Chicago-based MC Lupe Fiasco (born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco) began rapping in junior high school and joined a group called da Pak several years later. The group signed to Epic, released one single, and split up, all before Fiasco reached the age of 20. Thanks in part to the vocal support of Jay-Z,L.A. Reid signed Fiasco as a solo artist to Arista, but before anything of significance was able to happen (only a promo single and a couple guest appearances were set up), Reidwas fired, leaving the MC without a label. Fiasco eventually landed at Atlantic. Preceded by the single "Kick, Push," as well as several mixtapes and an appearance on Kanye West's "Touch the Sky," the album Food & Liquor was set to surface during early 2006, though an unfinished version leaked during the spring, pushing its official release back to September instead. The album peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200 and earned the cerebral rapper three Grammy nominations; "Daydreamin'" (featuring Jill Scott) won the award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. A highly conceptualized follow-up, The Cool, was released in December 2007. Gold sales certification and four additional Grammy nominations followed.
Despite his track record, Fiasco met a number of obstacles on the way to the release of his third album, Lasers. The process culminated in a petition signed by over 30,000 followers who demanded that Atlantic release the long-delayed album, which was followed by a fan protest outside the label's New York City offices. Lasers, finally issued by Atlantic in March 2011, topped three charts: the Billboard 200, Hot R&B/Hip Hop Albums, and Hot Rap Albums. It was propelled by "The Show Must Go On" (which barely scratched the upper half of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, but went Top Ten on the Hot 100) and "Out of My Head" (number 40 Hot 100; number 11 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop). Work on the MC's fourth album, cumbersomely titled Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1, began while Lasers was in pre-release limbo. Its development and September 2012 birth was relatively uncomplicated.-- In 2015 he released Tetsuo & Youth, an album that featured songs inspired by Lupe's upbringing in Chicago.
The Muslim wordsmith’s unwavering attention to craft has inspired a most committed fan base. In 2010 when Lupe’s label refused to release LASERS, the Fiasco faithful picketed outside Atlantic Records and drew a 16,000-signature online petition. How did the rapper respond? He traveled to Africa to clear his mind and climb the Motherland’s tallest mountain to raise money for water wells. Then he returned home and did what he’s done since teaming with Jill Scott on his first LP (“Daydreamin”) and Mathew Santos on his sophomore effort (“Superstar”): he made a couple hit records (“The Show Must Go On,” “Words I Never Said,” featuring Skylar Grey), scoring his second consecutive Gold album. While F&L2 boasts mass-appeal performances from soul stars like Bilal and Jamaroquai, Lupe has zero interest in appeasing radio programmers. He’d much rather speak his experiences through the resurrection of Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s classic “T.RO.Y.” for his first single “Around My Way [Freedom Ain’t Free].” And if he must target female ears, it’s not to seduce, instead empower with the enlightening “Bitch Bad.” “I don’t necessarily have an idea of success, and I think that’s what makes things so problematic for me when I have to deal with [commercial demands],” says Lupe, before widening the lens on his perspective. “This world is immaterial. God showed me all these things––you wanna know what it feels like to perform for 80,000 people? Here. You wanna look at your bank account and not have to worry about anything? Here––and then took it away so none of that shit moves me. Now all I wanna make is social commentary and good-feeling music.”
It makes sense that a rapper who can be in Cairo riding a camel on one day, and in Los Angeles, whipping one of his many Ferraris, the next is ready to broaden Hip-Hop minds. It’s no surprise that an MC who doesn’t leave home without the Autobiography of Malcolm X has constructed one of rap’s most nutrimental albums. All one has to do is ingest Lupe Fiasco’s James Baldwin praises and Wasalu Muhammad’s big picture appears in HD: “His point of view was unrelenting…he would not let America apologize half-ass. Then to be so against the rules, it was almost like he was writing the rules, dictating them. Yet he fully understood everybody’s points of views and side of the story.”