Where were you when you came across “The Next Big Thing”?
That thing that would alter your life the moment you discovered it.
For me, these moments are very few in my life. I remember being in total awe as a kid while I was watching the “Southerplayalistic” video on Rap City with my big brother. I felt like watching those two rappers from Atlanta was a life changing moment. It happened again during the bullet-time scenes of The Matrix. I knew this movie would change the action/sci-fi genres forever.
As many people do, I spent my teenage years curating my current tastes. I graduated high school during the height of the snap music era, so I really wasn’t into rap back then. Like many others, I began listening to a lot of alt-rock ie Brand New, Incubus, and At the Drive-In. When it came to hip-hop, though, one thing was constant for me: Kanye West. I was HUGE Kanye fan. College Dropout definitely goes on that “next big thing” list but Late Registration totally blew me away. It was Kanye’s instant masterpiece (and I still feel that way today) and introduced me to a lot of different things. I would go on to study Jon Brion’s movie scores more, which ultimately led me to one of my favorite directors Paul Thomas Anderson. I also discovered a new rapper. Some guy by the name of Lupe Fiasco.
My first thoughts on Lupe were 1) what a ridiculous name 2) how nerdy does this guy have to be to drop a Mum-Ra reference? 3) how dare this guy ruin a great song with a verse that’s so good it doesn’t even fit the theme?
I thought his “Touch the Sky” verse was dope but Lupe Fiasco slipped my mind. Nearly a whole year later, I ran home to watch Rap City like I did faithfully every day since I was a kid.
I caught the end of a video but it gave me that same feeling I had before. I’m watching the next best thing.
I spent the next day at school download the Fahrenheit 1/15 mixtapes. Later that summer, equipped with the high-speed internet in my dorm room, I began listening to the Touch the Sky mixtapes and the F&L leaks. Lucky for me, the guys I became cool with were fans of Lupe so it didn’t matter when I took over the CD player with my Lupe mix CD.
Fast forward to September 19th and a moment was created in my life that I’ll never forget.
A decade is definitely enough time to declare an album a classic. Sure there’s a few skips on here and other tracks haven’t aged as gracefully but this album created a ripple in hip hop forever.
I wasn’t alive for The Low-End Theory or Illmatic but I think Food & Liquor had a similar impact although the reception wasn’t the same initially.
Food & Liquor tilts the scale back to lyricism in hip hop and serves as an influence for many rappers that came later.
Lupe was immediately a hit by being an icon for anime culture. This album is full of references to comics and video games. Those references were used to exhibit superior lyricism. Whereas many rappers use similes as their punchlines, Lupe loves metaphors that jump from one line to the other, or even from one verse to the next.
For example, where most rapper would give you their social commentary completely unfiltered, Lupe uses the metaphor of a giant robot to represent the city of Chicago.
(No, this song isn’t actually about a robot)
The Cool is about a murdered man climbing out of his grave to revisit the same hood he was killed in.
[I’ll go through other metaphors in other posts]
Lupe’s metaphors are personally why I got into the blog and forum scene. Hours were spent deciphering Lupe’s lyrics.
Since snap dancing and trap ruled the airwaves, a nerdy, skateboarding rapper (and his fans) felt. And that was this album’s biggest flaw, minus the leaks anyway: This album came during the wrong era. Sticking out in an era where nothing sounded like it was an advantage, though.
Whenever I turn this album of it takes me back to 2006. I reflect on the climate of hip-hop. I compare it to the music that’s out today and realize how far it’s come in 10 years. This album served as the catalyst for rappers being allowed to be who they are. Yes, Kanye brought backpacking to the scene but for he’s still basically “the cool kid”. He wore polo and gold chains. He was still preppy but just a rapper. Lupe made music for the rap fan who wanted to be a rap fan but didn’t really have anything that appealed to him/her.
This album is a classic because it serves as the major turning point in the history of the genre and there haven’t been very many albums to make a huge shift.
If you hated it back in 06, give it another chance. If you never listened to it back then because you weren’t interested, then check it out. Maybe you’ll appreciate it now.
This album will always represent a major era in my life. Hopefully, it gives someone the same feeling.