Lupe Fiasco: “I Don’t Want to Be Jay-Z”

Back when we were introduced to Lupe Fiasco’s classic debut album, Food & Liquor, Jay-Z told us all that Lupe was a “breath of fresh air” in modern hip-hop. It’s not often that Jay has good things to say about other rappers; he’s much more infamous for his feuds with other big names in the game. So to actually receive praise from Jay, that says a lot about Lupe’s ability and talent behind the mic.

Lupe is telling us now, though, that he doesn’t want to be Jay-Z. No disrespect to the Big Homie, of course, but that’s just not the kind of life that Lupe is looking for as a result of his musical career.

In an article Thursday from Australian newspaper The Age, entitled “Beyond Bentleys and Chains,” Lupe gave his own opinion on what success is. And I quote:

“There’s a misunderstanding with my fanbase,” he says. “People [at Warner] feel they know my fans more than I do. They want me to step out of my comfort zone and step into theirs. I don’t have necessarily the celebrity success they want me to have but it’s more social success and being able to speak at a college about world affairs. That’s a success, to me.

“I don’t want to be Jay-Z and be worth $400 million and perform on every awards show. It’s getting in touch with somebody who needs to improve their self-esteem. As opposed to driving a Bentley and putting some chains on.”

It’s interesting, though, because Jay definitely addressed the same issue in his own music. On “Moment of Clarity,” a track from The Black Album, Jay rapped the following lyrics:

Music business hates me because the industry ain’t make me
Hustlers and boosters embrace me and the music I be makin’
I dumb down for my audience and double my dollars
They criticize me for it, yet they all yell “holla”
If skills sold, truth be told
I’d probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli
Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
(But I did 5 mil…) I ain’t been rhymin’ like Common since

Since I know what I’m up against
We, as rappers, must decide what’s most important
And I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them
So I got rich and gave back… to me, that’s the win-win.

Hov makes a good point. You can’t help the poor if you’re one of them. Not to say that Lupe is poor by any stretch, but he’s definitely not on Jay-Z’s status. But as Hov also said, rappers “must decide what’s most important.” Is it the fame and fortune? Or is it staying true to your beliefs and showcasing your true talents? As Lupe rapped on “Dumb It Down,” a track from his second album, The Cool:

Bishop G, they told me I should come down cousin, but I flatly refuse, I ain’t dumb down nothin’…

So to Lupe, it’s obviously most important that he stays true to his beliefs and showcases his true talents. And that’s his decision, and I respect him for that. But I don’t agree with his statement about “driving a Bentley and putting some chains on.” First of all, anybody that follows Lupe religiously knows about his song “Gold Watch,” in which the first line of the hook says:

Got my gold watch and my gold chain, with my fancy car and my diamond ring…

So, if this song is true, he’s already “putting some chains on.” And as far as “driving a Bentley”… well, he’s already doing that too. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that; I like Bentleys, and I like chains. I just don’t think it’s fair for him to make that implied generalization that that’s what a lot of rappers (like Jay-Z) want to get rich and famous for. Especially since he’s doing a little bit of that himself. Maybe I read his words wrong, but that’s what it seemed like he was trying to say. Apparently, though, he did change up a little bit from the days of his “Ignorant Sh*t” freestyle, in which he rapped:

That’s right man, I could Bentley afford; instead, I copped a couple skateboards…

Interesting… any thoughts?


About D. Hudson

A gentleman and a scholar.
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3 Responses to Lupe Fiasco: “I Don’t Want to Be Jay-Z”

  1. Rev.R says:

    Rappers all get jaded. Everyone changes, Lupe has definitely changed.

    Although Lupe drives the Bentley and apparently a Ferrari too (I heard him mention it in a newer song) he does exercise a different subject matter in his lyrics as compared to Jay-Z and the rappers that follow his lead.

    I think what Lupe might have been trying to say (without regards to all the counter-evidence you found) is that he does not want to be an icon for the things that Jay-Z represents. When we think of Hov we think of all the money, the cars, Beyonce, the crazy vacations he takes…pretty much the lavish and luxurious life.

    Lupe wants to keep playing the role of under-appreciated yet supremely talented emcee whose music does not reflect his riches. Lupe wants to use his music (on his studio albums) to reflect greater social issues and what-not.

    Is the evidence contradictory? Absolutely. This is also the same Lupe who talked about liking Go-Yard bags and trunks on “Gold-Watch”…don’t those run for $$1000 plus?! Its definitely fair to say Lupe has indulged in his fair share of the lavish life. But, I doubt that in 2006 when Lu was rhyming to the Ignorant freestyle he even had the money to afford a Bentley…I mean back then he was hardly the man he is today who can get a gig for a World Tour.

    I think Lupe is struggling to stick to his definition as a rapper and realizes that he could easily be Jay-Z if he gave in dollars over his message…in which case we wouldn’t be questioning what he drives and raps about because he would be owning up to it.

    Maybe for me it goes without saying that someone like Lupe who has been in the game for a solid 4 years now and has stayed relevant…its almost a default that he has the de-facto luxury goods in the realm of cars and what-not. So until he “sells-out” and ends up on the next DJ Khaled, DJ Drama, whoever’s super-deluxe 20-rapper feature remix where he talks about “money, cars, and clothes all a n**** knows” I’m still supporting.

    That’s just my take.

    • Rev.R says:

      Great post though D. Hud!

      • D. Hud says:

        LOL… you’re like the parent that spanks the mess out of their kid, and then gives them a hug after it’s all over and says “you know I love you, you’re still a good kid…” lol…

        But I definitely see where you’re coming from, and I’m definitely still supporting Lu too; your statement that “he does not want to be an icon for the things that Jay-Z represents” makes complete sense. I think I was just looking at Lupe’s words earlier in a much more literal sense.

        Thanks for the feedback!

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