It’s probably been a good six or seven years since I’ve been fully engrossed by a Lupe Fiasco album or project of any kind. This is coming from a Chi-Town native who immediately identified with the emcee when he emerged on the scene skateboarding, dropping anime references, and somersaulting through verses like a young Mary Lou Retton. Sadly, that connection with Young Lu has been offline for years, until I got wind of his latest drop, Tetsuo & Youth, a few months back.
So imagine how funny it was to hear Lupe’s interweb classic, “Failure” pop up on my Pusha T Pandora station (judge me if you like). “Failure” was the standout track from Lupe’s first Fahrenheit 1/15 mixtape back in 2006. I stumbled onto the song during my days of perusing the pages of AllHipHop’s IllCommunity and remembering my mind being blown on first listen. And I proceeded to listen and re-listen several dozens times that first night.
It wasn’t just the raw lyricism that snagged me, that didn’t hurt any. Instead it was the energy I automatically felt from the man who would become so integral to my college years. I was already heavy into everything from Chicago after spending my high school years in Memphis, Ten-A-Key. After moving back up north for college in ‘03, I made a concentrated effort to fully immerse myself in the city’s Hip-Hop scene. This meant listening to everything from Lonnie from out West all the way to every single tertiary member of the Legit Ballaz collective.
And while I definitely was caught up in the Kanye West wave at the time, I never completely connected with Kanye the way I did with my ‘90s faves, DMX and Nas. But hearing Lupe spit stuff like “See I could walk the walk, couldn’t really talk the talk, Had to get my talk to properly explain my walk, Cause this lack in talk had my walk looking off” in this braggadocios, yet slightly playful tone just had me beyond hype.
I felt like I had found an emcee who not only good technical skill on the mic but spoke in my voice. He was like the confidently cool nerd (before “nerd” was whored out). The guy who knew everything about Science Ninja Team Gatchaman or Case Closed –of course, my phD was in everything Marvel and DC comics at the time – but was still up on the latest Nike SB collabo and had no problem at all talking to the fairer sex.
In my own life, I was pursuing a degree or two in higher education, so the Fahrenheit 1/15 mixtape series was the perfect background music to a life of Marx and Simmel. Lupe Fiasco was for me what Kurt Cobain was for a generation of disgruntled suburban teens a decade-and-a-half previously.
Of course, this was only the beginning of the Lupe Fiasco binge that would be apart of my life over the next few years. But it was this first exposure on “Failure” that left an indelible mark on my psyche. So to hear Lu back in rare form on his latest album, just makes an old me feel young again.