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Lupe Fiasco - conducted by DJ Hyphen & J. Moore  

Lupe Fiasco: Sunday Night Sound Session

August 2006

MVRemix: I was just rockin' my industry rule #4080 shirt ("Record labels are shady") yesterday... After the success of "Kick Push," do you feel that may have pigeon holed you?

Lupe Fiasco: To a certain extent it did, and it was deliberate in that sense to make that record for that particular niche. At the same time too, it set me up to totally re-invent myself quick, and that's what longevity is about - it's about re-inventing yourself and "Kick Push" came out a year ago officially, so it had enough time to go get cycled through the system. People heard it and was like, "Okay, good" and that shows longevity in the record. So now, when we come with the next record, it's like "Okay, Lupe can re-invent himself now. It's this. So now he's just a rapper rapping." Then the next single, "Now he's this" and, "Now he's that" and, "Now he's that," so I plan to do that throughout my whole career. It was dope just to experience everything that came from that song, people know 'cause a lot of people heard the leak[ed album] - a lot! "Be Easy" got downloaded 250,000 times.

MVRemix: They should start giving out certificates for downloads, for bootlegging.

Lupe Fiasco: So people heard it and people heard the body of work. So a lot of people that went to MySpace and stuff like that, they seen the other songs and "Steady Mobbins" and then you got links to download the mixtapes. So they would do that research and then go back and see the body of work and be like, "Oh, it's much more than skateboarding." That was good about when the album leaked, because people got to see the rest of the album is talkin' about nothin' about skateboarding, just backpacking nerd stuff, just real social issues. It was good, it set me up to re-invent myself lovely. Then I just did "Kick Push 2" which was another flip on it to extend the story, so it's a little bit more personal.

MVRemix: I was gonna say, I think people are making the assumption loosely that "Kick Push 2" is based on you...

Lupe Fiasco: Nah, "Kick Push 2." Nah, "Kick Push" is just me exaggerating, just making up stories on it. But based on reality, based on real people. It's nerdy like the "Dungeons and Dragons" booster pack. This is this character, and this is their story and this is why they do what they do.

MVRemix: Real quick, I know Jay[Z]'s been involved with the project a little bit, how did you link up with him initially and what's his official involvement?

Lupe Fiasco: Basically, overseeing the project and knocking down doors. I had Jay co-signatures back in 2001 before any Kanye West/Roc-A-Fella, I was in Jay-Z's house. Jay was like, "What up, I want to sign you to Roc-A-Fella..." We turned it down because we had 1st and 15th and they couldn't offer anything other than signing me as a solo artist, I was like "Nah, we can't do that." We just stayed in contact, for instance I gave him "What More Can I Say?" for the "Black Album." You look at the credits, it says 1st and 15th. He gave me my first real quote and co-signature from the Source in like 2003, where he said that "Lupe is refreshing to me" whole thing. He just tutored me in the game, I sat and watched him put that whole "Blueprint" together, watched him put the "Black Album" together, just been privy to those situations and watching him work. Its just been a learning experience like that. The one thing Jay taught me is "Don't chase radio," even as executive producer, which is his official position now - he came in while I was on Arista. The first time that him and L.A. Reid ever met face to face on business was about my project. He came into the Arista business, sat down with L.A. Reid and you see the history now of how that transpired two or three years later of them being partners. Its just been fresh, its been a fresh experience to have dude on the project and what it does is it opens up stuff that you don't even know. It kills stuff before you even get to the battle field. We might got some things planned later on, me and Big Homie.

MVRemix: In your opinion, what is it about Chicago that makes it produce not only dope emcees, but kind of a brand of "every man" emcees - stuff that people can relate to. What is it about Chicago that brings out these kind of emcees?

Lupe Fiasco: I think it's the way Chicago is structured; it's a regular city. There's nothing extreme about it, it's not L.A. or Hollywood where there's stars and there's a certain level of upkeep that you have to maintain, a certain level of phoniness to compete, it's just livin' regular if you wanna live that lifestyle. New York is mad fast, mad fast in your face, a lot of frontin'. The South is more laidback, overall in general it's more laidback. A lot of stuff down there is not necessary. Life is a little more stripped down - just that, the basics. Not that we're idiots, but "This is what we do - we don't need all that." Chicago has all of that but toned down and matured, literally, a lot of people that live in Chicago can trace their roots back to Mississippi ten years ago. When people take summer vacation to go back home, they go back to Mississippi, just straight like that. Our uncles got southern accents and gold teeth and the whole thing and we relate to that West Coast experience, when the West Coast was poppin', it was poppin' in Chicago hard, it was poppin' in the Mid-West crazy. Then that whole New York aesthetic; people wanna rock Timb[erland]s and "What up son, son..." We got all that. It comes together kind of crazy though because we're just regular, we're regular people. There's no stigma, you can't tell a person from Chicago almost because we're regular. You can tell a New York dude, you can tell an L.A. dude, you can tell a dude from the South, but Chicago we're like anywhere USA. And so I think we tell those regular stories, the regular stories that go on. There's no celebrities, there's no Bentleys driving down the streets in Chicago, there's nothin' like that. We had our gang experience, we had our drug experience, we had everything that every other city had, but we still just had regular. It's a regular city so you get regular emcees which are phenomenal emcees 'cause we still have that ability to sit back and think. New York don't really give you much time to think, it's like, "Now, now! What are you gonna say right now?" That's why the music is so short lived. "Now! Now! Now!" then somebody else is comin', and somebody else is comin'. Chicago there's more space for us to breathe and sit back and think. Like okay, now here we go... That Chicago aesthetic is something that's... Kanye and them, they represent more of a bourgeois aesthetic that the city has, a Hyde Park/South Side aesthetic - people like Twista where it's more ghetto, Shawnna more ghetto west side situation. But you know, it's good though. It's in the water.

MVRemix: It's even symbollic, it's in the middle.

Lupe Fiasco: Yeah, we in the middle.

MVRemix: What kind of stuff outside of Hip Hop are you feeling? And who are your favourite emcees?

Lupe Fiasco: For real, for real it's every emcee. Whether I'm inspired by their supreme and utter wackness or their ridiculous ability to bend words. When I started doing Hip Hop, I approached it like a science because that's what I was into as a kid, I was into science. So I took the scientific approach; I am going to study. So at first it was the West Coast, I grew up on Spice 1 and N.W.A. and Too $hort and people like that. Then the South, Eightball & MJG, OutKast and Tela. The New York experience came later on in High School, the Nas', Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli, the Mos Def's - I would study them all individually. I would take the "Black on Both Sides" album and study it for three months, then turn around and study a Chino XL mixtape, then turn around and study Andre 3000. Turn around and study these people too to a tee, studied Ghostface. We used to do whole albums on Ghostface - we used to call it "In Ghostface," just do whole albums "In Ghostface" and talk about nothin', makin' sure our delivery was gettin' sharper - our flow was getting better. So it's from everybody. But it's two dudes actually that stand out and it's probably Nas and Mos Def. Nas to me is the best emcee, because he's the most human. He doesn't parade around like he's Superman and he contradicts himself, which shows that he's learning and able to accept his mistakes or have that human flaw and get caught up in the glamorized violence, like I was. You get this certain thing when you're walkin' around with ten gangstas, people watch the movie "Killa Season" and get caught up in it. You start lookin' like it, start mean muggin', then you catch yourself like, "Oh, snap, I'm gettin' caught up in the gangsta of it." To show that and express that is real human to me. He can take that and he'll have a - to me "It Was Written" is the best Hip Hop album for me. He'll have all these violent songs and then do a "Black Girl Lost" and totally blow your mind, like, "Oh my gosh! He just killed it." For him to have the ability to do that, like I love Nas. Then there's Mos Def, and for one reason, I'm Muslim. He came out and he said on "Black On Both Sides" he was like Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem, I was like [gets excited] "Oh!" I was done from there. We might actually work on some stuff together, I seen him in L.A. actually on "Daydreamin" I think. See I just be goin' off.

MVRemix: This is good - this is the information that got the internet goin' nuts...

Lupe Fiasco: See outside of that I'm a Jazz buff, I love Jazz more than I love Hip Hop, and just everything inbetween. That was my history, I grew up on classical music and Jazz and world music and Rock & Roll. Hip Hop came in at just that one part. I just did a remix to the Thom Yorke "Eraser" joint, so it goes from that extreme to I be bouncin' to "Lean With It, Rock With It" - just a little, a very small bit.

MVRemix: Who are a few of your dream collaborations?

Lupe Fiasco: I got 'em all, for this album I got 'em all.

MVRemix: Even outside of Hip Hop?

Lupe Fiasco: I got 'em.

MVRemix: Even the Jazz musicians?

Lupe Fiasco: I got 'em.

MVRemix: John Coltrane is on the record?

Lupe Fiasco: For real though, I got Chick Corea. It was a Chick Corea sample for "American Terrorist," and Chick Corea hates Hip Hop. He doesn't clear any Hip Hop samples, he doesn't do any of that and when he heard the record, it was the first time he ever cleared a Hip Hop record. He cleared the sample for "American Terrorist," which was dope. So I've got a chance to where - people don't see that, you think there's a distance... You have to call up Chick Corea and be like, "What up this is such and such and I really wanna use this record on my album," so it's a real collaboration - you have to get their permission. I got to work with Jill Scott, I got to work with Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park, I got to work with Three 6 Mafia, I got to work with The Neptunes... I got to work with Jay-Z. That was my wish list, so now for the next album I've got to recharge and see who I wanna work with.

MVRemix: Nas.

Lupe Fiasco: Nah, I don't wanna work with Nas.

MVRemix: Elzhi.

Lupe Fiasco: Nah, I don't wanna work with Nas.

MVRemix: I need a Lupe/Elzhi collaboration and Phonte on the track too.

Lupe Fiasco: Phonte? We was actually supposed to do something together. Me and Little Brother, Pooh... We was supposed to do something together for that "Gangsta Grillz" mixtape.

MVRemix: Just to wrap it up, the album drops September 19th?

Lupe Fiasco: September 19th - Lupe Fiasco's "Food & Liquor" finally. September 19th.

MVRemix: Tours comin'...

Lupe Fiasco: Tour's comin', I might go out with Pharrell, I might catch a few dates with big homie (Jay-Z), we talkin' about it right now, on his world tour. Then we'll do the Lupe Fiasco "Revenge of the Nerd" tour.

"Sunday Night Sound Session" with DJ Hyphen and J. Moore airs every Sunday night on KUBE 93.3 FM (Seattle) from 11 PM PST - Midnight. to stream online.

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"When I started doing Hip Hop, I approached it like a science because that's what I was into as a kid, I was into science. So I took the scientific approach; I am going to study."