Lupe Fiasco’s debut album Food and Liquor can be remembered today as one of hip hops most real, relevant and conscious albums, receiving a plethora of rave reviews. Following this has been difficult, but recently Fiasco fans were sent into a state of euphoria at the news that there would be a twin album: Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part I. Waiting with baited breath for the album to finally be released, it’s questionable as to whether the long anticipated wait actually was worth it. Whilst Lupe Fiasco’s third album Lasers was created as his most radio friendly release, shying away perhaps from stronger political messages, fans and critics alike were looking for a return to the old, more lyrically real Lupe Fiasco for the new album.
Following an almost identical format to its twin, Food and Liquor II opens with ‘Ayesha Says (Intro),’ which features a strong African American female voice, preaching the problems of the black community in the form of poetry. The monologue hits the listener hard, building up their anticipation for a powerful, politically charged album. It would be erroneous to suggest the album wasn’t political in content, and certainly songs like ‘Bitch Bad’ and ‘Audubon Ballroom’ suggest this. The album is peppered with lyrics pertaining to the problems within the urban community: “Now being the Internet, the content’s probably uncensored/They’re young, so they’re malleable and probably unmentored” Fiasco preaches on ‘Bitch Bad’. However, in ‘Food and Liquor’ and ‘The Cool’, the politically fuelled lyrics were supplemented by a unique concoction of beats and sounds, leaving a lasting impression on the listener. The vast array of Fiasco beats that many fans loved seem to have checked out on this current album and have been replaced by generic ‘hip-hop’ synthesized beats, featuring in nearly every song on the album. It appears that only the final three songs of the album ‘Form Follows Function’, ‘Cold War’, and ‘Unforgettable Youth’ are reminiscent of Fiasco’s previously haunting songs like ‘Hello/Goodbye’ and ‘Intruder Alert’.
The big impact songs on the album are most definitely ‘Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)’, ‘Strange Fruition’, and ‘How Dare You’. The album is well structured and most certainly worth a listen. Although the songs aren’t necessarily immediately evocative like ‘Food and Liquor’, which is what one would expect seeing as it’s the twin album; give the songs time to seep in and be assured that they will grow on you. One piece of advice for when listening to the album is to pay attention to the lyrics; whilst Fiasco’s voice may be swamped on a few tracks like ‘Brave Heart,’ causing the message to be lost, an important message is there nonetheless. A lyrically impressive album only slightly let down on the beats and backing tracks, I guess there’s nothing left to do but wait for Part II of what Fiasco suggests to be ‘The Great American Rap Album’.