Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1088

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Lupe Fiasco: Somerset House, London - Monday 14th July 2008

Lupe Fiasco
Lupe Fiasco

Hip-Hop seems to have come of age in 2008. Live performances I have seen this year have included grandiose and classy sets, lyrical intelligence, punchy social commentary and this, all fused with raw rock riffs and electro-beats and mellow soulful tunes.

On a pleasant cool summer evening in the neoclassical setting of Somerset House, Lupe Fiasco managed to add another layer to this already rich mix in the form of passion bordering on evangelical fervour that has not been seen in hip-hop since the days of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”.

The show commenced unexpectedly 15 minutes late and consequently, a small ripple of slow hand-clapping was heard. However that did not sour the mood of an expectant crowd who started chanting “Lupe, Lupe” just prior to the start. The band came on stage and then Lupe, in an extremely sharp suit and waistcoat, made his entrance. Launching into “The Instrumental” – a track infused for the live show with some glorious rock bass-lines, he set about delivering the angst ridden lyrics with amazing energy, urging the crowd to make some “Motherf***ing noise”.

The laid back beat of Kick Push backed by rich brass and string chords and swirling cascading melodies invoked an urban tale with touch of romance tinged with a sense of pointlessness : the story of two young people –skaters - being endlessly moved on by authorities and having no where to go. Then, as if straight out of the Jay-Z school of performing Lupe lightened the mood with something for the ladies with the chilled dreamy sounding 'Sunshine'. As day turned into the stage lit up to some quite dazzling primary colour displays. In-between numbers there were a few too many short pauses where the band would play allowed some background jazz while Lupe spoke although this did allow for the audience to catch their breath after the more intense sections of the show.

The towering edgy raw vocals of punkily-styled backing vocalist Sarah Green proved to be a revelation as the set reverted back to urban social commentary with the family drama of 'He Say, She Says' and the subliminal political messages 'Daydreamin'. 'The Cool', was delivered by Lupe with almost religious zeal that electrified the atmosphere as Lupe and his vocalists roamed the stage making direct eye contact and totally engaging with the audience.

Unsettling soaring synth and dark lyrics took over on tracks such as 'Streets on Fire' as we entered that part of the show mainly showcasing tracks from 2007 album 'The Cool'. 'Dumb it Down' that mixes interesting lyrics and schismatic thoughts on hip-hop with ominous sounding electro-beats.

Lupe mused about how his first experiences in London had been tough but now he found London “not so scary” and in fact “kinda warm and beautiful”. This provided a convenient link into the aptly named 'Superstar' whose grand finale saw stunning lighting and all 3 singers dramatically crash to the floor at the end in a theatrical display. This was a 5 star performance from an artist at the cutting edge of american hip-hop.

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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