By Rob Markman
A lot has changed for Lupe Fiasco since 1996, when he made his debut with “Kick, Push.” As a product of Chicago’s West Side, his beginnings weren’t easy, and looking back brought on a flood of memories for him during this week’s episode of “RapFix Live.“
Today Lupe is one of the most powerful voices in rap using his intricately laid lyrics to point out political and social inequalities, and while he stands as one of the game’s most beloved stars, the Food & Liquor MC is haunted by his past.
On Wednesday’s (July 25) episode of “RapFix Live,” host Sway Calloway played back a six-year-old clip of the MTV show “My Block,” on which Lupe played tour guide by taking our cameras through his native Chicago. But the trip down memory lane proved to be too much for Lu, who started to cry while watching the footage.
“It’s some of them dudes is dead,” Lupe said after the clip rolled, taking several moments to collect himself.
It was a tense and emotional moment because in the clip, there was footage of Fiasco’s old friends, some of whom are in dire straits today. “Chicago’s the murder capital. The dudes in that video are in prison, a couple of fed cases, and then there’s ghosts. You see people that, that ain’t there,” he said sobbing, hiding his tears behind his round-rimmed shades.
Lupe’s mentor, friend and business partner Charles “Chilly” Patton was sentenced in 2007 to 44 years in prison for drug conspiracy, so it all hits pretty close to home for the MC, who is set to drop his fourth solo LP,Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part 1, in September.
In the old “My Block” clip, Fiasco admitted that the conditions in his poverty-stricken neighborhood weren’t cool to him. “Ain’t no song that I can make, there’s no ‘We are the World’ that I’m gonna make that’s gonna unify and make all this better,” he said back then.
“Nothing’s changed,” he said Wednesday. “Some of those kids ain’t gonna make it out of there. You feel so helpless. That was me, talking to me six years ago.”
Though Lupe has built a catalog filled with uplifting rap tunes, he admits to feeling hopeless. “For me to see myself six years ago, surrounded by people that’s not even here, reppin’ the ‘hood, doin’ what they do, that never left. It’s a sober thing to me,” he explained. “It’s sobering because you know your father was right, your mother was right.”
The lyricist, who at first was at a loss for words, exhausted his tears and delivered a heartfelt message to the inner-city youth: “You gotta get out. Stick to what you know and get out. Because if you stay here, you gonna die, and you not gonna die for anything heroic, you not gonna die for anything meaningful. You gonna die for something that is worthless and nobody is gonna remember your name.”
The part that is most painful for Lupe Fiasco is that he wasn’t able to deliver that message to his friends that may have needed to hear it most. “To see that so real, it hurts, bro,” he said to Sway. “I ain’t gonna front. It hurts; it hurts a lot to speak to ghosts.”