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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Best Rapper Alive?

There are many competitors for this title: Andre 3000, Jay-Z, Eminem, Lil' Wayne, Kanye. Some would even make the argument for Rick Ross or t-pain, but these people are clearly wrong. For my money, I think the absolute best rapper alive is Lupe Fiasco. He flows nonstop, and if you don't believe this, tell me when he breathes on the track "Intruder Alert." On top of that, his lyrics are so much better than every other rapper's. Instead of stooping to the lowest common denominator, Lupe accepts his intelligence and offers educated lyrics that deal with justice, tolerance, and the perils of the typical rap game. Don't get me wrong, I still love gangsta rap from The Game and the nonsensical humor of rappers like Ludacris. But if I could only listen to one rapper for the rest of my life, I'd choose Lupe, and I think the main reason is his ability to construct a story throughout his songs. Similar rappers such as Murs and Atmosphere do the same, which also places them in my Top 5.

I bring this up because Vibe magazine put out a best rapper alive bracket similar to the ones we all make during March Madness. The voting ended last year, but I still think it's interesting to see the matchups. I filled out one of these brackets because as a college student I have absolutely nothing better to do. In my final four, I had Lupe, Lil' Wayne, Nas, and Andre 3000. I doubt all of these guys would have been in the final four if more underground rappers like the guys from Rhymesayers and Def Jux were in the bracket. Honestly, throw Brother Ali in at a 16 seed, and he'd probably make it to the final four. Soulja Boy...really? How are Wale, Murs, Slug, Aesop Rock not on this bracket? It doesn't really matter in the end though because, in either case, Lupe would end up winning. In the end, I had Lupe beating Andre 3000 to win the crown of best rapper alive.

So, despite Lupe only having 2 albums (Food & Liqour, The Cool), his songs are so much more memorable and interesting than the 5 or 6 albums that Jay-Z has put out. The problem for me is this: Jay-Z is a great rapper, but he constantly raps about the coke trade and living on the streets. He represents "The Game" that Lupe discusses in his albums. On the other hand, Lupe mixes in metaphors and themes into his songs, which deal from everything about racial prejudices to the perils of the black community's high likeihood of consuming fast food. I accept the fact that most rappers simply couldn't rap about anything besides the drug game. Imagine Clipse rapping about something about coke. That's absurd...they couldn't rap about terrorism, or Islam, or racism, unless it related to coke. Most rappers are precluded from rapping about anything and everything as Lupe can, and I don't hold it against them, it just means that Lupe comes out on top.

There is good news on the horizon though. In his second album, Lupe stated that he would only be putting out one more album entitled LupE.N.D. This obviously disappointed Lupe fans, but he eventually announced that this "final album" would be three discs released in three waves. So, it would in effect be three more albums. The first album was going to be called Everywhere, the second Nowhere, the third Down Here. He stated, “I just don’t really feel like rapping anymore. I’m going to write a book and put out [other artists'] albums like Matthew Santos.” Lupe is the CEO of his own record label: 1st & 15th (FNF), and has claimed multiple times that he wants to grow his label and his skateboarding line. In the end, despite separating himself from most other rappers with his lyrics and style, Lupe really does just want to be a label exec, mogul, and entreprenuer.

But earlier this year, Lupe announced that he would be postponing this ambitious project indefinitely ("consider it cancelled") to instead focus on another album called The Great American Rap Album. This album would be released in June of this year, followed by another album in December, than another in June 2010. And then LupE.N.D. would be released. This means Lupe has 6 more albums slated for us. Rap-Up.com speculates that "Lupe owes his label Atlantic Records three or more albums before his contract expires." So, this may be good news for us, or not if Lupe loses his edge that makes him different.

In the mean time, check out palm of ice's mashup which combines Lupe with jazz, Kind of Lu.

Check out Lupe's outdated retirement announcement, followed by an acoustic version of "Superstar":

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