It seems like rapper Lupe Fiasco can't catch a break these days. His forthcoming album Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album pt. 1, due in stores September 25, was set to grant the artist the creative control Atlantic Records had wrestled from him on his previous album L.A.S.E.R.S. The first two singles have set off controversies. Pete Rock didn't appreciate the recreation of the T.R.OY. beat for "Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)." Writers for Spin tore down "Bitch Bad" without much helpful insight into the discussion it sought to pry open causing the rhymer to call for a boycott and higher standards in music journalism.
On top of it all, the latest exchange between Fiasco and Chicago-based Interscope Records rapper Chief Keef now has Fiasco contemplating an exit from the game.
The testy back-and-forth started when Fiasco went on a radio station in Baltimore to speak on the urban violence crisis in Chicago with at least 370 murders having taken place so far this year -- a pace on track to surpass the 500 mark by the end of 2012. It was there that he also spoke on Chief Keef in the same vein:
"The murder rate in Chicago is skyrocketing and you see who's doing it and perpetrating it, they all look like Chief Keef. I understand where he came from, and I understand his struggle and I'm not [mad] at him, I'm [mad] at the place that he came from and that places like that still exist and incubate that mentality ... When you're at high schools speaking to students, telling 'em how to survive the summer, and you turn on the radio and you hear that? You like, 'Aw nah.'"
The killings in Chicago moved Fiasco to tears when he appeared on MTV's RapFix with Sway who showed him an old on the block interview from 2006. Chief Keef, who had mocked the recent murder of 18 year-old rival rapper Lil Jojo in the city on Twitter, took the the social media outlet once more tweeting, "Lupe fiasco a hoe ass nigga And wen I see him I'ma smack him like da lil bitch he is #300."
Chief Keef later claimed his account was hacked, though leaving the statement intact, but by that time Fiasco returned with a series of tweets of his own trying to deescalate the situation. Seemingly frustrated by it all, he suggested that his upcoming album would be his final contribution in the realm of hip-hop:
Before Fiasco spoke on Chief Keef, Che "Rhymefest" Smith called the latter "a bomb" in a blog post further writing, "Notice, no one is talking about the real culprits, the Bomb maker or the pilot who is deploying this deadly force (Labels, Radio Stations). Its easier to blame the bomb. Bombs are not chosen for their individual talents, they are tools used for collateral damage."
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Both Fiasco and Rhymefest are featured on the Black Youth Project and Power of Purpose Inc.'s The Pledge Mixtape assembled and recently released in response to the rising violence in Chicago. The effort is prefixed with the quote that, "Hip-Hop can either be used as a tool or a weapon" and Mikkey Halsted teamed with Fiasco for "Gone" as their contribution to it.
For the sake of the culture, let's hope that Food & Liquor II proves not to be Lupe Fiasco's final testament, especially when he's one of the few in the genre with mainstream exposure who wields his cleverly crafted rhymes as a tool to build and not a weapon to destroy.