Lupe Fiasco

 

This posting isn’t meant to be timely in any way, shape or form. I’m not late on Lupe, I was just thinking about his track, “Kick Push”. I felt like writing about how I see a guy like Lupe Fiasco changing the game. Changing the face of hip hop.

I don’t remember what day it was. It was probably sometime in the early the summer. I was on the living room couch–MacBook Pro propped on my lap– answering work emails and checking my Facebook. The television was on.

I have this weird need to always have some form of media on to create background ambiance while I’m working on something else that usually needs my full and undivided attention. Sure, having the TV on in the background while I work is a bad habit, but that day it proved to be a pretty good idea.

Of course, the TV wasn’t tuned to an important PBS documentary special or the BBC’s news hour. It was stuck for most of the day on one of those bland reality programs. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re like a cycle of dysfunction. And, with titles like The Hills, Laguna Beach One and Real World, are they really reality or scripted?

I dunno–does it really matter anymore? They’re all the same. A bunch of whiny, wealthy (white?) teenagers screwing each other over then running home when the going gets tough. Yes, that’s what we’re watching in our house. A sad state of affairs it is. Don’t worry, we do turn to The Daily Show on occasion.

Anyway, as the show wound down to its conclusion–cameras zooming in on the faces of the disaffected or disappointed–the credits began to roll. I heard the musical intro (is that a cello or a horn?) and then came the lyrics. Sitting upright, I grabbed the remote and increased the volume, just in time to hear the songs hook, which went like this:

And so we kick, push

Kick, push

Kick, push

Kick, push

Coast…

And away he rolled

Just a rebel to the world

With no place to go

And so we kick, push

Kick, push

Kick, push

Kick, push

Coast…

So come and skate with me

Just a rebel looking for a place to be

So let’s kick… (uh)

And push…

And coast…

I thought to myself, “oh shit…this is so dope!” (Yes…dope. I said it. Okay, so I’m dating myself. Just chill…) Lupe Fiasco? Who is this cat rolling across the screen on his skate board, dropping the new sound of hip hop through the dying media of broadcast television? Best of all, not a mention of guns, money or bitches. At that moment, I felt like hip hop and heads behind it finally got it. A few years from now, when we’re all time-shifting using our Tivo or Sling Box, this transformational moment in hip hop history might not have happened. Those who create and market hip hop are lucky the tide hasn’t totally turned and that we still have a few years to go. With Lupe and Kanye West updating the sound and turning it on its head, this reversal could signal the rise of a new wave of rappers bringing intelligence–not violence and misogyny–to the forefront.

I think so many hip hop fans have been turned off by the rap game. To me, the difference between hip hop and rap is pretty clear. Rap is the raw, unrefined truth of living the urban experience. More often than not, I find that rap communicates the trials and tribulations of the street hustle. It’s all about getting yours, whatever yours is as defined by the lingo of street culture.

To me, hip hop has a kind of purity–an innocence, if you will. It’s got the ability to connect the urban phenomenon with feel good beats and rhymes while focusing on social messages that are meaningful, important statements on our times and how we live today. Many times, hip hop is existential. It’s inquisitive. Hip Hop just feels sophisticated, where rap can feel dirty and grimy–head’s swilling champagne and waving their Glock while rubbing their cock in some video hoe’s ass. Hip Hop is the Black Eyed Peas prolific social anthem, “Where Is The Love.” Rap is 50-Cent’s “Candy Shop.”

From where I sit, rap has become music about gangster living. It’s about the urban mafia–the warriors on the street. They’re killing each other over who’s got this car, who got that girl and who snatched which celebrities gold at the club last week. That’s why rap sales are down. People are tired of that shit. Not tired enough to stop buying it altogether, but tired enough that sales have slumped. Of course, downloading doesn’t help either. P2P technology is an issue, I grant you. But at the end of the day, sales are so far down that it’s not just file sharing that’s killing the rap game. It’s generic, wanna-be rappers spitting the same nonsense–bragging about illegally obtaining the spoils of the street war with little conscience about what message that is sending to our young people.

Today, Lupe is changing all that. A kid with a skate board riding his way through the streets of Chi-town while spitting meaningful words over a kick-ass hip hop beat? Now that’s hip hop. I get the chills hearing the lines, “Just a rebel to the world with not place to go” and “Just a rebel looking for a place to be.” Those lines are so powerful. Every young person in America and beyond knows what it’s like to go looking for a place you fit in. Here, Lupe’s a rebel looking to fit in somewhere–anywhere for that matter, that will accept him for who he is and the authenticity he represents. That’s the conundrum we all face. We all want to be left alone to do our own thing, but we also want to find like-minded people or things we identify with. Lupe Fiasco “Kick Push” questions it all and does it in a way that’s digestible. It brings hip hop to a new level. It’s a game changing phenomenon that is refreshing, breathtaking and bold. For Lupe has no fear that other rappers will call him weak and commercial. But is it? Lupe’s science is poetry in a genre sorely lacking depth and focusing solely on profit.

I’m also digging the love story aspect of song and the way it gives the female lead her own persona. The song/video gives her a voice and the opportunity to stand up as a strong women who doesn’t need a man to define her. She’s got her own board, thank you very much. And she’s off to kick, push…wherever she wants to roll on her own.

At 41-years old this year, I’m Lupe Fiasco. You are Lupe Fiasco. Maybe…just maybe, we’re all Lupe Fiasco. We’re all rebels looking for a place to be. So, just kick…push…and coast…

About Tony Zeoli

Tony Zeoli is a digital media strategist, innovator, and entrepreneur. He founded Netmix.com in 1995, which was considered by Billboard Magazine to be the "innovation and advancement of dance music on the Internet." Tony has innovated at the intersection of music and the Internet for the past thirty years as a project manager, product manager, information architect. He is also the founder of Digital Strategy Works, a WordPress web design and digital marketing agency in Asheville, NC.

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