This single sat proudly amongst the other tracks on his first album entitled Food and Liquor. As expected by such a deep thinker the album name itself had a deeper meaning. In reference to the many food and liquor stores around Chicago, Lupe saw them as outlets that had everything people needed, though the food was an essential the Liquor showed a want and reflected evil, thus the album title in Lupe’s philosophy is essentially good and evil. The album opens with quotes from the Quran which makes sense as Lupe is a practicing Muslim. His religion is further tackled on the track ‘American Terrorist’ where he talks about both religion and class structure, putting in plain sight the spin that wealthy whites have set into place forming enemies out of Blacks, Muslims, Native Americans and more. Food and Liquor also covers ground rarely traveled in hip-hop mainly from subject matter that was clearly inspired by his past.
‘Hurt Me Soul’ he opens by saying “I used to hate hip-hop…because the women degraded” and proceeds to explain how eventually he warmed to the genre but would never recite the derogatory terms towards females when he sung to himself. In here he blatantly names artists who inspired him and similarly ones who glorify the gun toting and drug dealing which he saw first hand was nowhere near as glamorous as the records made out.
In ‘He Say She Say’ once again his ability to craft gripping stories is on display as he unravels the tale of a single mother struggling to raise her son. He talks in the first person illustrating the realistic and hurtful arguments that the mother has with the father figure who constantly neglects his responsibilities. In the second verse he embodies the son who is old enough to understand the difference in care between his parents, here he lashes out as his father explaining his innermost feelings and wondering why, as an already disadvantaged and poor black boy in America, his Father didn’t give him the support he desperately needed. The haunting chorus backed by soulful tones rings out “I can’t, I won’t let you go”. Once again Lupe paints such an unmistakable picture here that it is hard to imagine that any of the events were fabricated.
‘The Cool’ which would later become the title of another album, is a more fantastical story that revolves around a gangster who comes back from the dead. He fills this track with excellent descriptions of the claustrophobic and filthy nature of digging oneself out the earth in a burial suit. Here he illustrates how commonplace it is for people to disappear thanks to violence and at the same time how despite the constant tragedy everyone continues to live their lives just as they always did, and the violence continues.
These themes and many others that cover the current issues surrounding modern day America are rife in Lupe’s work. Food And Liquor remains an excellent debut for a an artist who consistently brings to light the problems that so many are facing, delivered in a style that shows great skill and forethought. His latest album Drogas Wave was released in 2018 and continues his spell binding work as a poet of rhythm and pioneer of conscious hip hop.