30
29
28
27
26
25
24
23
22
21
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
The 30 Most Lyrical Rap Songs of the Last 5 Years

22. Lupe Fiasco "I'm Beamin'" (2010)


Lupe Fiasco ranks among the most self-aware artists in hip-hop, taking the old "Knowledge of Self" concept to new extremes. This bonus track from the deluxe edition of his third album, Lasers, repeatedly calls attention to its own artifice. Lupe telegraphs his writerly concerns by ending the first verse with the line "semi-colon, closed parentheses" and the two subsequent verses open with a reminder that they are, in fact, verses in a rap song that were composed and numbered by a strategic authorial intelligence. Any notion of a spontaneous freestyle is out the window. Lupe doesn't just want his readers listeners to know that he's beaming; he wants them to know he's a writer. And also a rider. With good energy and an inner G. And an old soul. Both Ferrari'd up and conscious too. Yeah, there's a whole lot Lupe wants us to know about him.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Rappers are not generally known for being shy or soft-spoken. Plus there's the whole revenge of the underdog thing. Lupe's song is getting his Kool Moe Dee on, asking the people who doubted him "How Ya Like Me Now?" He's having a Biz Markie moment, watching fools catch the vapors and reflecting smugly: "Damn it feels good to see people up on it." It's a common trope of rap songs, but that would be too simple for Lupe Fiasco. "Beaming" also examines and attempts to reconcile the apparent contradictions in Fiasco's persona. "You see I hood a lot, and yeah I nerd some/Hood's where the heart is, nerd's where the words from." Lupe appears to be perpetuating a stereotype with this line—as if writers (or nerds) don't exist in the hood—but let's not get bogged down with that, because his next line is even more interesting: "Don't represent either 'cause I merged them."

Lupe follows this up with a nifty rhetorical pivot, shifting his focus on other people from the hood, urging them to get out and see the world: "Don't come back until you're learned some." He then critiques a girl with nice hair and nails, saying she's dumb, and challenging her to "Become a top model and Sojourner too." Then comes the crossover as Lupe flips back to self-referential mode.

The final verse contains his neatest trick of all, making his solipsistic navel-gazing a universal with a reference to Homer's Odyssey. "It's never cyclops, it's never I alone," Lupe asserts, adding "I'm telling your story wherever I perform." He tells your story because he got skills like that. That's why he's beaming. If you're looking for him, he'll be "out in the bright lights right where I belong." [Drops mic.] —Rob Kenner

Stay Connected with
Complex Music
Tags: rap-lists, lyrics
blog comments powered by Disqus