Review: Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1

A couple months ago Nick handed me a stack of CDs, as he is wont to do.  One of them was completely black.  I don’t mean black text on black paper, I mean just black.  The liner notes?  Blank black pages.  “What is this?” I asked.  “It’s Lupe Fiasco’s new album.”

In case you aren’t familiar, Lupe Fiasco is the guy who got me interested in English-language rap by covering subjects varying from the awesomeness of Chicago, to Robots attacking D.C., to young skateboarders in love.  So it was with something akin to glee that I stuck the CD into my car stereo.

Thinkin’ protests are temporary and trendy
Well rock a t-shirt and carry a poster
And two weeks later it’s back to normal

– Ayesha Says (Intro)

This album crawled into the spot in my brain where my election-year-induced media obsession lives and put down roots.  Four years ago it was Dark Knight, this year it was Food & Liquor II.  He’s beautifully, powerfully angry, with all the eloquence I’ve been scrambling for since June.  There are a ton of fantastically poetic, clever lines, but it was it was this bit in the intro track that gave me notice I was going to love this album.

Anybody who’s had the (mis)fortune of riding in my car with me has been subjected to a steady litany of “Oh this song.  I love this one!  Oh, and this one too.  Have I made you listen to this one yet?”

The anger here isn’t my anger; I’m not a black and the album is thick with discourse about race relations and problems therein.  There’s a bit of pan-colored-people-solidarity which always strikes me as naive, but the power behind the words mostly makes it very easy for me to just shut up and listen.

I’m very tempted to do a song-by-song analysis explaining why each of the songs on this album is, one way or another, brilliant, but I’ll refrain.  Still, I have to squee a bit about what he does in Brave Heart.  The last verse is a rhetorically dense perfection with a fantastic punch line.

As archaeologists dig in the deserts of the east
A pit a hundred meters wide and a hundred meters deep
They discover ancient cars on even older streets
And a city well preserved and most likely at its peak

A society at peace. With liberty and justice for all
Neatly carved in what seems to be a wall
They would doubt that there was any starvation at all
That they pretty much had the poverty problem all solved

Religions kinda complex. Kinda hard to figure out
And this must be the temple
This White House

If you like rap, go get this album right now.  If you don’t like rap, but make any claims to liking poetry, rhetoric, or literary quality, go get this album right now.  If you don’t like rap but want to see what it’s like when it’s brilliant, album. Get. Now.
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