The last time we spoke with Lupe Fiasco, things were not looking good. His oft-delayed third album, Lasers, seemed destined for major label limbo and Lupe was busying himself with side projects like Japanese Cartoon—his post-punk rock band—and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Lupe’s fans fought back and took things into their own hands by protesting the delay of Lasers. And then a ray of hope: Lupe tweeted a picture of himself with Atlantic Records Chief Operating Officer, Julie Greenwald, and the long-standing feud between him and the label seemed resolved. Shortly thereafter Lasers was given a release date, and it looked like everything was going to be alright.
But pictures can be deceiving. Despite having a legitimate hit on his hands with “The Show Goes On,” and having a solid release date of March 8 for his album, things between Lupe and Atlantic Records haven’t really been resolved. We got on the phone with Lupe and he went off about how he was pressured into doing “The Show Goes On,” why he’s still not cool with Atlantic Records, and why he (sometimes) hates his own album.
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
On "The Show Goes On"
“There’s nothing really to tell about that record, to be honest. I didn’t have nothing to do with that record. That was the label’s record. That wasn’t like I knew the producer or knew the writer or anything like that. That was one of those records the record company gave me, [they even gave me] stuff they wanted me to rap about. It wasn’t like, ‘Hey I did this and I went to a mountain and found inspiration and it was this.’ [Last April] I was backstage at a show at the House of Blues in L.A. and the president of [Atlantic Records] came to me and said, ‘Hey check this out, I got this song.’ He played ‘Show Goes On’ for me on the iPod. I was used to it because they presented me like ten other songs in the same fashion or via email. So for me, at that point, it was just another record like, ‘Is this a song you want me to do?’ There was nothing special about it for me at that point. It was like, ‘You know we still want off the label, right?’ That was the conversations we were having.
“I did the record maybe a couple weeks after I initially heard it. We were on tour and I didn’t have the schedule to go record it, so the first instance that I had to actually go do it, I went and knocked it out. I knocked out ‘Never Forget You’ that same day. Then we had ‘Show Goes On’ for two, three months completed in some fashion. It was never a record like, ‘Hey! Lupe is super excited about ‘Show Goes On.’’ At that point, I was just drained. I was like, ‘Whatever. Another song, another day, another dollar.’
I had to do ['The Show Goes On'] and it had to be the first single if the record was going to come out.
“I had to do ‘Show Goes On,’ that was like the big chip on the table. I had to do it and it had to be the first single if the record was going to come out. And then there’s ‘Never Forget You’ [featuring John Legend]—which is another record I had nothing to do with—which became another bargaining chip, like, ‘Yo, after ‘Show Goes On’ there’s going to be this other record that you had nothing to do with.’ And I know John Legend, he’s a cool dude. But it was just a record he had sitting around and Exec A or Exec B heard it, and they were like, ‘Oh yeah! We’re going to put this on Lupe.’ And it wasn’t like, ‘Hey Lupe, do you like this song?’ it was like, ‘You got to do this record.’ At that point, I had already done ten records [the same way]. It was like I’d fly out from whatever spot I’m vacationing in, cut these records, and fly back.”
Why He Hates Lasers
“One thing I try to stress about this project is, I love and hate this album. I listen to it and I’ll like some of the songs. But when I think about what it took to actually get the record together and everything that I went through on this record—which is something I can’t separate—I hate this album. A lot of the songs that are on the album, I’m kinda neutral to. Not that I don’t like them, or that I hate them, it’s just I know the process that went behind it. I know the sneaky business deal that went down behind this song, or the artist or singer or songwriter who wrote this hook and didn’t want to give me this song in the first place. So when I have that kind of knowledge behind it, I’m just kind of neutral to it like, ‘Another day, another dollar.’ As opposed something like The Cool, which is more of my own blood, sweat, and tears, and my own control. With this record, I’m little bit more neutral as to the love for the record.
When I think about everything that I went through on this record, I hate this album.
“I don’t like the process behind Lasers. The music is dope but I just don’t like the process. We were literally at the point where all this music was done except for a couple songs that we did after the protest. So the bulk of the album was done. And we were talking about shelving the album and going to another label, that’s where we were like, ‘If you put the record out, put it out. Either move on to another album or can it and we’ll do other records at another label.’ The business of it got solved. I’m happy for the fans, this is their album. This is the album that they fought for and that’s what made me do songs like ‘Words I Never Said’ and ‘All Black Everything.’