If Jay-Z was about 10 years younger and hadn't been paid so much or jaded by police harrasment he would probably sound a bit like this. "Food & Liquor" is Chicago based rapper Lupe Fiasco's long awaited debut album. Long awaited due to it's hefty list of collaborators and a troubled record deal that pushed back its release until now. Lupe is only 25 and through most of this album that's hard to believe. Intricate and profound lyrics are woven together so tightly and are complimented by intelligent beats. My enjoyment of Food & Liquor is similar to that of Murs and his 2003 debut for Def Jux, "The End Of The Beginning". Both rappers are young enough to give us a new insight into hip hop but intelligent enough to make it interesting. The times when Lupe's age does show are to his credit. We get so much thug rap these days and whether it's real or not it gets so boring after a while so its very refreshing to hear a rap about skateboarding as on "Kick, Push" and then carried on to the fantastic "Kick, Push II" towards the end of the album. "I Gotcha" is a jazzy little number with a heavy piano based beat while on "The Instrumental" and "He Say She Say" he proves he can deal with more serious issues.
But It's not all skateboarding and fatherless childhoods though, the Jill Scott collaboration "Daydreamin'" has a reassuring amount of references to jacuzzis full of big tittied women but that's not surprising seeing as production duties on much of this album are shared but the likes of The Neptunes and Kanye West to name but a few. Much of the production sounds like a hip hop album from the early nineties with lots of synths and piano but it comes across as intentional and really works. The guest list is impressive yet not allowed to outshine the main star and for a 25 year old and a debut album he certainly has a lot of people to thank judging by "Outro", the 12 minute long 'peace out' dedication song often found closing a hip hop album.
"Food & Liquor" isn't smashing any boundaries or redefining the genre but it's quality from start to finish and due to the recent DJ Shadow memo that he's taking a break from good hip hop Lupe Fiasco is a pleasure to behold. He seems to have come to hip hop from a slightly different angle and provides us with a freshness and honesty that is so welcome after The Outsider's cop out cliches.