Today marks the 10 year anniversary of hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco’s debut studio album Food & Liquor. This occasion has me thinking about what kind of person I was in 2006 and what kind of impact the album had on my life.
I was 17 in 2006. I was a high school junior who was starting to realize that I was different from my majority Caucasian and Hispanic classmates. I grew up in a Catholic household with white parents in a majority white area where you had to drive to the next town to purchase an album that wasn’t edited. I was born in Chicago, lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood of the city until I was 7, bounced around for a bit but landed in the west suburbs at 9 and stayed there most of my life. I remember bits and pieces of Chicago as a child. I remember the building on 47th & Woodlawn where I had my first bike stolen from underneath me. I remember having to take the stairs at my moms boyfriends apartment in Cabrini Green because the elevator didn’t work. The spoken word intro on Food & Liquor by Ayesha Jaco brought me into a world I had only seen in glances since we moved.
“Food and liquor stores rest on every corner
From 45th and State to the last standing Henry Horner
J&J’s, Harold’s chicken, good finger licking
While they sin, gin, sin sin at Rothschild and Kenwood Liquors
The winos crooked stagger
meets the high stride of the youth searching for the truth
They rebel and raise hell across alleyways and in classroom settings
They get, high off that drum bass and 20/20 rims
They rock braids, Air Force Ones and Timbs”
Food & Liquor was access to a world my mother worked hard to keep me away from. Chicago. The West side. The neighborhoods where my grandmother raised my father and uncles. The places where people looked more like me, had my type of hair and my type of lineage. I grew up 25 minutes away from the west side of Chicago that Lupe hailed from but it felt like galaxies away. The music was my connection to Lupe and his world. I found comfort in the music of someone who was black like me, who was nerdy and loved language like me.
As someone who was raised by just my mother “He Say She Say” helped me appreciate her hustle in a time when I was dealing with teenage angst and wanted to hate the world. The first verse in “Daydreamin'” is still one of my favorite verses of all time. Lupe’s enchanting and intricate description of the robot he’s commanding was my first realization of the connection between hip-hop and storytelling and my first glimpse into his lyrical genius. “Kick, Push II” is still a favorite of mine because of the diversity of the story.
“Traveling band of misfits and outcasts…..”
Everyone in the song had their own struggles but everything became ok when they got together to skate. That need for a community where you feel accepted is important and was something I longed for at 17 when the album came out.
With Food & Liquor being 10 years old today I’m reminded of the impression music can have. There are albums that just fall into your life at the right moment and Food & Liquor was that for me. This album is a part of my hip-hop foundation. It influenced me at 17 and helped lead me unto the path I’m on today.
Dedicated. To my grandmother. Peace.