Lupe visits campus

By Alexandra Kukulka

In his earlier performances as a junior in high school, Lupe Fiasco enjoyed being a showman and pumping up the crowd. During a talent show, he sat on stage with a notebook and pretended to write an already finished rap to keep his

audience engaged.

Less than a decade later, Fiasco, 30, still has the ability to hold the crowd’s attention. He did just that when he spoke with Columbia students Oct. 1 about his career, life and latest album, “Food & Liquor II,” at Stage Two in the 618 S. Michigan

Ave. Building.

Fiasco started the event by discussing how he began focusing on music in his sophomore year of high school. He admitted he wasn’t the best student and said he preferred to learn on his own terms.

“I just didn’t apply myself,” Fiasco said. “I didn’t really do the work, so I wasn’t focused in school.”

He talked about his childhood inspirations like jazz music and MC Nas, who taught him how to stay true to his art.

According to Fiasco, hip-hop music has taken the place of jazz in terms of communicating with a generation of listeners.

He said his new album was diverse, bringing up lyrics ranging from gangs to giant robots.

He explained that he wrote about an array of topics to establish his creative identity with his audience so it isn’t a surprise when he writes about many different ideas in one album.

“You have to be very careful for setting the precedent that pigeonholes you,” he said. “You start to get typecast as one thing, and if you ever try to come out of that … you get mutiny.”

Fiasco was offered a solo career after leaving his high school group, Da Pak. When this opportunity presented itself, he took a step back and examined the life lessons he had learned before ultimately accepting the offer. He said one lesson in particular stands out: His father told him that swearing lets a million demons out of hell, while praising God keeps them there.

“I would think like, ‘Man, if I cuss on this song and I sell a million copies, I’ve cussed a million times,’” Fiasco said. “But if I say something positive … and they press it up a million times, then I locked up a million demons. It was stuff like that [that made me] talk about the good things.”

According to him, his new album’s title juxtaposes the good and bad inside himself and represents both his gangster and

artistic facets.

Fiasco continued by talking about the different opportunities his fame has given him and how he took advantage of them. However, he reminded the crowd that he considers himself an artist and tries not to get caught up in the lifestyle that comes with fame.

He ended the discussion by telling students that he owes his career to luck.

“There is no rule, no path to follow, no certain amount of raps you have to write, or songs you need to have or even a certain amount of skill that you have to develop,” Fiasco said. “Sometimes it’s just a chance. But with that said, with all of those things there has to be something else that you are pursuing for other than just commercial purposes.”

The event ended with a Q&A session in which students asked Fiasco about being underrated, violence in Chicago and his

new album.

“I feel good about this album,” Fiasco said. “I feel good about the process. I didn’t like the process [of my last album], where as with this album, I like the music and I like the process.”

Tyler McDermott, a junior television major who was put in contact with Fiasco’s manager through her freelancing for Vibe magazine, initiated Fiasco’s visit to Columbia. She interviewed him on stage during the event.

“I did it for the students so that he can talk to them, and they can have a back-and-forth conversation with him,” McDermott said. “Of course I was nervous being up there and asking him questions, but just having him there to have dialogue with the students was what was really important.”

Kristin Brown, a freshman journalism major who was at the event, said she enjoyed Fiasco’s openness and how he spoke honestly. She said the event gave students a chance to know him on a more personal level.

“I think [getting to know Fiasco] is important because to understand the message of the music, you have to understand the person it is coming from,” Brown said.