know the weapons of the weak, the weakness of the hard, and never fall asleep … or so Lupe told me

i guess i should throw a token disclaimer in here for J.Miles to just back away from this week’s update slowly and come back later when i’m talking about something more acceptable.

so i’m reading this issue of XXL, as i like to do my part to keep magazine companies in business, and i come across this article/interview/whatever that reminds me of two things about the rap industry: a, it features this “Lupe Fiasco” character, and b, is he ever annoying. but to be fair, what’s REALLY annoying about him is that he’s legitimately talented: he’ll say something idiotic, i prepare to dismiss the guy, and then he does some song that i enjoy.

this is the cycle: he had some songs on Food & Liquor that i enjoyed… but then he acted like a brat and i was thinking, “meh, i’ll listen to something else”… and then he had “Dumb It Down.” and then he acted like a brat again and again i’m thinking, “enough of this”… but i accidentally listened to the song he had on the Travis Barker album and it reminded me that i can’t COMPLETELY dismiss this guy. i think you see the point.

but today, i’m going to pick over 13 of the most aggravating things that i can remember reading that were (supposedly) said by Lupe Fiasco, and flip out about them, and we’ll call it a day.

13 most aggravating things Lupe Fiasco has ever said, as rated by “how aggravated janklow got when he heard them”

Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco: master of close-up magic?

13. “Yeah, I have a full black belt. A black belt in karate, two black belts in styles of samurai sword, kendo and aiedo and the equivalent of a black belt in Chinese woo-shoo. So like kung fu and tai chi and all that stuff.”

okay, let’s put one that’s pretty much a personal annoyance of mine and not something most people will find THAT aggravating: me calling bullshit on all this “i have twenty black belts” stuff. for one thing, i don’t believe these personal narratives people create where they’re twenty black belts AND a master rapper AND a street scholar AND a gun– well, i think you see my point. sure, i’m no great shakes myself, so maybe i’m just jealous, but i CAN detect bullshit. also, i happen to suspect a lot of this is McDojo nonsense (especially when the “equivalent of” stuff starts up), so there’s that as well.

12. “(referencing keeping a gun on his table for suicidal purposes in his song “Beautiful Lasers”: “That was literal. I own a ton of them.”

let’s start with a little logical nitpicking: you do not need “a ton” of guns to commit suicide; as we learned from Lethal Weapon, you only really need one gun and one bullet to get THAT job done. so i have to assume–because i am an unending fountain of negativity–that what he’s REALLY trying to do here is combine two things: the dark, edgy nature of being seen as suicidal without really meaning it, and the “i have tons of guns” tough guy imagery that men love to cultivate. oh, that reminds me to to talk about having more guns than a Bahamanian drug gang again…

11. “Yes, he’s right… Chicago artists don’t work together-“

alright, before i get accused of being unfair by cutting off the quote, let me point out that i had to cut it off for the very reason this quote is so aggravating: because he goes on to contradict it IMMEDIATELY, talking about the artists of his that he’s putting on (you know, CHICAGO artists) and the fact that his first big look came from a guest appearance on a Kanye West album. anyone want to tell me what city Kanye hails from? anyway, i get it, a guy who merely got a massive career boost from a Chicago artist should act as if there’s no camaraderie between them because… uh… it’s the best way to aggravate?

10. “I will do a DJ set, drop [his B.M.F. freestyle], and throw up the forks and throw up G.D. and all the gang signs. It’s cool for a while, until you go to jail for 150 years. There are parts about Big Meech and Larry Hoover that are cool–the money, the cars, the clothes–but when you go to jail for 150 years, there is nothing cool about that.”

now, we should be honest and point out that there’s obviously an appeal to the spending of money and living well that drug dealers do among people who don’t have much (if anything) of their own; the part about “there are parts that are cool” is not without merit as an argument. where he loses me–where he AGGRAVATES me–is the part where he gleefully talks about throwing up a plethora of gang signs as part of a show. is it too much to ask that people who purport to make a serious point about where drug dealing ends up act the part?

Lupe Fiasco rapping or singing or something
not pictured here: Lupe giving a fuck about A Tribe Called Quest

09. “I just don’t think I have that much to say … A lot of the stuff that I want to say musically, it has a limit. You can’t compress and process certain things into 16 bars or a song.”

so this was regarding why he would consider quitting recording music for good, and the smugness smacks you right in the face: it’s not that he doesn’t think he has much to say (a common feeling amongst the creative types) … it’s that what he has to say is so fucking DEEP and MEANINGFUL and IMPORTANT that he can’t manage to get it across in a verse. or a song. or, i guess, an album. or, i guess, a series of albums.

i think if i was the interviewer who was on the receiving end of this gem, i’d have paused, and then responded, “well, at least you’ll have all that newly freed time to cure cancer, genius!” also, i see that ending poorly. but then again, i don’t think that i am exactly cut out for the interview game.

08. “The little ghetto kid from the mean streets of the West side of Chicago grew up on Spice 1, 8Ball & MJG, N.W.A and Snoop Dogg. I wasn’t a backpacker rap enthusiast! I never claimed to be. I grew up on gangsta rap!”

this is actually a two-part one relating to Lupe fucking up a Tribe Called Quest song at the VH1’s Hip Hop Honors, so hang in there. the preceding, you see, was his response to being called out on his poor performances of “Electric Relaxation” and “Scenario.” okay, enough formalities, on to the “being righteously angry” part.

now, let me mainly note that the aggravation here is based on the fact that Lupe has LONG claimed that he initially disliked hip hop music for its use of vulgarity, and then thrown in remarks about listening to jazz or some shit. i think we can all detect the contradict inherent there? there’s also the deeper level of annoyance that comes from him being supposedly disgusted with early gangsta rap he himself created (as part of Da Pak) and yet, you know, all along being a devotee of NWA. but to continue…

07. “The label brought the idea [of performing “Electric Relaxation” and “Scenario”] to me and I told them that I didn’t think it was cool because I didn’t grow up on them,” he explains. “People are going to think that’s phony. … They gave me mad press kits on Tribe and I was like, ‘I know who they are!’ But now this was becoming [even more] phony because I had to beef up and play a role [pretending] that I know them. Just for the sake of putting on a facade for my fans? I’ll never do that.”

part two! so did you notice how he manages to declare that it would be “phony” for him to perform Tribe Called Quest songs as if he “grew up on them,” and that being phony in this manner is something he would “never do” … and yet we’re talking about performances that he DID actually do? and that he only said all this stuff about never having grown up on ATCQ after he performed poorly on stage and got called out on it? do you think this would have ever come up if not for the failure? we call this kind of obfuscation “aggravating.”

06. “I’ll put, ‘Yo, I want to be Malcolm X,’ because Malcolm X was a cool muthafucka, and he was a gangsta. He probably killed muthafuckas, definitely robbed muthafuckas, definitely was a pimp, was everything that them dudes was, and was cool with it. But then he became this phenomenal fuckin’ ridiculous intellectual who went around the world just decimating muthafuckas with knowledge and went toe to toe with the system.”

now, it’s possible i’m going to be a little defensive about Malcolm X, as i respect the guy. but here’s the thing: if you’re going to praise him as an intellectual, can we simultaneously acknowledge that part of his narrative is that intellectuals in the black community were FORCED to become murderers/robbers/pimps/”everything that them dudes was” because of the lack of opportunity to use their intellectual gifts? wasn’t that the whole point of anecdotes about West Indian Archie? do we HAVE to simultaneously claim Malcolm X was some stereotypical murderous gangster to respect him?

Malcolm X
Malcolm X: as gangsta as Lupe? NOT BLOODY LIKELY

05. “Of course they put together an album, but not like what we consider a traditional album or what we even consider a classic album. Or I won’t even go there because that’s still a little bit too subjective. They’re not putting out albums with thought behind it where it makes sense. Or trying to get a point across, as opposed to just a bunch of songs with the title track on there and that’s it.”

one thing that you need to know is that while he was talking about people not making “classic albums” anymore, Lupe was touting the “classic” merits of Nas’ Hip-Hop Is Dead and Jay-Z’s American Gangster. now, these were not BAD albums; they had their merits and they had their songs. but are you going to tell me that either of them is their respective creator’s “classic” work? or that all the idiots sweating over their “classic” album with “thought behind them” are actually creating classics? nonsense.

personally, i think a classic album just kind of happens–you obviously have to be talented, but i don’t think you can plan EVERY aspect of it, although i admit there might be a couple of examples to the contrary–and that Lupe is fucking annoying. and let me go one further: the implication here is that Lupe, unlike all these other rappers, IS putting the “thought behind it” regarding his albums, right? so which of them are considered classics again? oh yeah…

04. “When I was four years old, my father was teaching us how to shoot AK-47s and how to strip an M-16. When we were little kids, it was all about weapons. My father used to sell guns.”

ah, so we return to the “”i have tons of guns” tough guy imagery” thing again; as always, when something related to guns annoys me, i get VERY annoyed by it. now, many among of us have shot from a young age, including myself; i know some cousins who i personally saw shoot things beyond what i shot at their age. so it’s not like a four-year-old cannot be taken to shoot (although i doubt how much you can truly TEACH them about shooting at that age).

but THAT being said… i call bullshit on all this. i guarantee that this is one of those things where, if you were to test him on it, he’d fail to shoot the AK like he knew what he was doing and he’d fail to strip that “M-16.” now, look, i COULD be wrong about this… but like i said, i CAN detect bullshit. maybe i’d believe it more if he claimed that his father took him to shoot .22s like everyone whose father ACTUALLY taught them to shoot? no… a .22 isn’t masculine enough.

03. “I might go back to school – I’ll never say never – but I’m writing a book now. I’m battling with Nietzsche. I went back and [read him] because I wanted to see what all the hub-bub was about, and I was like, “I don’t particularly agree with that.” So, now I find myself filling my spare time articulating and de-articulating Nietzsche. … Nah, the Nietzsche is in my spare time. The book I’m writing is about a window-washer. … Yeah, it’s deep, though. Imagine all the stuff I don’t put into my music because I can’t find a word to rhyme with “plethora.” I’m trying to practice how to write for an extended period of time. In writing, you kind of hit a ceiling. I hadn’t wrote on it in like, a year or two. So, hopefully, when I have more time [away] from the recording and the road I’ll jump back into it. It’s really good. They printed a chapterette of it in a magazine in London called Blag.”

i admit this is a long one, but i wanted to package it all together so that you could appreciate the fully-enraging combination of all of the above. anyway, let’s break down the annoyance into a few points:

–i don’t believe for a second that Lupe spends his spare time “articulating and de-articulating Nietzsche,” which sounds like nonsense that’s supposed to pass for intellectualism to me, or that he’d even reading Nietzsche at all, as he’s a pretty default “look like you’re smart by talking about a PHILOSOPHER kind of guy. next tell me that you read Finnegan’s Wake and Ulysses, Lupe!

–don’t tell me that a book you’re supposedly writing, but that will never get finished and i’ll never see is “deep” or “really good”; at best, you wrote it, and you’re biased. you know how when you take a class on writing, they tell you how the big thing is to show, not tell? anyway, i’ve also been told any number of adolescent poems and college-student novels are “deep” or “really good,” but would you like to guess how much of them turned out to actually be one of those?

–also, the fact that it’s “about a window-washer” also tells me that it’s a fake exercise in seeming smarter than you are. just sayin’.

–ALSO, if you haven’t worked on your book “in like, a year or two,” your book isn’t that deep or that good. don’t tell me that “in writing, you kind of hit a ceiling,” because there’s a difference between “writer’s block” and “problems with writing your book” and blaming your inability to write on hitting a ceiling. actually, though, that might be appropriate, because “hitting the ceiling” cares an implication that one has reached the limit of their abilities…

–finally, i’m sure that a rapper who was skilled could come up with a rhyme–or an off-rhyme, even–for “plethora.” you’re not a super-genius because you can use the word “plethora.”

02. “When I think about what it actually took to get the record together, and everything that I went through on this record–which is something I can’t separate–I hate this album.”

this one, such as it is, is probably mostly annoying because it’s so current, but so let it be ranked. here’s the long and short of it: Lupe and his label were at odds over his album (fair enough), Lupe declared that he hated the album (fair enough) … and then the album opened at #1 and sold 200000 copies, and suddenly Lupe wanted to talk about all the parts of the album that he loved oh so much.

now, okay, making an album on a major label can be fucking contentious, i get it, and there have to be aspects of that that you HATE. but the funny thing is, i only remember him talking shit about the album BEFORE it did those solid/good numbers … and i only remember him qualifying his trash-talk by highlighting the things he liked about the process AFTER the numbers. why do i get the feeling this is a circumstance where what Lupe REALLY wants to say is, “well, all the good things about the album are due to me and all the bad things about the album are due to the label?”

Lupe 'HOPE' Fiasco

01. “I like being the rebel. In this society, being the rebel is being the guy who gives a fuck. I try to make that shit so cool.”

i ALMOST want to cut him some slack and say i know where he was going with this. but you know what? people who ACTUALLY give a fuck aren’t “trying to make that shit so cool.” they’re out there fucking trying to DO something that fucking matters. immediately after that quote, Lupe held up a t-shirt with a picture of Noam Chomsky on it and said, “to me, that’s the coolest shit ever.” i rest my fucking case. just put the fucking Che Guevara shirt on and be fucking done with it, you lame.

man… Lupe is so fucking FRUSTRATING. but you know what? i’m going to go throw on “American Terrorist” and “the Emperor’s Soundtrack” and “Dumb It Down” and “Touch The Sky” and forget about all this fucking annoyance. although i’m going to point out, lest we’ve forgotten, that “Touch The Sky” contains the always-cheers-up-janklow power of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up.” hey, it always makes me smile, even on my worst days…

FAKE EDIT: so you know, i worked up this update for the week, trying to be responsible, on top of things, and so on… and Lupe had to go and say something else aggravating in the meantime. so i’m not going to rank it, i’m just going to say that i’m aware he said this:

“In my fight against terrorism, to me, the biggest terrorist is Obama in the United States of America. For me, I’m trying to fight the terrorism that’s actually causing the other forms of terrorism. The root cause of the terrorism is the stuff that the U.S government allow to happen and the foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists. And it’s easy for us because it’s really just some oil, which we can really get on our own.”

…and without getting into the debate, just point this out: isn’t the “we can really get on our own” thing that he seemingly approves of something that leads right back to all those “foreign policies” he’s bitching about? goddamn Lupe.

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