With Food & Liquor, Lupe Fiasco sets no boundaries for himself as he creates a revolutionary brand of alternative hip-hop in which he shares his mind through original storytelling techniques. He takes hip-hop off the streets and onto the half pipe, off the streets and into the sneaker shops, off the streets and into the hands and in front of real people.
Let's see...a rap artist is hyped insufferably, his music is leaked incessantly, his album is delayed indefinitely, the hype grows, rinse, repeat. Welcome to the world of pop music in 2006, when "unauthorized" Internet seepage can somehow manage to simultaneously make and break an aspiring young performer. Lupe Fiasco's unfinished debut CD was slathered all over the Web for months, like some sort of Lonelygirl15, before finally seeing the legitimate light of day. That said, the Chicago-bred rapper, who rose to prominence thanks to his "Touch the Sky" collab with Kanye West, is hardly a slouch. His skittering, low-key rapping style is truly distinctive, and his lyrics are mostly thoughtful and creative without being heavy-handed. Despite frequent comparisons to "thinking man's rappers" from Tribe and De La Soul to Nas, the most apt comparison might be to Kanye West himself: Like West, Fiasco rises above the trappings of the street without sounding condescending or out of touch, and his sound has the same "timeless" quality--partly old-school, partly of the moment. Yet somehow, Food & Liquor
isn't quite a home run either; it lacks fire and it cries out for an infectious track or two that really sticks. Still, Lupe distinguishes himself as an artist to watch. --Marc Greilsamer