This is an interview I recently did with artist Lupe Fiasco. It was originally posted on Imageyenation.com where I post under the name “Lady Glock.” However, I changed the name back to Miss Hipstah especially for Blogcritics.
“I’m not the greatest skateboarder, but I’m a damn good rapper, so I made a damn good skateboarding song.”
So there I was lying on the floor of my room, waiting for my phone to ring like some sort of lovelorn school girl in desperate need of a date for Friday’s dance. I looked at my watch. It was 5:15. As usual, (well, usual according to the various articles I’d read about him) he was late. I was still working on a crossword puzzle when the phone finally rang. The woman on the other line said “Hey, hang on a second,” and then I heard her call “LUPE!”
And before I could say “Kick… Push… Coast,” I was talking to Lupe Fiasco.
For the next half hour or so, Lupe skooled me in skateboarding, sneakers, being Hip Hop’s new darling, changing the world and of course, a robot named Seymour. Check it out:
Miss Hipsta: How you doin?
Lupe Fiasco: Uh, I’m good, I’m good.
MH: Long day?
LF: Nah, short day, short day…
MH: Oh, that’s good.
LF: Very good day…
MH: Well, that’s good. My first question is about skateboarding and how you got into that?
LF: I got into skateboarding when I was like a shorty. It was a toy thing. (He says “what’s up” to someone else) A toy thing, you know, like riding bikes and scooters and all that stuff. It was like…a toy. I skated for a minute when I was really small and then it phased out. I became like a teenager and left it alone and then I picked it right back up about a year and a half ago cause I got back really heavy into collecting sneakers, and you know a lot of the dope sneakers are in skate shops and stuff like that, so I was like “Yo, lemme get a board.”
MH: Well, do you remember what your very first skateboard was?
LF: It was like a little small, plastic, blue, Lords of Dogtown looking board with big ass yellow wheels on it but it was plastic.
MH: That sounds kinda cool. So it said in the Fader article that you had published the song “Kick, Push” and it was about the guy who gave you your…
LF: The dude who gave me, not that skateboard, but the first skateboard I got when I started back.
MH: When you came back?
LF: Yeah! That’s my man, Ken from Uprise Skate Shop in Chicago. And like, as he was makin’ the board and he was like tellin’ me his story with skateboarding. You know, he’s been skateboardin’ since…well skateboardin’ for so many so many years, tens and tens of years and whatever. He just…like what it meant to him, you know. It was deeper than just a hobby. You know, it was a part of him. It was more than just a lifestyle…it was like his life. And I was just like “wow” you know. And I know there’s kids like that with basketball and types of other little situations where they really internalize and absorb it and let it become a part of them. So I was like “Yo, someone needs to tell that story.” And yeah…”Kick, Push.”
MH: So now, you’re doing remixes of it right?
LF: Well, Pharell did a remix. Pharell did a remix for it and he really just jumped on, just spit on it. He didn’t remix the record.
MH: Well I actually heard that remix this morning.
LF: Oh yeah yeah yeah, so he just spit on there. I got some other stuff planned, you know like a real remix of the record
MH: Well, I was told to suggest to you, not that you should take this, but I think you should, do a remix with Murs. Have you thought about…
LF: With Murs? What was his song, “The Transition” or something like that? He did a skate boarding song not too long ago. He did one of the first skateboardin’ records. I forgot what it was called…I dunno. I’ll see. I definitely want to do something that people aren’t expectin’. So it’s still in the works, for like a real official, real different beat remix type situation.
MH: So kind of veering off for a second. How did you become a sneaker connoisseur and on that note, what is your favorite pair of kicks right now?
LF: My man Drew and my man Success who do a lot like re-selling and buy a lot of sneakers…I got into it kinda with them. There’s a store in L.A. called Undefeated.
LF: And I went to Undefeated one day and was like “Wow, they got colors of Air Force 1’s other than white?” You know what I’m sayin? And it was like “Oh snap!” And I bought a pair of wild lookin’ sneakers and thought “yo, this is kinda fresh”, you know. They come out with a different color every two weeks, and you gotta stand in line, and you gotta do this that and the third. I started to see that people really have collections, they have 250 shoes, you know and different pairs of dunks, and you know “Oh what’s this?” or “Oh what’s that?” and I just started learnin’ and pickin it up and I got a love for it. And then I went online with it and seen that there was kids actually talking about it and discussin’, you know, how the break down of it and waitin’ on different colors and different stuff like that, and I was like, oh it’s a whole movement. It’s a whole culture. It just kinda took me from there and that lead into like streetwear and you know, art, different things all spawning from the sneaker stuff, even the skateboarding. It all goes back to the skateboarding.
LF: My favorite pair of shoes right now are Chuck Taylor.
MH: Ok. (Pause) Any specific type? Any specific ones?
LF: There’s a John Lennon Chuck Taylor where it has a picture of John Lennon sittin’ on the world…
MH: Oh really?
LF: It’s called the Peace Chuck, it’s a “Peace to the World” Chuck and on the front, written in the rubber, is “Imagine All The Peoples Of The World Livin In Peace.” That’s like my favorite shoe, the color, the execution and everything, the shoe strings, everything.
MH: That’s pretty cool …sorry I’m just reading my notes here.
At this point Lupe stops talking to me and starts talking to some people on the street.
LF: Yo…I’m sorry.
MH: It’s ok. You’re probably really busy right now.
LF: Nah, I’m walkin’ the streets of New York City which I probably shouldn’t be doing.
MH: (Laughs. A lot.)
LF: On the Lower East Side where I’m like a superstar.
MH: (Still laughing) So are people gonna be stopping you a lot right now?
LF: Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah we good.
MH: So, “Kick Push” is your new single. You have the video out on BET, MTV…
LF: Uh huh.
MH: It’s not like a lot of other rap songs at all. How do you feel being able to create these raps songs but not be part of that major hip hop/rap scene?
LF: It feels good, you know. It feels like you’re out there, you know, doin’ your own thing, know what I’m sayin’? It’s like, people can’t really compare it to anything, and that kinda feels good. It opens me up to a lot of different arenas, a lot of different type of situations, you know like Tony Hawk will call. You know what I’m sayin’? I can just image if my songs was about shootin’ up, and like sellin’ cocaine, I doubt Tony Hawk would be callin’ you know?
MH: You did a concert for his benefit didn’t you?
LF: He invited me out to do a skateboard benefit and there was rock groups there, you know rock groups and actors and movie directors, and all type. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were there…with there kids though! So I can just imagine if I was out there rappin’ about just wild and sayin’ stuff, then I wouldn’t have been there rappin’ to Tony Hawk’s kids. You know what I’m sayin’?
MH: (Laughs) Right.
LF: So…it feels good. I know I’m putting something positive out there you know, and for me that’s good, cause to me that’s more important than anything, ’cause I don’t want to put anything negative into the world, especially anything that’s going to reach the masses.
MH: Well, that kind of goes into my next question. You don’t do drugs, you don’t drink, and you’re a pretty devout Muslim from what I’ve heard.
LF: Yeah, I’m struggling, struggling…
MH: (Laughs) Do you hope to make some kind of social impact, I mean through your spirituality, through just being an outsider to the hip hop. I guess, to what is considered the hip hop culture now?
LF: I hope so. You know, like, there’s a lot of…I went back and listened to the records that I used to listen to as a kid and I fast forwarded to how I am now and what made me as a person. I be thinkin’ wow if if I didn’t know every word to this Spice 1 record, how would I be? Would I be a different person, you know. If I didn’t listen to so much negative or wasn’t exposed to so much, negative music? So I wonder…it’s like if my [nephews] are like five, I wonder what they’re gonna turn out listening to the most ultra violent, watchin’ the most crazy pornographic video…you know stuff like that. I wonder, how they gonna turn out. And I really be thinkin’ about they affairs. I was thinkin,’ I wonder what would happen if they get a bunch of positive stuff. If drug dealin’ aint cool, you know if this particular activity ain’t cool and now skateboarding is cool or like doing art is cool, you know. (Pause) Like, I do, but I’m not a preacher. You know what I’m saying? I’m a hypocrite just like the next person. I’m not really trying to change the world, like a fool tries to change the world. ‘Cause you come to the conclusion that you can’t change the world.
MH: But you are hoping to make some kind of impact, to show, that there is more to hip hop?
LF: Yeah! Definitely trying to show kids and people who observe hip hop and give it a bad name or give it a bad rep. “Oh…Lupe Fiasco”…Now what?
MH: So, how do you feel then, being considered… I mean, you’re Kanye’s “protégé.” You’re being compared to Kanye, you’re being compared to Pharell Williams as kind of being an outsider ’cause you know you’re into sneakers, you’re into skateboarding and it’s kind of being seen as an outsider to Hip Hop but being part of Hip Hop culture.
LF: Uh huh.
MH: How do you make sense of that?
LF: I like it. It’s good company to have. You know what I’m sayin’?
MH: I’ll say, yeah…
LF: To be mixed in with…I’m not mad at it at all. I always knew that I’m gonna get compared to somebody. Somebody’s always gonna try and put me under somebody else, you know. But you’ll have the Kanyes and the Pharells come out and be like “Yo, he’s his own dude. We look up to him in certain aspects. We admire his work in certain aspects and pull from his work as much as he probably admires and pulls from our work.” So it’s kind of a back and forth relationship you know, as opposed to where I’m Kanye’s protégé, you know what I’m saying. I came from up under Kanye and Pharell…
MH: Well, that’s what’s been written about you.
LF: It’s good though. It’s good.
MH: I bet it’s good. It’s definitely nice company to be keeping.
LF: (Laughs) Yeah…
MH:: So, I heard you got really mad about this and I don’t want to make you mad now, but what about the album leak?
LF: I was mad. I was mad, initially, but I’m not mad any more. (chuckles)
MH: All right, that’s good.
LF: I’m actually happy, I feel like relieved to know that the album got such a good acceptance.
MH: Do you know, well, do you have any idea who did it?
LF: I’ll never find that out. I came to that conclusion when it first happened, like two minutes after it happened, I was like I’ll never be able to get…
MH: But do you think in the long run, it’s a good thing? A bad thing? Or kind of neutral?
LF: Definitely a good thing. It’s such a good thing. ‘Cause I’m comfortable, you know what I’m saying? At first it was like a pressure situation of how are people gonna receive me? I’m gettin’ all this hype. And when the album leaked, it immediately like confirmed all of the hype.
MH: So now you know that people are gonna go out and buy your album?
LF: Oh, yeah, they comparin’ it to Illmatic, they comparin’ it to Reasonable Doubt, they comparin’ it. They’re giving it four out of five, they’re givin it classic, and this is just the kids online. The heads and the people who heard the album prior were like “Oh, there’s gonna be a problem.” Pharell and Kanye and Jay-Z hearin’ the album were like “Yo there’s gonna be a problem.”…but now for the public to be accepting it and Hip Hop fans to be takin’ it and absorbing it…it’s crazy.
MH: But, you’re a big part of the online community too,
LF: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah….
MH: You’re on Okayplayer. You’re on MySpace. You’re on all that, so you keep tabs online?
LF: Oh, yeah, ’cause for me, it’s instant feedback. I can see if somebody likes the album. I can see if somebody likes the record or not, instantly. You know what I’m sayin? It’s like BOOM, do you like this? Do they like this record or not…No. ’cause we got a thousand hits in ten minutes and the response from it was everybody hated it. So, it’s like, ok…it’s a good testing ground. You know what I’m saying? And it’s a good way to interact with people, you know? It’s real personal, even though it’s through a machine and they’re a million miles away. It’s real personal for somebody to hit me on MySpace and I’ll hit ‘em back.
MH: So you actually do check your MySpace? It’s you behind your MySpace, not somebody from the record company?
LF: Nah, it’s me. It’s kinda crazy, now not as much, but initially I was on there kinda heavy.
MH: Do I have time for one more?
MH: We had a question that we wanted to ask you from the site. We read somewhere that you like robots?
LF: Yeah, I love robots.
MH: You love robots? Ok, so we have a series of robot questions for you…
LF: Ok, go head…
MH: What’s your favorite robot?
LF: My favorite ROBOT has to be…uh…AH! So many! So many robots. Um. (Lets out a big breath of air) I’m gonna have to say…SHOOOOO….Gundum.
MH: That’s your final answer?
LF: Yeah, Gundum. ANY Gundum.
MH: Ok…so then the next question is if you were a robot, what would your robot name be and would you have any special powers?
LF: I got a robot. His name is Seymour.
LF: Yeah, Seymour.
MH: But I mean, is that who you would be? You’d be a robot named Seymour?
LF: I would be inside of Seymour, I would sit in his head and control him but he would be a part of me, I would be connected to him.
MH: So then what kind of powers would he have?
LF: I’ll tell you what he does…like he flies. Um, he has like, little machine guns in his hands and a laser. His weapon is the sword so he has like this humongous laser sword on his back.
MH: Oh, that’s cool…
LF: And he can travel through time at ease. (Laughs)
MH: Does he rap too?
LF: Seymour? Nah, nah Seymour doesn’t rap. He doesn’t rap.
MH: Oh, ok…does he skateboard?
LF: Nah, he doesn’t skateboard. He’s a ROBOT! He can FLY!
MH: But can’t robots skateboard?
LF: He can fly…like, humans need to skateboard because they can’t run really fast and they don’t have wheels attached to their feet. (Laughs)
MH: (Laughs) Ok, I guess he could do tricks…like skateboard tricks?
LF: Nah, nah…he flies…He gets where he needs to be really quickly.
MH: Do you watch Adult Swim, at all?
LF: Yes, I do.
MH: What’s your favorite show?
LF: Right now? The Boondocks.
MH: The Boondocks? Really?
LF: Oh, yeah, oh yeah…Boondocks…and then Cowboy Bebop when that used to come on.
MH: They’re bringin’ it back I think.
LF: Yeah, but they stopped it for a minute, and they were like re-doing the same episodes and whatever…
MH: Ok, so the albums coming out. When’s the album coming out?
LF: June 27th in the US, June 26th in the UK. Pretty good to have a simultaneous release around the world.
MH: Cool…I think that’s all the questions I have for you…I didn’t think I was gonna get this much time.
MH: But thanks.
LF: No problem..
Lupe Fiasco’s debut album ‘Food & Liquor’ will be released by Atlantic Records on June 27th. You can also check out his MySpace Page