Food & Liquor: An Ode To Lupe Fiasco And His Genius

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Ten years ago today Wasalu “Lupe Fiasco” Jaco released his formidable debut album, Food & Liquor. I was graduating high school when Lupe’s opening statement to the rap game had been issued.

The project, both critically and commercially successful, gave us hits like “Kick, Push,” where the Chicago rapper turned the lens on his love affair with skateboarding; “I Gotcha,” where he made saving hip-hop a personal burden; and the Grammy award-winning “Daydreamin,” where his wildly vivid dream of skyscraper robots somehow helped me to believe the impossible is nothing.

Food & Liquor is steeped in political science and race and sociology, and at 16, 17 I didn’t always quite get his lyrical analogies and connotations, but I think perhaps through cultural memory or poetic license, I became privy to its significance.

In celebration of the album’s anniversary, the oft-controversial MC released Ten Yurrs Layda, an hour-long audio recording in which he shares his memories on the project, and attempts to unpack its many components. I, too, return to the project a decade later. This is my love letter to Lupe, to his genius, and to it all…

on the heels of graduation
my ears

inside a scuffed-up van
heard your blood

hot at the edge of vinyl
you chanted the qur’an in arabic

spit unabashedly
blasted an american terrorist

i saw you kick push
into 120 lbs of first-time love

you were sleek with certainty
& i still malleable

when i left home
the wind gusted around a chi-city

nerd who whistled down
a fractured block

without a posse
who crushed quick couplets

about being black
& muslim

you turned a long scream
into a hip-hop fiasco

& america gangsta-leaned
through the storm

do you remember spinning N.W.A
karate-chopping monsters

spending hours curled over
your favorite book

your genius is warm
on my tongue

wasalu muhammad
it crackles in the shadows

of 1st & 15th
& makes me want

to write about a rapper
who taught me how to fly