Lupe Fiasco and The Guilt of the Leak

OK, I have to admit, I got Lupe Fiasco’s album, Food & Liquor.

When it was first leaked, I resisted the urge to download it all of 24 hours before I caved into the impulse to see what this Chicago native had to offer. See, I had already snatched up his mixtapes and I was completely curious about the self-proclaimed nerd from an artistic and commercial point of view.

I’ve been following this kid ever since he appeared on (well maybe a lil’ before), but there are several points about Lupe that are interesting. I was impressed by his penchant for clean (not corny) lyrics and I’ve been impressed by his lyricism, which exemplifies creativity, depth and old school sensibility with a new school twist. With that said, I hope this leak doesn’t destroy the young MC. I read a statement on the Internet where he said, “Its stuff like this that makes you wanna just be like f**k it. A lotta time and money and bulls**t went into creating that album.”

He almost sounds broken.

If anything, it should serve as an energy boost because the frenzy over his music is like piranha over a bloody carcass. But Food & Liquor doesn’t have to be that carcass if the geniuses over at Atlantic Records concoct a way to generate new, profitable interest in this mini-masterpiece. In the past when leaks occurred, labels have added bonus cuts, golden tickets, platinum chains and just about anything else to coax the masses of sheepish consumers back to the store. This one thing I know: Lupe Fiasco needsFood & Liquor in his catalogue.

Why? This freshman effort is as refreshing as I anticipated. Even though Lupe has been pushed and promoted as a nerdy skater boy, he’s actually extremely thought provoking, analytical and has a style reminiscent of an early Jay-Z – think Jigga with no jiggy. He also evokes Nas’ Illmatic days, if one considers Food & Liquor as a canvas where Lupe (aka Cornel Westside) paints his Chicago experience with music. Songs like “Trials and Tribulations,” “Close Your Mind” and “Hustlaz Song” represent the streets without glorifying matters. When the DJ plays joints like “Spazz Out,” real nerds will be busting out of their pocket protectors, and thugs could become skate rats after hearing the organic “Kick Push.” But that’s assuming these people actually get to hear Food & Liquor.

The Internet is getting quite ludacris…I mean, ludicrous (My bad, but forget the comparisons to Luda’s Chicken & Beer. There are no comparisons to the two!) It’s high time we as a people admit the downloading is out of control. I don’t think I ever thought I’d hear myself say this, but it’s killing the music and the experience of getting it. I remember the ‘90s and the vivid memories of waiting for THAT DAY that THAT ALBUM came out. Release day was like Christmas and the rappers were giving us a gift that we paid for. There was no getting it early, aside from the rare tape that got to the ‘hood in advance. And when somebody got that, they held on to it because it was like a freakin’ treasure! Selfish bastards. Furthermore, they didn’t want to hurt the career of that particular artist – there was a personal connection. Anyway, now the labels and the artist’s supporters are raping the artists in their own way! It’s getting insane. I would say it’s a sick form of reparations from all the garbage that we do buy, but it’s not.

Smarten up, is what all parties are going to have to do, or die.

Perhaps, Lupe could offer the whole album for exclusive download on his Web site and allow people to pay? Maybe they can beef Food & Liquor up with some of those cameos he suggested in his statement? If it were up to me, I’d just release it, but that’s why I’m a peripheral player in the music game! In my view, this is the best album this year, which I’m sure will be seen as blaspheme with the likes of T.I., E-40 and Ghostface currently on the market. I’ve already listened to it more than most albums this year, barring the King of the South.

But although I have a hot album on my computer, I feel a bit melancholy.

I would’ve liked trekking to the local record store with eagerness to get Food & Liquor, marching to the register and putting the CD in my CD player after tearing the plastic off. Instead, I scrambled to a Web site for Food & Liquor to download it from a link before it expired, burned a copy and loaded it onto my iPod. I guess it’s not all that different…but there leaves Lupe Fiasco and his five-year work in limbo.

I’m going to buy Food & Liquor regardless, should it be released commercially and I urge others to follow suit. There is no need to abort our future favorites before they even get started. Still, if Lupe is as nerdy and creative as he boldly proclaims, he will be able to invent a new work of art that surpasses even this.

Good luck.

Illseed is's resident cultural critic even though nobody on staff will co-sign him. You can respond to this at his blog at