Fifteen years ago today Lupe Fiasco burst onto the scene with his debut studio album Food & Liquor. An album that has since aged like fine wine, and is one of the best debut albums of all time. This album would propel Lupe into the mainstream, as well as garner loads of respect from the broader Hip-Hop community.
The Intro track, Intro, is simply just that. It starts off with a woman speaking and eventually transitions to a grand instrumental. Instead of rapping over this instrumental, he prepares the listeners for what they are about to experience, talking about his ideals and plans for the album. Real is the first actual song, taking us off to an underwhelming start, as the "real" refrain could become repetitive quickly, but the dynamic instrumental with a nice guitar keeps you interested. Lupe then comes through with a strong flow and some good bars, not to mention some solid singing from Sarah Green. As the album continues though, Lupe becomes more impressive after every song.
Just Might Be OK features a grand and important sounding instrumental that keeps your attention throughout the track, which is the case for nearly every song on the album. Lupe has a great rhyme scheme on this song as well as some solid lyricism throughout. Gemini has good range and uses it to deliver a very well sung hook. Kick, Push has some of the best storytelling on a Hip-Hop track to this day. The instrumental is again grand, bubbly and very progressive throughout. Lupe is energetic the whole time from his simple but fun chorus to telling his story of learning how to skateboard in his verses. He continues to rap about getting better at skating, finding love and gaining confidence through it, to how he feels he truly experiences freedom while skateboarding, with the recurrence of having to leave places that he's not allowed to skate. This track is legendary and masterful in the grand scheme of Hip-Hop.
The instrumental on I Gotcha is more lowkey compared to that of the rest if the album, making it a fun change in pace. Lupe's flow, bars, rhyme schemes and energy are all great and it's just overall a very vibrant song. The Instrumental is more upbeat and poppy, allowing Lupe to flow energetically on it effortlessly. He sounds hungry and like he's trying to prove himself, and he certainly does. He Say She Say has a more lavish and bouncy instrumental with more top notch lyricism and storytelling from Lupe. He raps about life growing up without a father, how it affected him in school and in life dropping great, creative bars to illustrate it. Sarah Green and Gemini both contribute to a great chorus, but Lupe's hook is even better. Every time he raps it he just sounds better and better.
Sunshine features a rare moment of singing from Lupe on the chorus, and he absolutely kills it. He also delivers great verses on this song, rapping about a woman he met, how their first encounter goes and how their connection grows. Daydreamin' is yet another moment of excellence. The instrumental is luxurious, as expected, and Lupe's flow is viscous as he comes through with passion. Jill Scott's contributions to the track are stunning and tie together perfectly with the instrumental, the whole experience is entrancing. The Cool is in a word smooth, from the chorus to the instrumental, smooth. Just another amazing track on an amazing album.
Hurt Me Soul instrumental is accompanied by some of the most beautiful strings on the album. Lupe continues his lyrical light show, rapping about how he fell in love with Hip-Hop, trouble he got into as a teen, but most importantly stuff that he's seen or experienced that hurt his soul. This is another track that features a surprisingly great chorus from Lupe, proving that he can really do it all. The instrumental on Pressure is a bit more intense and high-stakes sounding than the rest of the album. Lupe is spitting for his entire verse, just bars on bars, so great to the point he outshines JAY-Z on his feature. American Terrorists' instrumental is more exotic sounding and has a strong chorus from Matthew Santos. Lupe's flow matches the instrumental to make for another fun moment on the album.
The Emperor's Soundtrack yet again has a grand and important instrumental, which Lupe absolutely kills if you haven't noticed. Another great performance from Lupe, amazing lyrics and a strong flow. Kick, Push II is a lot more grim and offsetting than the first. Lupe raps instead about all the troubles he faces and how he just wants to kick and push away from them. It is an amazing flip on a prior idea that is executed greatly. Outro is a classic long song that isn't really a song, it's just Lupe rolling the credits. A great cinematic end to an entertaining album that's just brimming with life.
Every single song on this album is composed brilliantly. The whole thing has a luxurious and climactic sound to it. The instrumentals aren't flat either, they progress and evolve to match Lupe's energy perfectly. Lupe is entertaining throughout the whole album and does a great job of making his presence felt. After a debut like this there was no denying his lyrical or rapping ability as he was just raw and truly one of the best storytellers in recent memory. Food & Liquor is cohesive as whole too, sonically all these songs fit together as well as thematically this album is like a big coming of age story for Lupe, and he makes the most of every second.