Lupe Fiasco brings talent, controversy to The Show
Corbin Hicks | Monday, September 10, 2007
Despite a less-than-impressive familiarity with his critically acclaimed catalogue among some audience members, Lupe Fiasco was undoubtedly able to add a few new members to his fan club after his stellar performance for the Notre Dame faithful at The Show last Friday in the Joyce Center.
Each year, The Show obtains two musical acts, and in recent years, one of them has fallen under the category of hip-hop or rap. The three previous acts were Talib Kweli, Akon and Common, with each putting on flawed shows and so-so performances. Those performers catered only to their core fans without trying to deviate from their proven methods or expand their fan base.
Lupe, however, was able to take the brighter spots of these previous acts and combine them into one hour-long, absurdly high-energy performance.
After a half-hour-long delay, Lupe emerged from the darkness with his hypeman and immediately opened with the mixtape track “Conflict Diamonds.” Made by sampling the Kanye West instrumental from “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” “Conflict Diamonds” let Lupe put his own spin on the diamond conflict and the destructive power of capitalistic greed affecting underdeveloped countries. This theme of economic and political commentary is coupled with a powerful social consciousness, heard clearly during “American Terrorist,” “The Instrumental” and “He Say She Say.”
Lupe’s near-constant energy level can largely be attributed to his song choices. The chosen tracks were carefully picked in an order that kept Lupe’s faithful entertained. From his show-stealing verse in another West song, “Touch The Sky,” complete with Roc-A-Fella diamond hand signs, to a hip-hop medley featuring the monster single “Kick, Push,” Lupe chooses and performs songs that truly bring him joy as an artist.
In an attempt just to show off, he performed the mix tape track “Switch,” displaying his mastery of double-time rhyming.
This led to other high-energy performances of tracks like “I Gotcha,” “Cool” and “Daydreamin.” He even chose to debut his new single, “Superstar,” which sounds like a surefire hit.
While many at this university may take offense to a song title like “American Terrorist” – or to Lupe’s vocalized wish that President George W. Bush fall down a flight of stairs – one must understand that with the current state of American affairs, these statements are hardly unexpected from any rap act.
Although most artists don’t go so far as to pen a song referring to crooked police officers as “The Pigs” (a track that can actually be attributed to his hypeman), concertgoers should understand that listening to Lupe’s full catalogue definitely puts these statements into a proper context.
The complexity of Lupe’s songs should keep them from being casually perused on the way to other, more radio-friendly offerings. However, it is easy to see how limited exposed to these songs can lead listeners to a biased opinion against what Lupe stands for. Only by listening to the song in its entirety, breaking down the lyrics, and keeping an open mind can one truly appreciate what these songs stand for and what they represent.
These are not the views of an angry Muslim rapper aiming to get under the skin of fans of country western music. Rather, Lupe is a frustrated American using his talents for songwriting to express his complaints in a timeless song format.
When fans of hip-hop music envision an entertaining concert, they should look at the film of Lupe Fiasco’s performance at The Show as a blueprint to follow. The song choice was superb, and the energy level and passion for his material that he displayed could convert even casual fans into full-fledged followers.
Hopefully this passion will permeate the rest of the music industry, replacing the lackluster performers that fill the charts today.