Hip-Hop was originally a social and political movement, but it has been diluted by mainstream acceptance, crass commercialism and Twitter. Lupe Fiasco steps up with some of the most political rhymes in a long while.
The cover of Lupe Fiasco’s new album has a wall on which is hung the neon sign “Losers.” Overlaid on the ‘o’ is the anarchy symbol spray-painted in red. How encouraging is it to see a prominent mainstream artist place himself beyond political parties and the established order?
It is with this in mind that Lupe Fiasco’s new track “Words I Never Said” is so fascinating, not so much for the musical dimension but the fiercely political content of the lyrics. The music is nothing particularly special, aside from the militant beat, and Skylar Grey’s vocals are especially grating. After researching Grey, I learned that she’s a protege of Linkin Park. Yikes! Lupe Fiasco might think of recruiting some better talent for his songs.
How long has it been since Hip-Hop was so blatantly political in the mainstream? And when was the last time a mainstream artist, in general, called out big banking, the bailouts, while boldly proclaiming that it is okay not to vote for a candidate as popular with the left as President Obama? The 60s perhaps?
Lupe Fiasco takes Obama to task in the first verse for his silence regarding the bombing of Gaza. We can assume, of course, that the rapper is referencing the 60 air strikes launched by Israel against Gaza that killed roughly 700 Palestinians and 11 Israelis, and injured over 3,000 Palestinians.
Obama actually wasn’t President when the Gaza War began, assuming the Presidency January 20, 2009. However, it seems that Lupe Fiasco doesn’t believe that Obama was vocal enough before and after he became President.
The rapper takes aim at the intended budget cuts to entitlement programs, claiming it will undercut underprivileged children’s futures. He might have said something of the outrageous U.S. Department of Defense budget, which currently sits at about $700 billion. Fiasco then urges people to question the value of our current media who program news about celebrity dating and “Jersey Shore” goings-on, presumably at the expense of real, substantive reporting.
Lupe Fiasco then cuts to the thinly-veiled racism of conservative blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn back, calling both “racists.” He laments how radical Islam has pushed Israel into a position that they cannot get behind moderate, peaceful Muslims like Fiasco himself, helping bring peace to the region.
The second verse ends with Fiasco urging his listeners to do something besides listen to Tupac, take pills and drink diet sodas, before he unleashes a vitriolic attack on banks who handed out predatory loans in the mortgage-backed security crisis of 2008.
In the third verse, Fiasco calls out everyone who remains silent despite all the violence, and the fear of seeking the truth even if it means calling into question the status quo.
A status quo in which our political system does not function properly, elevating what we all believed was a populist politician to the presidency, where he speaks not for the lower or middle classes, but the corporate class.
Might Fiasco’s political stridency also be an appeal to recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt?
Whatever the case, it appears that Fiasco has philosophically earned the provocative symbolism of his latest album’s cover. Let’s hope he spends that currency by working with better musicians.