Hip-Hop loves a leak, for better or worse. Whether its a crowned veteran or the proclaimed leader of the new school, early access to albums is always in demand. Even if the response is overwhelmingly positive, the labels arent as enthused as the fans. For example, Ras Kass Van Gogh and Large Professors The LP remain some of the most talked about, shelved albums. These events have affected Hip-Hop royalty such as Nas with I Am and Jay-Zs Vol 3…Life and Times of S. Carter.
Incidentally, Jigga Man once referred to Fiascos music as a breath of fresh air, but the leak of Food & Liquor is akin to an invigorating stream of spring water to many. Reacting, gasping fans have discovered Food & Liquor for themselves in unrecorded masses. In turn, the feedback has been resoundingly positive. Two months ahead of schedule, a disappointed Lupe speaks to those that have the unfinished work and those who patiently wait as planned.
AllHipHop.com: How did you first find out about the leak?
Lupe Fiasco: I found out about the leak, ironically, on the Internet. Actually, the news popped up on AllHipHop.
AllHipHop.com: So what did you first do after hearing the news? Who did you contact?
Lupe Fiasco: I first started to try and verify what got leaked, and where it went. And then it was all about what actually was on there: how much of the album was leaked. So that was the first thing I did. Then, it was all about containing the situation. So I think I must of found out around 10 or 11 [oclock] and by 12, there were already people working on shutting it all down.
AllHipHop.com: What was Atlantic Records viewpoint? Did you have any de-briefing or crisis management meeting?
Lupe Fiasco: No, they were just about shutting it down, and trying to contain it as best as they could. There wasnt really any specific type of meeting or sit-down. You know, it was already out, so there so wasnt anything we could really do about the leak. The main concern was just trying to make sure the album didnt get bootlegged and that it didnt hit the streets. Its still too early to tell on that. Its only May, and the album isnt due out till mid June, so only time will tell.
AllHipHop.com: Did anyone in particular reach out to you and give you any advice?
Lupe Fiasco: Yeah, you know, loads of people were calling me with advice and support. T.I., Little Brother, and loads of other people too. But for the most part, you know, there really wasnt anything people could do or say, you cant undo whats already done. But you know, it wasnt as bad as it first seemed. We still havent got an exact number of the amount of downloads, but its around the tens of thousand mark. So hopefully it wont hurt the album sales that much.
AllHipHop.com: All sorts of speculations surfaced, such as that this was a PR stunt, that you overreacted, that Atlantic leaked the album. What do you have to say to these statements?
Lupe Fiasco: People talk, and the more they talk, the more controversy is caused. I can clear that I didnt do it. And if Atlantic did it, then that would be an illegal situation, would they really risk doing that? As far as people saying I was overreacting on the situation, well if you work on something for five years and its like the bread and butter of you and your company, and something like that happens, then they would be pissed too. But it was definitely not a publicity stunt or anything around that route. If it was anything like that, then I would have leaked it like a month from now, around June the 1st. That would have been fine. Advance copies come with the territory, but this really was something else, this was more than two and a half months before the release date.
AllHipHop.com: So how do you feel about all the feedback youve received?
Lupe Fiasco: Well, you know the reviews are what we always planned for the album. And thats what it achieved – even in that state of being less than 50% done. So it solidifies that we are heading in the right direction. But at the same time, the Internet is only one place, no one outside of the Internet community knows that its leaked. I didnt get any extra press from it except on the Internet.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about the internet craze of downloading? Do you think its taking away from the experience of owning a great album?
Lupe Fiasco: Yeah, I do think it is definitely taking away from the experience – especially, the experience I had planned for this album. You know my project wasnt completed, theres all a lot of other things I had orchestrated and arranged for the album. The leak kind of takes away from the experience I had planned for myself and for the experience I had planned for my fans. But at the same time, thats just on the Internet though. You see the kids that have downloaded it from the Internet and s**t, thats them. Theyre not going to experience it on June 27th, but my audience is way bigger than [that].
AllHipHop.com: Was there anything you read about this situation over the Internet that got you particularly angry?
Lupe Fiasco: You know, I only really pay attention to one site, I think the site Im talking about is the most authentic, in the sense that the people who leave messages on the forums and message boards are truly giving their opinions and not just hating. They actually know about the music and the history. So their was only one site that I really went to actually read the peoples opinions and what they thought of the album.
AllHipHop.com: Will you tell me what site that it?
Lupe Fiasco: Aahhh, I cant answer that. But yeah, as far as actual editorials were concerned though, I got some great reviews. But at the same time, it actually got me quite mad. You know like, why are you reviewing the album? Youre reviewing an illegitimate release. So that kind of threw me off. Its the same thing, like when people came up to me and said, Oh, Im sorry about the album, but its hot. What you doing? Its like getting stabbed and getting kissed all at the same time.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, but do you not understand why people downloaded it?
Lupe Fiasco: Yeah! Of course. But you know, my only concern was the timing. I understand people downloading it, [but] the only thing that got me so pissed was that it happened so early. You know it was a situation where the label could of actually shut me down. And fair enough, people are saying its a classic, but if it doesnt come out, I have to go back to the studio and spend more money and go through everything again after Ive just spent five years on this particular project. So thats why I reacted the way I did. I was just like, God damn!
AllHipHop.com: Whats the planned release looking like now?
Lupe Fiasco: The album, God willing, is still coming out June 27th. Theres some special features that will be on there, and it will definitely have some surprises and songs that will be on their that werent on the leak. Its just improved, so even if youve heard the leaked version, this is the final improved version so definitely still go out and get it.
AllHipHop.com: Anything else you want to say about the Food & Liquor?
Lupe Fiasco: Its weird, as this is actually an Internet interview. So the same kids that probably downloaded the album are the ones who will be reading this. So what do I tell them? Theyre ahead of the game, they way ahead, I cant tell them anything new. And you know, people are saying to me: Its perfect, dont change it, but I dont look at it as perfection, and Im not listening to that anyway.
AllHipHop.com: Just out of curiosity, what would you do if you now found out who leaked the album?
Lupe Fiasco: Id sue them, for sure. What else should I do, punch them? You know, if I had met the dude before he was going to leak the album, I wouldnt even have taken it from him, he could keep it, but Id just get him to wait a month and a half. Id even help him. You know, he got the song titles wrong and s**t. Id give him the correct song titles and tracklist order. Id give him everything, just as long as he waited. Everyone seems to think, Ive gained all this extra press from this, but I would have got the press anyway [on schedule]. So even if the person was trying to help me, they didnt.
AllHipHop.com: What if you found it was one of your friends though?
Lupe Fiasco: Ah, I dont know. I usually keep my friends separate from my music, as they dont really understand the ins and outs of the music industry. They wouldnt really have access to my album. But yeah, if I found it was a friend, I would have to deal with the situation as best as I could.
ILL COMMUNITY QUOTABLES – What people are saying about Lupe Fiascos Food & Liquor:
3rd Fire: This is, to me, far and away, the best album of 06. [The] only album close is [Ghostface Killahs] Fishscale. Even unmastered, even unfinished, and withoutany brand name producers, Lupe still succeeds in murking every single track on this album.
Banks05: With only a slightly unfinished version of the album, I can honestly say this is better than 90% of s**t in the last 12 months. Its great.
PhillyBul: This album is a classic….funny how a leaked album that may never drop, may not have the same songs is a classic. Its ridiculous, the stuff he says. And I like how he f**ks with a track. A dumb dude wouldnt understand the things he says….he says a lot of stuff that goes over your head. Have you [the] “oh s**t!” [feeling]. This cat is the truth….I’m listening to all his mixtape songs, he kills them too.
Ketchums: I thought the album was virtually perfect, I hope he doesn’t change too much before it comes out. Nobody new is even remotely f**kin’ with him, this is the first time in a minute that I’ve been wowed by a completely new artist. “Real Recognize Real” has what just might be usurping Mos’ verse on “Thieves In The Night” as my favorite verse of all time.
A Bathing Ape: Lupe Fiasco sucks. Leave the Im a nerd who loves to skateboard gimmick to Pharrell. His label is gonna try to push him as being on some “other” s**t, instead of the crack dealin, women, cars that everybody else is doin.
Illseed: “This one thing I know: Lupe Fiasco needs Food & Liquor in his catalogue.”