Lupe Fiasco won’t talk about his upcoming record The Cool, but that’s pretty much the only thing the Kanye West protégé and top dog of the new conscious-rap school wouldn’t discuss in advance of his appearance at Wakestock this Sunday. EYE WEEKLY spoke with the Chi-town MC about everything from gangs to the KKK on the phone from New York, where he was working on that thing he wouldn’t talk with about.
Where’s the best place to do a show, outside of your hometown?
Yeah Chicago’s a good crowd. Chicago, Houston; anywhere overseas, except maybe like London because they’re a little bit more relaxed. I always get a good response at home no matter where we are. And even though Chicago’s just one city, it’s still kinda massive. So you can go to one place and get one crowd, then go to another part of the city and get a whole ‘nother crowd.
I get the impression Chicago is a very divided city.
Yeah, some of it. Like some neighborhoods, it’s like if you didn’t grow up there, you basically have no reason to go there. And then there’s always the level of like gangs, the gang activity is super low, but people have memories of gangs where we couldn’t leave the block. You know, you had to stay on your block because you would risk being shot at or you know just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even in certain racial areas, there’s a lot of black people that won’t go in a Mexican neighbourhood and a lot of Mexicans that won’t go in a black neighbourhood and vice versa because it’s still like a gang racial kind of tension that’s just ripe.
Even certain high schools out here they still have black kids and Latino kids separated.Not segregated different schools, but within a school. There’s a separation because of the violence between the two, like the gang violence, between… it’s stupid. Madness.
I’ve always enjoyed in your music how you often present more than one perspective on a situation. Was that informed by growing up in such a multi-racial environment? Did you go outside of your neighbourhood and soak up other cultures?
Yeah, through my father and through my mother. My father had like karate schools, so we would live on the west side but go to the south side three or four times a week to go to karate school. So we had friends on the south side. Then we would go to Chinatown, then we would go to on the north side and there was a big population of Pakistanis and Indians. So it was little stuff like that, but I would go and see these concentrations of different people, and you’d just became more comfortable with it. And as your comfort level grew you became more receptive to what was going on. As opposed to a lot of people who just stay in their neighbourhood, and it’s just ignorant.
It would be great if more Americans could see each other’s side, particularly now.
Yeah, but America is America, now aren’t we? [laughs]
Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound condescending.
Nah, nah, it’s the land of bias. It is what it is. America was built up on conflict and confrontation, it was never built on a unification of everyone’s ideals. America’s a weird place. It’s balanced, and I guess to maintain that balance there has to be a certain level of bias, balanced in the sense that we don’t see a revolution kicking off in the next one hundred years. Everybody here is comfortable, that’s why there could be an atrocity going on and we could still be comfortable. We’re not really worried about anybody coming over here and doing something crazy. And we’re just like, cool. It’s the coolest place on the planet, I think, in that we don’t really… care? [laughs] we’re not really worried about anything else?
I just speak that as a whole, I don’t agree with that personally but I am a part of the system. It’s just like, when you look around and you see how everybody’s just so comfortable and you can catch a plane 12 hours from here and be in a place where there’s rubble, you know, their downtown is ruined, there’s tanks rolling around in the streets… I think Americans are pretty content. Even within atrocity and within the bias and everything else, at the end of the day I think the system has a very good way of keeping everybody content and years and years and years away from any type of real revolt, or any type of real action to kind of shake up the system.
As a Muslim, do you ever get hassled getting on airplanes? When James Hetfield from Metallica is getting stopped…
It’s definitely a profiling situation. When you at war with something, you gotta demonize it, right? You take all of its physical characteristics and you make that the enemy. Everybody when they think of terrorism or they think of a threat, you think of that. Blacks used to think of the Ku Klux Klan when they thought of terrorism, they were kept in check because of “oh, the Ku Klux Klan” they’d think of white robes and a burning cross. Now people see a kufi and a beard.
There you go, seeing the other side again.
Well you know… [laughs] the Ku Klux Klan is still an institution that makes me question anything America does. One of the longest-running, one of the most powerful and one of the most culturally accepted terrorist groups in the world was the Ku Klux Klan. They did a march on Washington! You think you could see Bin Laden and Al Qaeda marching through Washington? Can you belive that? You could never see that. To go back that far and see what this country was built on, that’s why I question everything this country does because for them to accept that and not go out and annihilate that on they own soil? You know, they were going around lynching babies and cutting babies out of peoples’ stomachs and blowing up stuff and burning people alive? Like really wicked, evil forms of terrorism, not just going on a bus and blowing somebody up. But going and actually systematically keeping people ignorant and terrorizing them so they don’t want to vote or get involved in the political system or bettering themselves or anything like that, a real genocide that took place in the south and in certain parts of the north? And it’s still alive today! And you can go there and become a member. Ku Klux Klan, I keep that very clear in front of me. When I wake up I remind myself, hey, Ku Klux Klan.