Lupe Fiasco has no filter. It’s pretty damn refreshing in an industry bursting at the seams with image-conscious rappers and manufactured pop divas. A practicing Muslim, he’s called President Obama “a terrorist,” does not vote in U.S. elections, was a regular fixture at Occupy Wall Street, and had an infamous on-air tussle with the irascible Bill O’Reilly.
The artist formerly known as Wasalu Muhammad Jaco sat down with The Daily Beast for an in-depth interview to promote his new album, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1. Released on Sept. 25, it’s his fourth studio LP and an anticipated follow-up to last year’s Lasers, which made its debut at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. Pt. II, meanwhile, will see the light of day in early 2013.
Food & Liquor II is equal parts searing indictment of American politics, urban history lesson, and demystification of hip-hop culture. On the standout track “Lamborghini Angels,” the rapper riffs on everything from MK-Ultra programming and pedophilia in the Catholic Church to human-rights abuses during the war in Afghanistan.
“This is Lupe’s history,” he says with a grin. “It came from America. Howard Zinn is definitely the inspiration for it. Zinn was the person who gave you an alternative view of American history, and people beat the shit out of him for it. It took decades for people to grasp it.”
Born a Sunni Muslim, Lupe says he fully embraced Islam when his cousin, who had just converted, moved in with the family when he was 13.
“I’ve always felt I’m going to be Muslim till the day I die because I fully understand it and have never wanted to be anything else,” he says.
The subject eventually turns to Innocence of Muslims, the incendiary, anti-Islam amateur film that’s helped fuel rioting in the Middle East. Says Lupe: “They should fight for the dude’s right to make that movie. Unfortunately, we also live in a world with everyone else. America is not its own planet. You can say whatever you want, but have some class.” He adds, “It’s a provocation, but I think that at the same time, the Muslim world is taking it a little too seriously. If you want to battle and protest against it, this is the opportunity to talk about all the great things the Prophet Muhammad has done and the ways he’s inspired people.”