’s for me and he was coming up with all kinds of different ideas just on his own. Just because of what it is and the heritage of the record. We’re definitely gonna pick up on the energy… and expand this out. Like, ‘let’s do a remix with Pete Rock on and CL on it for 2012…’ There’s a lot of legs on this record, the first one. But the next record is crazier. We just felt like this one was a storng first look, but definitely what’s gonna carry the album is the next couple singles that we got coming out over the next few months. When DJ’s get their hands on those records, it’s gonna be an opportunity for them to put Lupe FIasco is places they probably couldn’t because of the subject matter, or the production. Now we kind of found a way to meld the message and the skill and the technique with the production and the sound that’s right now. It should be real interesting.”
Feelings About America:
“I think, and you can relate to this… I know any artist that plays music in any capacity can relate to this, the world just ain’t America. You kind of lose that American perspective when you go to Australia for the first time or you go to China for the first time, or you go to Africa, or you go to some place in Europe or South America, or you go to Dubai. And you look back and you look at where you came from, you look at America from a different point of view. And it starts to lose that specialness, that elite-ness. When I say that, I don’t mean it becomes whack or you hate it. It starts to lose that myth about it. You start to recognize that there are other places in the world that are possibly better. They got better food. The way they run the economy is better. The way they treat their poor people is better. The way that the poor people treat you is better, the way rich people act around you is better. You just feel what you’ve been told, and what you grew up thinking about the rest of the world from your American perspective and you go overseas and experience a different way of life, and it’s not about being rich and taking a private jet over there, just going over there flying couch you get out and walk, around see a city, different people, you start to gain that world perspective. That’s something that I felt was important with this record. Going into it without feeding America with that elitism. Not treating America like it’s the greatest country on earth, cause it’s not.”
Columbus Day off the calendar:
“On that record, and I say this with a caveat and all honesty, a lot of stuff on that record ["Freedom Ain't Free] is stuff that I just recently learned about America. Going around and just experiencing different groups and being introduced to different people. There’s a whole movement specifically that comes from Native Americans where they’re really trying to get Columbus Day taken off the calendar. It’s really real. If anybody has any right to say that they are America, that they “own this place or belong here,” it’s the Native Americans. They were here first. Before any Africans, any white people, that’s the original history of this country, the Native American experience. They had it for thousands of years, before people even came here. You learn about that, and there’s a serious movement of people who’s whole goal is to get Christopher Columbus day taken off the calendar.”
On listening to Hip Hop and current hits:
“Everything that’s a hit isn’t necessarily a rap song. I listen to music from all parts. I listen to country music, I listen to jazz, I listen to pop. I peek up and I listen to Hip Hop from time to time, one song I like right now is the “Same Damn Time” joint from Future. I literally play that in my set, my DJ set. But I say that it’s one thing, I don’t listen to it on a daily basis. I’ll peek up and I’ll jump online and look at a site or go on iTunes and look at what’s new or what’s hot and stay privy to what’s going on out there. But it’s less about me trying to be influenced by it, or trying to gauge my competition, or gauge where I’m at in the industry. It’s more so the same way when I go and look for new dance music, or I look for new jazz, I just want to hear what the new music is personally, not for any ulterior motive. I don’t like to listen to negativity all day. It’s still beating a dead horse, but just me speaking personally, a lot of the new music that comes out as Hip Hop as cutting edge is still negative. Like I said, “two bitches at the same damn time,” that’s negative as a motherfucker. It got a dope beat and you can rock to it. I ain’t gonna lie, I play it. When it comes on Shade 45, I turn it up, bang it and rock out to it. Next song comes on and I’ll turn it back down. But, I’ll be a hypocrite to say that I don’t, but it doesn’t affect me as deeply like, ‘oh I got to have a song like that on my album,’ or ‘I got to compete with Future now and rap like him or get beats like him.’ Nah, you realize that it’s a cycle. The same thing everybody’s doing right now, they were doing ten years ago. Same music, same hooks, talking about the same things, some of the same beats. Look at me, 20 years later I’m using the same track from Pete Rock and CL Smooth.”
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