By James McCurtis
The New Citizens Press
E. LANSING, MI — The stage setup inside the intimate Fairchild Theater at Michigan State University was boring and simple.
There were no 400 inch screens playing videos. No pyrotechnic machines blasting fireballs. No 40-piece string orchestra fiddling violins. Just a set of turntables and a microphone.
And that’s all Lupe Fiasco, 24, needed. When the Chicago-based rapper pounced on the stage Sunday night on March 18th, the yelps and screams from the nearly 600 fans clearly showed his style was all they wanted.
Finally, an emcee whose lyrical content makes you think about what’s happening in the world such as American terrorism, poverty in the projects and racism.
Absent from his repertoire are the materialistic-laced rhymes about mansions, 24-inch rims and party yachts. These fans didn’t come to hear mindless booty-shaking one liners that are dominating the hip-hop airwaves unfortunately.
They came to party and Fiasco (a Muslim born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco) didn’t disappoint performing most of his songs from his debut album “FOOD & LIQUOR.”
He kicked off the set with a song about a popular subject in the industry – the bling, bling. He didn’t brag about how many diamonds he was able to afford. Instead he rapped about how children in African countries suffered while working in abusive diamond mining conditions.
When “Conflict Diamonds,” featured on his mixtape “Touch the Sky,” blasted, the powerful impact of the words moved the audience as much as the bass heavy drum. Props to Kanye West, but Fiasco’s version said it best.
I figured I would never go to Angola so it never did affect me that made me indirectly.
That my neck leash was funding a rebellion or a military coo,
started by malicious that don’t believe in following none of Geneva’s rules.
Teasing the crowd with fast-paced, thought provoking rhymes, sometimes acappella, Fiasco fed the hunger and quenched the thirst of an audience starving for what is becoming a dinosaur in the rap industry – creativity.
“He’s so serious,” said Lansing Community College student Jeff Balthazar, 18, who attended the concert. “He says everything real. Everything he says, you can tell it’s really him. I can’t get enough of him.”
Fiasco couldn’t interview under doctors orders because he had to rest his voice. In an interview with hip-hop Web site www.nobodysmiling.com, the jazz fan calls his style ‘simple complexity.’ Many critics and peers, such as Jay-Z, call him a ‘breath of fresh air’ for rap.
Along with its #1 debut atop Billboard’s ‘Top Rap Albums’ chart, FOOD & LIQUOR also entered the ‘Top Hip-Hop/R&B Albums’ tally at No.2, as well as No.8 on the Billboard 200, with first week sales exceeding more than 80,000 units.
Fiasco was nominated for three Grammy’s, named one of GQ Magazine’s ‘Men of the Year 2006’, receiving the ‘Breakout’ honors on the annual ranking.
He’s also kicking other emcee’s butts with a song about skateboarding, which drew a collective roar from the Fairchild Theater crowd when the smooth sounds of the horns floated in the air.
They head to any place with stairs any good grinds the world was theirs. And they four wheels will take them there until the cops came and said there’s no skating here. So they kick push kick push kick push kick push coast.
“It’s good to hear a conscious rapper,” said MSU freshman Ian Stonebrook, 19. “There’s no conscious rapper anymore.”
Fiasco’s retro mid-90s style, reminiscent of famed rap artists such as De La Soul or A Tribe Called Quest, shows that hip-hop is ready to have more rappers with a wide range of styles.
Now emcee’s like Common, Dead Prez and Kanye West have some company. They all have an old, yet, new style fans like MSU senior Renee Skeete, 21, have been searching for.
“It’s just real hip-hop,” Skeete said. “I think (Lupe Fiasco) revived something that’s been lost.”