On Lupe Fiasco: Is the Music Less Important than the Message?

Written by Rizoh. Posted in Chin Check, Culture

Tagged: , ,

Published on February 04, 2011 with 12 Comments


Lupe Fiasco’s latest offering, “Words I Never Said,” has caused a massive stir lately. The song highlights several societal ills and singles out America’s response to the Gaza strip bombings as a moral failing of the Obama administration. Lupe lashed out against President Obama, saying he “ain’t do shit” about those bombings and “that’s why I ain’t vote for him.”

This quickly generated a backlash from those who disagreed with Lupe, which then generated a backlash to the backlash. With all this backlash, people will soon forget what they were lashing at to begin with.

The song itself is boring. The hook puts me to sleep and the beat is laughably bland. And while the message is crucial, Lupe isn’t exactly spitting revolutionary lyrics here. We’re not talking words powerful enough to emancipate Egypt or anything. Lupe is a smart rapper and he’s made better songs with equally compelling production in the past. In fact, I liked this song better when it was called “American Terrorist.” On the list of rappers I’d single out for random criticism, he doesn’t even begin to register. This isn’t about that.

This is about people keep acting like “Words I Never Said” is groundbreaking strictly because it has a “message.” I hear people saying that music is terrible but that Lupe is changing the game because of his lyrics. Does the message automatically excuse the song quality?


In art, the package is always as important as the present. Music and message don’t have to be mutually exclusive.



Rizoh is the most powerful man in all the lands. He lives in Houston where he earned a BS in Nerf Herding. He's the founder of The Rap Up, the former editor of Roc4Life.com, and is in the Grammy-awaiting band Pervertable Disciples.

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There are currently 12 Comments on On Lupe Fiasco: Is the Music Less Important than the Message?. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. Damn Riz you basically said everything i was thinking about the weak ass song, Lupe a better artist than this song leads one to believe. I’m gonna go listen “American Terrorist” and hope for that old lupe to return. FNF Down.

  2. I agree with you to an extent. But I would much rather Lupe try to generate some buzz for his album by stirring up some good clean political controversy and getting some dialogue started in the the process than blatantly selling out and commercializing his music in an attempt to sell more albums.

  3. riz, that’s exactly what i’m saying. i had a conversation with someone whom i consider to be very intelligent, and they told me that they think the lyrics don’t have to be good for a song to be good. that statement in itself is utterly ridiculous. however, it goes the other way, also. you can’t have good lyrics coupled with bad music: both have to be good for the song to be good. i think what has happened with music today (all music, not just hip-hop) is that artists have been putting out subpar music for so long that people have lowered their standards. unless we raise our expectations, the subpar music will continue to be put out.

  4. Let’s just have a conversation about the way humans move through time. You can’t say that you didn’t vote for someone in 2008 because they didn’t do shit in 2010. That just doesn’t make sense.

    • I didn’t vote Nahshon in 2004 because of something he said in 2008.

  5. My problem isn’t with the line that everyone seems to have a problem with…

    I don’t think Lupe confused the timeline of the gaza strip incident and the Obama election, more-so that he was using the incident as justification for his decision not to vote for Obama to begin with. He said during the election as well that he wasn’t going to be voting. Him and Rhymefest got into an argument about it I believe.

    My problem is his pride about the fact that he doesn’t vote. I’m not the biggest Obama supporter perse, but he’s a better alternative to even the smallest chance that Palin could have been running the country. The Republicans are more Israeli friendly if anything.

    Yeah, sure I get it, democracy isn’t perfect and the American democracy has serious structural flaws…but what is Lupe changing by abstaining from voting and then bragging about it later? Might as well do your part within the existing system to help make sure the best (or least bad, if you will) candidate is in power.

    Also, why is he saying “I’m a part of the problem, the problem is I’m peaceful” and then going on to denounce Suicide Bombers. Seems to send a bit of a mixed message.

  6. I wish he made more songs like Hurt Me Soul, Daydreamin’, Sunshine and the Instrumental

  7. I have to agree, for a smart lyricist, this is very rudimentary stuff. Lupe has tackled socio-political issues before, both explicitly and implicitly, to much better effect. Then to add insult to injury, he tacks these raps onto the backing of Alex Da Kid and Skyler Grey (the most formulaic and depressing trend in rap at the moment). Talk about a mismatch of form and content. I’m a big fan of Lupe, so it pains me to say this album isn’t shaping up very well. I’m still holding out hope that the rest of the album features songs that don’t have record label fingerprints all over them.

  8. Respect to all. Look at this song as a vent. You shouldn’t even agree with him on any of the subjects. He just said he needed to say what he felt, no matter how brash or inaccurate they could possibly be. American Terrorist was crafted with emotions MANY others felt and was meant to be played on a constant. Whether you like the quality or not, IS the point. I believe he knows it is not his best song.(FYI: Some songs on the album were asked by the label, maybe not this but still) On this track, he wants you to disagree. You’re doing exactly what he wants, DEBATING, SPEAKING, VOICING your emotions and opinions.That was the goal of the song.

  9. I thought it was good musically as well i dunno why you guys are all hating.

  10. I thought it was good musically as well i dunno why you guys are all hating.

  11. I think that possibly people are over-thinking a marketing scheme from the record labels.

    While all good points were made, It’s obvious that this isn’t top-notch Lupe music. What it did do is cause a stir that Lupe hasn’t had in a while outside of the online petition and it also has people thinking. I don’t think we can say that for 80% of the radio “hits”.

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