"Man it feels good, when it happens like that / Two days from going back to selling crack, yessir!"
Lupe Fiasco Warehouse Live November 7, 2013
As we walked into Warehouse Live on a chilly November night, all I could see was a titanic beard onstage rapping into a mike. It took a few moments to realize that MMG homie Stalley was finishing up his set. The Ohio native certainly has an interesting voice, higher than you would expect, effortless but still hard.
I've never really given his music too much of a chance, although I've seen him a few times since SXSW 2012. I did appreciate the song "Swangin'" that is found on this year's Honest Cowboy album, in which he shares the track with Scarface. Looks like I owe him a few Spotify spins very soon.
While waiting on Mr. Fiasco to arrive onstage, I reminisced over the times that I've seen him in concert. It goes all the way back to 2009, at my very first Press assignment for HPress. It was a Bun B & Friends show, and a young Lupe came in with a jean jacket, shades, and Chucks, cool as ever.
Back then, "Kick, Push" was inescapable; the perfect song for a fan like my little brother Angel, who accompanied me last night to see his favorite rapper. I've taken him twice before, but tonight we both hoped to finally meet the Chicago native and take a photo with him. Fingers crossed.
The stage was backdropped by a large LCD video screen, ready to display images of the struggle, both life and political, the stuff that Lu is known to care about. Indeed, a more mysterious artist may not exist in hip-hop, presenting his fans with all kinds of tracks, from the simple party jams to the conscience resistance anthems. It all works coming from his superbly gifted flow, as well as from his charismatic and confident demeanor.
A recorded monologue began the show, an attempt to educate the girls and women around the world to push away from the twerking culture, and the men away from the drug culture. That led into the track "ITAL (Roses)", which begins with the verse "Hey shawty, ain't no future in no gang-bang, and no future in no bang-bang."
Obviously a call for respect and peace, especially from the violence that plagues Lupe's hometown of Chicago. "Put Em Up" and "Lamborghini Angels" rounded out the opening act from 2012's Food & Liquor II., ending with the controversial "Around My Way [Freedom Ain't Free]".
"There's two things that make me, me!" proclaimed Lupe as he took a moment to breathe. "The first is: I tell the truth. People may not always like it, but I do. The second thing is: I tell the muthafuckin truth!"
Can't argue with that, Lupe has found himself in more than a few controvesries over the years for his opinions, thoughts, theories, etc. In that way, he is similar to his big rap brother Kanye, although nobody is as crazy as Mr. West. I admire the fact that more kids pay attention to current events after listening to Lupe speak.
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"I'm glad to play my newer stuff, but sometime I just can't help but to dig into my archives," the rapper said to roaring applause. He furiously performed "Touch the Sky" and "Kick, Push," the tracks that made him one of the best young rappers in the game, killing it since 2006. He dedicated the track "Hip Hop Saved My Life" to two members of the Houston rap community who have since passed away: Clip D of ABN and Mama C (Pimp C's mom). Lovingly, he said that both were "the realest niggas he ever met"; rest in peace for certain.
That led into a guest appearance by Trae Tha Truth for the "I'm On (Remix)." It's been a while since we've seen Trae, and he looks menacing and ferocious as ever. Lupe gets a few laughs when he jokingly imitates Trae's baritone voice. I suspect more people would have laughed, but they loved their lives too much to chance getting on Trae's bad side.
A new song named "Crack" pounded on my eardrums, causing all the dust in the rafters to snowflake to the floor. By now Lupe had been rapping for almost an hour and a half, and the end was near. He ended the show with "Superstar," "The Show Goes On" and "Paris, Tokyo," before singing one for the ladies. "Drizzy's Law" ran smooth and soft, much like Drake's collection of cashmere sweaters, complementing Lu's smooth flow perfectly.
He meandered from the lyrics and began to freestyle for the crowd, taking prompts by fans in the front row, never skipping a beat.
Oh, and we got the picture we wanted. Thanks Lupe! See you at Fun Fun Fun Fest tonight!
Personal Bias: Smooth, opinionated, go-go gadget flow. One of the rappers that I wasn't leery of introducing to my fifteen year old little brother to back in 2006 when Food & Liquor dropped.
The Crowd: Not as crowded as an artist like Lupe deserves, maybe half full in the ballroom, but these were all real Lupe fans, all ages & colors.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I love you Lu!" - a thug in a Oakland Raiders cap, not ashamed to say what he said, and nobody around him judged.
Random Notebook Dump: Looking forward to hear more from The Boy Illinois soon. This is his first tour and was extra cool when we met him after the show.
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