Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 by Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco is well known as one of hip-hop’s most polarizing figures. His fearlessness to speak his mind and share his opinion on varying topics from politics to racism and oppression draws a diverse and attentive audience like no other. His fourth studio album, Food and Liquor II, is no different, as Fiasco attacks prominent political figures, corrupt priests, and those who have and continue to oppress minorities in this country and abroad. With tracks that also deal in matters of the heart and those that showcase his smooth lyrical skills, this well rounded album appeals the casual listener while satisfying his more loyal fans.
Ayesha Says (Intro)
As she has done on previous albums, Fiasco’s sister, Ayesha Jaco, handles the introductory track to the album. In this spoken word track, she addresses issues and ideas that Fiasco expounds upon in the songs to come, such as abuse of power, oppression, financial struggles, and America’s modern day imperialism.
In the very first line of the album’s first song, Fiasco sounds off on the institutional racism this country continues to exhibit: “Now I can’t pledge allegiance to your flag/’Cause I can’t find no reconciliation with your past/When there was nothing equal for my people in your math.” He continues this attack against racism throughout the track, but does not let the song have a negative feel. Through his use of slick metaphors and an upbeat instrumental led by string instruments, the song, to the untrained listener, sounds upbeat and catchy.
With songs that show the glamorous side of the industry (the money, cars, women, and fame for example) that connect to and glamorize practices such as sex and drug usage and dealing, rap has taken on a negative identity that is especially shown in today’s youth. In the second song of the album, Fiasco directs his attention towards the younger listeners and addresses the messages that are all over rap today: “Don’t let these lying images up in hip-hop here conquer you.” In the chorus he further encourages a positive image: “Can we have some roses for the ladies?/A little appreciation for the gentlemen.”
Around My Way
There is no other song on the entire album that comes close to addressing and attacking so many social issues as Around My Way. The track is almost like Fiasco’s attempt to voice his opinion on every relevant topic there is, and compressing it into a track that is only four minutes long. The song altogether paints a picture of American greed and corruption highlighted by his reference to the Simpson’s Monty Burns and Mr. Smithers when describing the capitalist nature of the nation: “The tyrant or the slave, but nowhere in the middle.”
In this instrumentally driven song, Fiasco focuses more on his lyrical flow highlighted by his use of fun wordplay to portray his ideas. The song is a nice change of pace from the previous tracks, which were heavy in his attacks on the modern social issues.
This song is a specific example of how hip-hop can negatively affect the youth. The first verse chronicles a young male child witnessing his mother singing a song in which she refers to herself as a “b****” multiple times. The child relates the word with his mother and as a result thinks of it as a positive word. The second verse speaks about a group of female children watching a rap video in which he refers to his scantily dressed and curvy background dancers as “b****es” and speaks of them with favor. They see a “b****” as such and aspire to be more like the women portrayed in the video. In the third verse, a later chance meeting between the boy from the first verse and one of the girls from the second verse emphasizes the double connotation of “b****” and “bad” as both positive and negative.
Fiasco takes a break from attacking the famous and prominent figures in politics and rap and shows that even religious leaders can be corrupt. In this song, a religious leader, in the first two verses, performs an exorcism and advocates for a dangerous brain surgery for a mentally ill woman on religious grounds and sins that this same leader commits in the third verse through his pedophilic actions and torture.
Put Em Up
This is the first of two songs that focus exclusively on Fiasco’s lyrical prowess. Loaded with a plethora of jokes and wordplay, he shows that he hasn’t distanced himself from the skills that made him famous.
The record label pressures that Fiasco mentioned before the release of this album manifest themselves in the next couple of songs. Although they still have his musical twist, they have the mainstream feel that he speaks out against and focus almost completely on affairs of the heart, which do not really fit the theme established in the first 8 tracks. In this song, Fiasco metaphorically calls himself a heart donor and is “donating” his heart to the woman he loves: “Everything I got, I give it all to you/My heart and my soul, I give it all to you.”
How Dare You
Continuing with the romanticism established by the first song, this song has the feel of an old school song written for the sole purpose of impressing a specific girl. The charming lyrics and messages of what could be make it feel more like a musical love letter than an actual song.
The third of the love songs on the album, unlike the first two, deals with the gloomy side of love. The phrase “You hope the wound heals but it never does/That’s ‘cause you’re at war with love,” is repeated throughout the song and sums up the song’s message. It is basically an exemplification that metaphorically refers to love as a war and his heartbreak is a wound that will never heal.
Finally after a trio of love songs, Lupe gets back to what he does best, rapping about the problems that society faces today. In addition to that, he describes the struggling conditions in which he was raised, and says that his success despite where he is from was the result of his “courage under fire” that has given him a “brave heart.”
Form Follows Function
The second of two songs on the album that don’t have a specific theme, Form Follows Function is a hook-less song that is full of Lupe’s classic wordplay skills and jokes. The smooth conection of his words and the rhythm and flow that he establishes give the song a feel almost as though he is freestyling instead of reciting prewritten ones.
This song was inspired by the death of Fiasco’s longtime friend Jubar “Esco” Croswell. It is a touching, heartfelt song in which he describes Crosswell and reminisces about him.
In this song, Lupe attacks the past and future practices of American imperialism. In the first verse, he raps about Colombus and other European explorers who abused the Native Americans’ trust and used and killed them in order to colonize their land. In the second verse, he speaks against manifest destiny and calls the clearing of forests and building of big industry the result of American greed. The third verse consists of him predicting future anthropologists and scientists forming misconceptions from their findings from modern day times. These ideas challenge the listener to rethink how our society is.
Hood Now (Outro)
Compared to the rest of the album as a whole, which is heavy in Lupe’s ideas and opinions on our society, the outro is a lighthearted and fun in its quest to explain black culture as a whole. The well rounded track cites hip-hop as another form of black music (along with jazz among