LUPE FIASCO "Food & Liquor" Atlantic

Friday, December 1, 2006

LUPE FIASCO IS NOT your average rapper. The 23-year-old Muslim from Chicago doesn't spit the all-too-typical hustling money, guns and groupies lyrics. He doesn't use drugs (or drink), so he's not going to be boasting about selling them.

You may know him from his cameo on Kanye West's "Touch the Sky" or from his skateboarder love song "Kick, Push." But "Food & Liquor" reveals surprising depth. "American Terrorist" uses a sample from Chick Corea to create, to borrow Lupe's description, a "flamenco jazz" that sums up the times -- "camouflaged Torahs, Bibles and glorious Qurans / the books that take you to heaven and let you meet the Lord there / have become misinterpreted, reasons for warfare / we read em with blind eyes I guarantee u there's more there" -- before smoothly highlighting America's own sins -- "Give yellow man tool, make him railroad builda / also give him pan, make him pull gold from river / give black man crack, glocks to teens / give red man craps, slot machines."

"Hurt Me Soul" is a track flirting with classic status, on a similar vibe as Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R." "Hurt Me Soul" starts "Now I ain't tryna be the greatest / I used to hate hip-hop . . . yup, because the women degraded / But Too $hort made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it" and from there explores the dichotomy he feels.

Other highlights include "Daydreamin' " with Jill Scott, a track that punctures rap video poses better than most, and "Pressure," which features a cameo from Jay-Z.

There are no bangin' beats or future club anthems here that sound like the last five club mixes you just heard. Instead, there is a strong collection of songs that many fans will still be listening to 10 years from now.

I repeat, Lupe Fiasco is not your average rapper, and his "Food & Liquor" is not your average rap album.

-- Curt Fields

Appearing Tuesday at the 9:30 club.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company