When I was on the way to support Lupe Fiasco at his Belasco Theater show, I was a bit skeptical about whether this would actually be an enjoyable show. I personally did not like his last album, Tetsuo & Youth, and was worried that it would make up a majority of the show. Lupe's first album, Food and Liquor, was one of my favorite hip-hop albums of the 2000s- I would have been heartbroken if he decided to skip it entirely.
My levels of skepticism rose after the couple of songs, which sounded like the hit singles of a Top 20 trap star. I couldn't recorgnize those first couple tracks, so I am assuming they were off his new album DROGAS Light- an album I have not really listened to as much. I was really starting to get worried that Lupe was only going to play his newer songs! Lupe was focused on finding “the vibe” in this venue, which he brought up many times throughout the show. It was around this time that he started rapping rapid-fire a capella for various audience members. While I didn’t really understand the context of the freestyles, it was pretty impressive and kept things exciting.
He did more and more of his older songs as the set went on- performing most of his newer songs during the beginning of the show. I was so relieved! However, there were a few times throughout the show where he teased the audience in a way that started to bother me. These frustrations culminated when he asked the crowd whether we liked his freestyles. Naturally, the audience started cheering. He suddently begins talking about this sick rapper that was freestyling outside of his dressing room. Lupe brings the rapper on stage, but raps all the words to "Superstar" without giving him a chance. I had been interested to see what this guy was all about, but he stood on the side of the stage as Lupe performed. After the song was over, he left the stage. It stroke me as a bit arrogant that Lupe brought this guy onstage just to watch himself perform. Later on, Lupe said that Denzel Curry was in the audience, and he asked him to join him onstage. The crowd went wild, obviously, but Denzel Curry did not even perform. Both artists spoke for about 20 seconds; Denzel Curry then went back to his seat and Lupe continued his set. These instances made Lupe seem more self-centered than I had originally thought he was.
Besides that, his interaction with the audience was impeccable. He was making jokes with the crowd, talking to specific fans in the crowd, and more. The fans were enjoying and expressing themselves, unlike a typical “show” where the audience stands still, watching the artist . He was adding songs based on the mood of the crowd- although it was not the most polished show I've seen, it was more raw and natural. There was one point where he was about to perform “Adoration of the Magi” when a fight broke out in the crowd. Instead of intervening, Lupe Fiasco watched as the fight progressed. Moments later he began creating a freestyle out of the chaos, which featured the words “There’s a fight in the crowd. Security, kick them out.” This evolved into him singing “Kung Fu Fighting” and then the theme from Mortal Kombat. The mood of the show shifted, as the DJ instead played “Dumb It Down,” which Lupe rapped the first verse and chorus of.
While the show had its flaws, he was able to keep the audience engaged throughout the whole thing; the energy level never dropped. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it and may even try to go to another Lupe Fiasco show in the future.
PHOTO BY BILLBOARD
BY TYLER THIGPEN, DJ