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Lupe Fiasco: "I was suicidal... I hate Lasers. When I look at it... I see the fight"
03-05-2011, 04:37 PM (This post was last modified: 03-06-2011 07:35 AM by achali.)
Post: #1
Lupe Fiasco: "I was suicidal... I hate Lasers. When I look at it... I see the fight"
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SOURCE
http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/mar...s-atlantic

Lupe Fiasco: 'I have the right to speak out' / The MC's battle with Atlantic over control of his third album, Lasers, made him suicidal, Lupe Fiasco tells Angus Batey

'Solzhenitsyn put it very quaintly," says Lupe Fiasco. "Basically, there's a duality in everything – there's two sides to every story. Sometimes they complement each other, and sometimes they conflict." Exploring and exploding contradictions is second nature to Wasalu Muhammad Jaco – and while it's unusual to come across a pop star citing Soviet dissident authors, it's the sort of thing the 29-year-old's fans have come to expect. A relatively late convert to rap who dismissed it as sexist rubbish and preferred jazz as a kid; a devout Muslim who writes lyrics saying Palestinians have pushed Israelis too far; a black Chicago native very much on the political left who refused to shake Barack Obama's hand on the night he was elected president – Lupe Fiasco knows duality better than most.

It's there in the opening bars of his new single, The Show Goes On, a record that epitomises the conflicts that rage at the heart of his art. The first release from his much-delayed third album, Lasers, it sounds like any other state-of-the-art hip-hop release; but the Johnny Rotten-echoing first line – "Have you ever had the feelin' that you was bein' had?" – signals that all is not what it seems. The song is a bile-filled rant directed at Atlantic Records, the label that is releasing it and which, he says, pushed him to the brink of suicide.

"It was so fitting," says Lupe of the Pistols reference, "because The Show Goes On was put to me at gunpoint. It was, 'If you don't do The Show Goes On, your album's not coming out.' I had nothing to do with that record – nothing. I was literally told how I should rap on it. But I'm a bastard, 'cos I'll turn around and put it back in your face."

His strained relationship with the label goes back to the success he achieved with his second album, The Cool. The half-million-seller took the cerebral MC from the sidelines to the mainstream; from guest spots with Kanye West and acclaim for raps about skateboards and soul, toy robots and terrorism, to having global hits in his own right. Work on the follow up ought to have seen artist and label in step – it wasn't as if Lupe was planning something wilfully uncommercial.

"We wanted Lasers to be a humongous record," he says, lounging on a sofa in a meeting room in Atlantic's west London offices. "There are so many ways of doing that. You can approach it in a very sleazy way – just throw money at it, go get a lot of the big-name artists, let them hijack it for you and just ride that wave into success. Or you can knuckle down and try to make a really great, different, classic, Kid A kind of thing, with commercial appeal and broad subject matter. The label wanted to do it the sleazy way."

Interference began, he says, after executives insisted that The Cool – and its million-selling single Superstar – were considered failures. A fractious process reached rock bottom when Atlantic's chairman, Craig Kallman, told him his verses and performance on a new song the label wanted him to record, called Nothing On You, were "wack". (That was before the song, with Lupe's verses removed and new ones written by its original guest vocalist, his friend B.o.B, became a worldwide hit last year.)

"That was the tipping point," he says. "It was less about the bruised ego but more the audacity of it. It was mentally destructive. I say it with a certain laissez-faire now because I'm past it, but back then, hearin' that shit, it fucked me up. I was super-depressed, lightly suicidal, at moments medium suicidal – and if not suicidal, willing to just walk away from it all completely."

With the situation seemingly irresolvable, Lupe went public, using social media to let fans know the label was refusing to release the album. He credits the resultant intervention – a petition with around 30,000 signatures was delivered to Atlantic's New York offices last October demanding Lasers's release – with getting the record out. All of which could be dismissed as a cunning and postmodern PR stunt, were it not for the very real pain it has obviously caused him.

"I hate this album," he admits. "I don't hate the music, but I hate the process. When I look at it, I don't see song titles and artwork, I see the fight – I see the emotions, the blood, sweat and tears. There are a couple of songs on there that I love; but Lasers is a little bit of what you love, a little bit of what you like, and a lot of what you had to do.

"But there's the duality again," he says. "I can be Picasso if you want that, and I could do Guernica for you all day. Or, if you want me to paint your dog, I'll come to your house and paint your dog. Once I know my role, I'll play my role to a T. If I'm supposed to be the slave artist, chained to the desk, painting poodles, so be it. Make me rich! You'll get rich in the process as well. But I'm gonna let the world know I'm painting poodles."

So while The Show Goes On tells fans that Atlantic wants Lupe Fiasco in the canine portraiture business, his sideline in Guernicas is flourishing. A collaboration with West and Pharrell Williams, called Child Rebel Soldier, is only a scheduling window away from an LP. His rock band, Japanese Cartoon, released their debut album for free online last summer. He has one design and two fashion companies, and is working on a novel. Then there's the fearsomely angry Words I Never Said – the next Lasers single – which finds Lupe calling the conservative broadcasters Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck racists, explaining that the rapper didn't vote for Obama because of his stance on Palestine, and berating fundamentalist Muslims for alienating moderate Israelis.

"People say, 'If you don't vote, then you don't have a right to say anything,'" he says. "But nine times outta 10, I pay more taxes than they do – so even if I don't vote, I still have the right to speak out. Their taxes maybe pay for a box of bullets; mine pay for a smart bomb – or at least the guidance system. I don't mind payin' for the police and for streets and sanitation, or road work, bridges, trains, food subsidies and welfare. But I don't wanna pay for bombs to fight proxy wars in the middle of nowhere against enemies in the night.

"I remember bein' in Chicago the day Obama became president-elect. He was playin' basketball, and I was actually in the gym where he was playin'. The people I was with was shakin' hands and takin' pictures, and I was like, I can't shake his hand because I don't know what he's gonna do. It would be dishonest of me to shake his hand 'cos I don't really believe in the American system like that. So I went home, because I didn't want to go to Grant Park to be in the midst of the madness, and watched his speech on television. As soon as he said, 'We need to get our troops out of Iraq,' I was like, 'Yaaaay!' But then he said, ' … and get 'em to the real war in Afghanistan,' and I was like, 'Aw, fuck. I gotta pay for some more bombs.' That kinda pissed me off."

He knew he'd be asked about his criticism of militant Islam, but says he hasn't quite worked out how to talk about it yet. But still the words tumble out, cascades of emotion and logic.

"There's genocide in Darfur," he says, "and I hate people who commit genocide – but the people who are committing the genocide in Darfur are Muslim. So now where do we stand? If we're all supposed to be one brotherhood, how do you explain that? You can't. It's not Islam. I can't stand up for that. Or Pakistani madrasas where they teach kids, 'You should just wanna go to heaven – whatever with this life – and the quickest way to go to heaven is to walk to the supermarket and blow these people up.' You're killin' innocent people. You're killin' innocent Muslims. How're you goin' to heaven if you're killin' innocent Muslims? How? It's impossible.

"Religion is very irrational," he says. "It's built on nonsense – faith is not a sense, so it's no sense. But now [they'll say], 'Ah! He's a heretic! He's sayin' religions are based on nonsense! But he's Muslim so we can't kill him. But maybe we can, because he wasn't being Muslim because he was talkin' against … '"

He trails off, his hands flopping to his sides as he shakes his head and chuckles.

"I'm glad we got [Words I Never Said] on the album," he concludes, "because this is what Lasers is about. This is the voice of the album. There's a groovy beat and you can repeat the hook, but there's something deeper in the song than that – which is what I do best. That's my Louis Vuitton trunk – I do that the best. I don't know how to make shoes, I don't know how to make jackets, but I can damn sure make these trunks! You know? I can damn sure make these socially impactful records."
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03-20-2011, 05:15 AM
Post: #2
RE: Lupe Fiasco: "I was suicidal... I hate Lasers. When I look at it... I see the fight"
Tavis interviews Lupe [approx. 24 mins]
http://video.pbs.org/video/1836259897
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