April 12, 2024

Lupe Fiasco’s “Food & Liquor” Turns 17

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In 2006, rap was on a roll, as prominent names T.I., Lil Wayne, Nas, Rick Ross, and many more released impressive albums. However, an undeniable standout was the debut album of Lupe Fiasco, titled Food & Liquor. With his solo debut album, the Chicago native showcased an alternative style of storytelling that made him instantly memorable. While his peers focused primarily on street culture, affluence, drugs, and women, Lupe Fiasco went a different route.

Even though he initially veered away from Hip Hop growing up, his love for poetry eventually led him on the rap route. On Food & Liquor, he rapped about a plethora of topics, including Islam, skateboarding, love, and singlehood. Even though the album hit the airwaves in 2006, he had worked hard on the project for three years. After gaining favor with The Neptunes, Kanye West, and Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco was in more than capable hands. Now, 17 years later, the album remains relevant and timeless, proving why Lupe Fiasco is one of the best storytellers ever to grace the scene.

Birthing A Classic (Inspirations & Motivations)

Food & Liquor was released when Lupe Fiasco was 24 years old. However, he had been trying to get his foot in the industry for much longer. He initially signed deals with Epic and Arista, but both ultimately fell through. He later gained major attention when he appeared on Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky” in January 2006. Soon after, he caught the attention of Jay-Z, and the rest was history. Hov offered to executive produce his solo debut, which would eventually appear eight months later under Atlantic Records.

Lupe was born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco to a Muslim family. He credited his parents for awarding him a healthy childhood full of varying experiences. According to Atlantic Records, the rapper enjoyed diverse environmental exposure, influencing him as an artist. “My father was a real prolific African drummer and can play anything from the Djiembe’s to the bagpipes,” he said. “My mom is a gourmet chef that has traveled the world.”

“We were always around different cultures. It is because of these artistic experiences [that] there are no limitations to what I talk about on my record.” On the reason for the album’s title, which understandably raised eyebrows due to his religion, he pointed to his native Chicago’s corner stores. Likening “food” to positivity and “liquor” to negativity, he explained that the album features “both parts” of him. In summary, the album served to highlight the juxtaposition of his life up to that point. 

A Unification of Diverse Production 

Multiple names were behind the scenes with Lupe Fiasco on Food & Liquor. As mentioned, Jay-Z served as the album’s executive producer but wasn’t alone. Both Lupe and his manager, Charles Patton, also executive produced the project. Other producers included The Neptunes, Kanye West, Prolific, and B. Howard, among others. This eclectic blend of diverse artists breathed a unique life into the album. 

The alternative edge on the album also led to its originality and, eventually, success. Lupe dabbled in pretty much every facet of his life, as well as his surroundings, to create a masterclass in effective and emotive storytelling. Over the years, Food & Liquor is best remembered for its lead single, “Kick, Push,” which earned two Grammy nods. The song was produced by the Grammy-nominated Soundtrakk, who, alongside Prolyfic, handled the bulk of the album’s production. 

“I Gotcha,” the second single released, was produced by The Neptunes, and their signature is evident on the track. Ye handled the appreciated deep cut “The Cool,” while Craig Kallman produced the Grammy-winning single “Daydreamin’,” which featured Jill Scott. Altogether, Food & Liquor is a significant body of work that can hardly be put into one singular box. This is primarily thanks to Lupe’s lyricism and the various producers present on the project.

Lupe Fiasco Stands Out

When Lupe Fiasco released Food & Liquor in late 2006, the Hip Hop community went berserk. After much of the “same” within the genre, Lupe Fiasco was seen as a breath of fresh air. By treating the project like a grand case of poetry, he could divert from what was considered the norm at the time. His music was neither vulgar nor misogynist, and he wasn’t afraid to venture into other genres rarely tapped into. Food & Liquor featured fantasy, readings from the Qur’an, and impressive wit, garnering significant acclaim for its encyclopedic tendencies. The album has since been certified Platinum and peaked at the eighth spot on the Billboard 200.  

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