Lupe Fiasco’s new music video trilogy #1234 is a brash visual commentary of the state of hip-hop music, an attack on the norms of the genre and an attempt to show the effects of those accepted norms.
The Chicago rapper’s 13-minute video raises a question that’s as old as hip-hop itself: is rap music just an expression of art or is it bad for our youth?
The music from the video are from Lupe’s album, The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1, which debuted last year, but the rapper is now releasing his visual take on the album.
The video contains three songs: “Lamborghini Angels,” “ITAL (Roses),” and “Audubon Ballroom.”
As reported by rap-up.com:
“In the 13-minute clip, directed by Alex Nazari, Lupe tackles social, political, and racial issues. Children are seen watching television as images of guns, drugs, and fast food flash across the screen…In one scene, a conservative, executive, grandmother, priest, and KKK member sit down at a conference table to meet, but it quickly turns ugly. And in the shocking conclusion, Lupe pulls up a white hood to reveal himself.”
This visual representation may be necessary for “The Food & Liquor” rapper as his lyrics often are not easily understood by the average hip-hop consumer. He’s poked fun of this in the past in his single, “Dumb It Down.” But this video is more of a direct attack on hip-hop music, as he rhymes in “ITAL (Roses)”:
“They say Lupe always rapping bout the same s–t/that’s cause they ain’t change b–ch.”
And that’s exactly what Fiasco has been trying to do for his entire career, change hip- hop music and the mindset of black America. And he has never been shy about that.
He has been especially outspoken about that this week though. This video comes right after his scathing speech to a high school graduating class as reported here on atlantablackstar.com:
” When he stood in front of 150 graduates at an event called the Mass Black Male Graduation and Transition to Manhood ceremony, Fiasco didn’t hold back in his message to the Chicago high school grads…“Congratulations, you have graduated from one of the most terrible, substandard school systems in the entire world. You have just spent the last . . . 12 years receiving one of the worst educations on earth. You are at least four, five steps behind people in other countries that are younger than you,” Fiasco said according to the Chicago Sun-Times.”
Lupe is one of my favorite rappers, I view his music as a breath of fresh air to the constant monotonous narrative of hip-hop: money, guns and girls.
And while I love the visual of this video – with the black kid watching nonsense and going to jail, and the white kid watching animal planet and CNN – I think the message is incomplete.
As someone who has been listening to explicit rap lyrics since I could remember words, I think Lupe is letting parents and community leaders off the hook. To place the blame entirely on television messages was too shallow for me.
Because I view hip-hop as an expression of the environment that the artist come from, we can’t expect art to raise children. That’s the job of parents. The video also doesn’t tell me what happened to the white kid – does he go on to be a successful young man all based on his television viewing?
And what if both kids were watching the same content, would we have similar result?
Now I’m sure that Lupe, being a pretty smart guy, intended for the story to be incomplete, either to follow up with more videos or to spark the conversation.
And if it’s the latter, then he is already putting us on the right track.