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Music Interview

Lupe Fiasco

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Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco is one of the most ambitious men in hip-hop. Rather than rehashing well-worn themes of bling, beefs and bootylicious ladies, his new album tells the tale of a "zombie hustler" who's seeking redemption after coming back from the dead. Alongside contributions from Snoop Dogg and Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump, Lupe Fiasco's The Cool also features a song written from the perspective of… wait for it… a cheeseburger. We gave the incomparable Mr. Fiasco a call to find out how on earth he does it.

What's your new single 'Superstar' about?
"Basically it's about the dark side of celebrity - the battle we do every time we step on stage or do an interview."

Is it a battle that you face regularly?
"Not really! I kinda walk it. You know controversy's going to come, it's just the form that it takes which is shocking."

You mention roses, yellow M&Ms and light bulbs that "don't flicker" in the song. Are those your diva-esque dressing room demands?
"It's my rider! That's about where I want to be in life, you know. I don't want the light bulb in my dressing room to flicker, I want the roses to be there and I want the jazz to be playing in the background."

Your new album Lupe Fiasco's The Cool has an overarching concept, doesn't it?
"Yes. It's based on a song from my first album called 'The Cool', which is about a zombie hustler who comes back to life and is seeking redemption. On this album I kind of expand on that and introduce a few new characters. There's a female temptress called The Street, who's the physical incarnation of the street, and another character called The Game, who represents what it's like to be in the game. They all interact with each other to represent the different forces in the hood."

Do these characters appear all through the album?
"They're on about five of the songs, because I didn't want to make the album super-dense."

How is this album different to Food & Liquor, your debut?
"It's a much darker album. I talk about subjects that I'd previously shied away from, like the environment, but I also talk a lot about 'cool' - what I think's cool, what the definition of cool is, misconceptions of what cool is."

And you've written a song from the point of view of a cheeseburger. How does that work?
"Well, I wrote a song called 'Gotta Eat' to try and talk about health in a cool way. I made the cheeseburger into this mafia boss who has a vendetta against humanity, which is to make sure everyone dies of a heart attack. It's all very satirical - the cheeseburger goes to church, but the church is a Chicken Shack, and the friar is actually a deep fat fryer."

So you've done it in quite a humorous way?
"Yes, but it's got a serious message though. In my neighbourhood there are no food stores and there's no attention to nutrition. If you look back at what you've eaten over the month, you're like 'Damn! All I've eaten is cheeseburgers and pizzas!'"

Not many people would think to tackle the obesity issue by writing a song about a cheeseburger. Do you enjoy trying to present difficult issues in quirky, original ways?
"I just love satire. A lot of satire's very funny, but a lot of it's very dark too. When I find a subject I want to write about, I do tend to think 'How can I present it in an entertaining way?', and that's how the cheeseburger song came about. I like a challenge!"

You've worked with Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy on the album. How did that come about?
"The Chicago connection, really - he was making beats and I thought they were fresh. It was all done over email - he finally heard the record months and months afterwards. The record is called 'Little Weapon' and it's worked out really well."

What's happened to the Child Rebel Soldier project you initiated with Kanye West and Pharrell Williams?
"Scheduling issues! We were all together the other day actually, and we were like 'We gotta get in the studio and make this Child Rebel Soldier album'. Hopefully we'll have it out some time in 2008."

Which one of you is hardest to pin down?
"None of us, really, but we all get very caught up in what we do. We're all very dedicated to the project, but at the same time we're all very busy."

Finally, are you still intending to retire after the release of your next album?
"I'm kinda 85%. I'll still perform, and maybe still make music to perform, but I'm not sure the recorded music industry is the best industry to be in. I love my fans and I love my music, but there's this whole other level of music industry politics that you have to deal with. I've done it for eight years, so I'm thinking 'Do I want to do it for another eight?' I'm not sure that I do."

'Superstar' is released on January 14. Lupe Fiasco's The Cool follows a week later.

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