“In “Food and Liquor 2”, Lupe comes across as preachy and exhibits a sometimes self-aggrandizing messiah-like tone in parts of the album.”
By naming it “Food and Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album Part 1”, Lupe has already given the listener the impression that this album will have the elements of his classic debut. In fact, the album opens up with the beautiful intro “Ayesha Says” where Lupe’s sister Ayesha is reciting a grippingly poignant poem. The intro is followed by the track “Strange Fruition”; a play on words on the iconic Billie Holiday song called “Strange Fruit” that was about the lynching of African Americans during the times of the Jim Crow laws.
With lines like “Baptise your mind, let your brain take a bath, swim inside the river, get delivered from the craft, of the witches in this business that be livin off your sad”, a typical classic Lupe line. Showing his penchant for juxtaposing rich imagery with multifaceted issues, he ends off the opening banger with “Hello evil, I’m back”, making ardent Lupe fans smile, glad that he might really be back to his true form.
The first half of the album continues this trend. “ITAL Roses” criticises mainstream hip-hop and its glorification of materialism while in “Around my Way (Freedom aint Free)” Lupe tackles capitalism, colonialism and right wing conservatism. In “Audubon Ballroom” he informs the listener of, as well as celebrates black progressive leaders and thinkers, and in “B*tch Bad” he talks about the word “b*tch” and the different contexts it’s used in; especially how it affects the way women are perceived. “Lamborghini Angels” is a must-listen track that weaves spiritual imagery with razor-sharp socio-political commentary on priest paedophilia, behavioural programming and civilian murders by American soldiers in Afghanistan while “Put em Up” is pure showing off of his wordplay dexterity.
After that, the album loses momentum and falls flat, with a slight save from “Hood Now”; a fun track that celebrates how hip-hop has infiltrated all facets of mainstream society. Unfortunately, some of the songs in the second half crash the album like the cringe worthy “Heart Donor” featuring Poo Bear, the annoying self-confessional “Brave Heart”, the incoherently verbose “Form meets Function” and mandatory radio-friendly “Battle Scars” featuring Guy Sebastian.
This album isn’t a bad one except for the fact that in his debut, Lupe was a humble documentarian for the hood and society’s ills in general, that successfully shocked consciousness into otherwise lethargic mainstream hip-hop, but in “Food and Liquor 2”, Lupe comes across as preachy and exhibits a sometimes self-aggrandizing messiah-like tone in parts of the album (“revered by the rich plus approved by the poor”). There are quite a few contradictions as well, for example he says we aren’t n*ggas in one track yet gives a “shoutout to my n*ggas” in another. As for the production, it’s nothing more than okay, and tends to be sluggish, sometimes reminding one of that terrible-Lupe-album-that-shall-not-be-named. It should also be mentioned that this offering is not as refreshingly real as the beats in the first F&L.
Although the album is rich in fascinating educational material (you’ll find yourself googling “planned obsolescence”, “fiscal responsibility” James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Black Panthers, Native American exploitation) and highlights Lupe’s curious incisive mind and his sheer lyrical ability, it unfortunately does not live up to its title. That said, this album was not a fitting sequel to the timeless classic “Food and Liquor”.
Lupe Fiasco’s fourth album is a solid album and worthy of a listen, but it does not meet the standards that one expects from hip-hop’s black belt Wasalu Jaco.
Written by: Nomusa Mthethwa (@NomusaMT)