#LF95 – [Lupe Fiasco] [prod. Kaelin Ellis]

Lupe Fiasco is my favorite artist. Notoriously known for his sheer lyricism that only Harvard graduates can fully comprehend, Lupe is likely your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Lupe is a true lyricist, but this label alone is not sufficient enough to describe the thirty-eight-year-old unfettered music veteran. Some have even claimed that the musical work and career of Lupe Fiasco was simply ahead of its time, with an audience not yet prepared for the boldly unfiltered content he delivered. Nonetheless, Lupe’s resume is among the very best, with seven studio albums, one Grammy, (twelve nominations) 2006’s GQ man of the year, along with million-plus records sold and streamed. However, these accolades aren’t what matter most to Lupe; it is instead the lifelong respect/acknowledgment from his music peers that shaped and influenced him. For instance, in a joint Instagram live conversation with Joe Budden, Joe revealed Jay-Z himself once stated that he thinks Lupe Fiasco is the best rapper ever. Lupe also tweeted that Jay-Z wanted to sign him to Roc-A-Fella records. Moreover, when legendary emcee Nas was asked by N.O.R.E which rapper most reminds him of himself, Lupe was his answer. Most recently, Off-White CEO and fashion designer Virgil Abloh tweeted that “Lupe’s mixtape catalog is amongst the greatest mixtape catalogs to ever exist.”

Now entirely independent, the Lupe Fiasco of today is comparable to a sage, in the sense that the Chicago artist is completely unconcerned with external noise and futile drama. Lupe has also accepted the totality of his career, vowing that “[he] wouldn’t change a fuc***” thing” on his song “Imagine” from DROGAS WAVE; the seventh and latest studio album from Fiasco. Beyond music, Lupe is a highly successful entrepreneur, having his own foundation, (M.U.R.A.L) educational group, (SOSA) neighborhood fund, (Neighborhood Start), and even production company (Studio SV). Lupe is also a Henry Crown fellowship member; specifically a part of Aspen Institute’s Class XVIII: 2014 Bones & Elephants Class. These are merely a preview of Lupe’s business relations, not counting his (public & private) investments and involvements in other organisations, such as his work for Zero Mass Water.

Aside from his official projects, when Lupe has time and is in the mood to share music, he often reminds listeners of his craftsmanship level skills through ‘loosies,’ or casual freestyles. Matt Jefferson, a good friend of mine, aka Lupe Fiasco’s biggest fan, compiled an entire google document with Lupe’s complete discography, including all his mixtape, features, and loosie material. Matt also runs the best and most consistent Lupe Fiasco fan-page around, which is well worth following for relevant Lupe updates and more. For his latest freestyle, Lupe screen-recorded a Kaelin Ellis instrumental from Twitter, then exported the audio file and recorded a brief song to it.

Kaellin Ellis is a multi-platinum music producer that has established himself among the top class of producers in the modern electronic / hip-hop beat scene. Formerly known as Mr. Mockwell, Kaelin was originally part of an online crew dubbed “Loaflab”, where he came in contact with fellow talented musicians and later collaborative-partners Kaytranada, Sango and more. Ellis also has many production credits with other artists such as Waldo, Sango, Deffie and K-Pop super-group “EXO.” Last but not least, Kaelin’s work ethic lead to the producer earning a spot in having one of the top 10 songs of the week featured on USA Today.

For their collaboration, Lupe titled the freestyle “#LF95,” which unsurprisingly is bombarded with several ridiculous bars sure enough to float over your head. The jazzy Robert Glasper esque instrumental created by Ellis is an electronic keyboard masterpiece combined with electric guitar instrumentation. Quotable bars from the freestyle include: “Every once in awhile a rapper asks how he can become Sosa like Sammy,” “They heard I was sick / now they herd immunity,” and “hope you both wrapped in some wings like the recipe at Churches. Levels, ya’ll were both two piece specials.”

The first bar is a double entendre not only referencing the retired baseball star Sammy Sosa, but also The Society of Spoken Art (SOSA), which is Lupe’s educational group that “introduces rappers to the fields of linguistics and seminotics in an environment of their peers.” Before these lines, Fiasco subtly touches on his 2005-2015 musical stint with 1st & 15th and Atlantic Records, when he says: “Back then I used to do it for the hoorays, last night I posted up a pic of me, Cole, and Toure / at the Grammy’s, the matriarchs of our families.” As if Lupe hadn’t flexed enough, the freestyle abruptly ends with him exclaiming: “Choose wisely, you can use the time to be in shape or eat a cake / tonight I might post a picture of me and Drake / you gon’ have to see and wait.” Spoiler alert, Fiasco actually posted a rare picture of him and Drake on his Instagram page that evening.

Lupe Fiasco is undoubtedly an artist and individual that will be praised and universally recognized after his death. However, as the tragic deaths of Nipsey Hussle and more have shown the hip-hop community, we should all appreciate and recognize our legends while they’re with us. In my opinion, Fiasco currently has four classic albums, (Food & LiquorThe CoolTetsuo & Youth, & DROGAS WAVE) with his other three also holding value. However, regardless of opinion, it is an objective fact that the musical creations of Lupe Fiasco deserve greater critical acclaim, such as a Pulitzer prize and entrance into the Library of Congress. While Lupe certainly does not owe us anymore albums, he is currently working on his eighth entitled “Skulls” (For more information on this album in the works, I highly recommend browsing his recent conversation with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Until then, along with the rest of his discography, enjoy #LF95, the latest freestyle from Lupe Fiasco, produced by Kaellin Ellis below!

Words by Brandon Washington