Interview: Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco headlines Irving Plaza next Tuesday, December 18. The show is sold out.

Interview by Ben Westhoff

It's the best of times and the worst of times for Lupe Fiasco. As of next week's release of his sophomore effort Lupe Fiasco's The Cool, he remains critically beloved. Plus, the day I called him, he'd just received his fourth Grammy nomination for "Daydreamin,'" off his debut, Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor. Meanwhile, he's had a rough couple of months, flubbing the words to A Tribe Called Quest's song "Electric Relaxation" at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors awards in October, and then threatening legal action against Vibe after they quoted him saying Tribe wasn't all that. (He complained that Vibe misrepresented the timing of the quotes, and Vibe issued a correction.) On the phone from L.A., he doesn't backpedal from his recent assertion that he may quit recording after The Cool's follow-up, but does talk about his love for Chris Brown and, unexpectedly, Ian Astbury.

Congrats on the Grammy nod.

Huh? I got another Grammy nomination? Oh, snap!

Glad to be the bearer of good news.

Nah, my publicist woke me up [with the news] this morning. So, that's four.

Do you care about awards as much as Kanye West does?

Nah. I was thinking about this one, though, I was kind of pondering the importance of a Grammy nomination. It can really affect sales and things of that nature. We'll see if I win one. It's starting to be the little things that matter to me. Like, last night I got invited out to see The Cult, with Ian Astbury, and he shouted me out on stage. I'm a big fan of Ian Astbury. I think The Cult is a little bit before my time, but I'm a big fan of Ian Astbury's due to a lot of the stuff he's done with UNKLE. So, yeah, it's more those little things and occurrences, which are the milestones. Like, "Frank Sinatra went over to Sammy Davis Jr.'s house and they had a barbeque." It's starting to be like, "Damn, guess who I was just with yesterday?" I got a chance to perform with UNKLE, which was phenomenal. It was with a live band, we were all in Vegas. Some people might be like, "Who the hell is UNKLE?" But for me it's like, "Damn." Those are the stories I'm gonna tell my kids.

So, are you actually going to quit?

I think I'm obligated for like, three more records on my label after The Cool, but you ain't necessarily gotta do 'em. [Laughs.] If you really don't want to, you don't necessarily got to keep recording. But as far as quitting, that just [refers to] recorded music. The entity of recorded music really sucks, it's really wack, especially when you're doing it through a major. It's like, you don't make any money unless you sell tons and tons of records. And I'm not selling tons and tons of records. So, financially, it's like, this ain't making no sense. I'm making more money off my shows or off sponsorship or whatever. So, you start to feel like it's 1950 again, like, "Damn, did I just sign away my life? Damn, I feel stupid." I'll still tour. It's funny, because I just had the same conversation with Ian Astbury last night. I was like, "This recorded music shit sucks," and he was like, "Yeah, it does." But, we'll see.

You've said you don't think you have much to say on records, but your fans would argue that you're saying more than many rappers out there.

It's not that hard in this climate. [Laughs.] Especially in the realm that I'm kind of in - like, a commercial guy who's on TRL - as opposed to the people who are not. In the realm that I'm in, it's not that hard to be saying something. If we go down a few tiers to more underground [artists], there are people who are saying more than I am. But 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. It needs to be in a book, or it needs to be in a dissertation, or a speech, or a movie.

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