It’s hard to do even in normal prose, but hip hop artist Lupe Fiasco shows his genius by astutely commenting on the moral dissolution and abject consumerism prevalent in our global culture. There is just so much content in this work that I can only comment on several but I beg you to read through the lyrics and if there are any references or lines that you might not understand, click on that line and explanations will pop up!

Okay so this is what I gather from Lupe’s profound masterpiece. Firstly, it seems that people have reached rock bottom, morally at least. Secondly, we have gotten here as a collective, all of us contributing to the perpetuation of our wilful ignorance and discrimination. 

If you ain’t know, you’re part and parcel of the problem
You say no you ain’t, and I say yes you is
Soon as you find out what planned obsolescence is

Planned obsolescence is, in simple terms, what happens when these big electronic companies design and create products that are meant to last only for a short and limited period of time. Even worse is perceived obsolescence: when companies unveil an even better and shinier product soon after its previous one which convinces consumers that they ought to get an upgrade. What Lupe posits here is that wittingly or unwittingly, we are part of this grand consumerism that is slowly eroding our morals (A Michael Jackson jacket or a daft mask/Purple Jordans or the mixed girl in your math class) and the environment. Our obsession with celebrity and the glamour it entails persuades us to go to great lengths to prove our superficiality by stealing, lying or even killing to get the latest Jordans or to fight barbarically for the sweaty towel thrown offstage by the King of Pop. This is surely a poignant reminder for us to reassess our priorities and understand that we practise hypocrisy at its finest when we protest poverty and environmental abuse when we ourselves participate in morally and environmentally damaging consumerism companies fool us with.

Suicide bombers and prosperity gospels, emaciated models
With cocaine and blood pouring out their nostrils, they got to
Just to stay awake on the catwalk of life where everybody watch you
Straight hair, high heels and a handbag
Crucifixes, racism and a land grab

Just the first two lines are enough but read the whole thing to get the impact. Essentially, no brand of radicalism is better than another. He juxtaposes the dirty, mass-murdering stigma we associate with Muslim extremism with the clean-cut, finer church setting where prosperity gospels are preacher. Now, I am a christian myself but I agree with this totally. A plane crashing into two buildings and killing hundreds is just as disgusting as greedy, immoral conmen posing as pastors to rob the naive in the name of religion. Both result in deaths; one corporeal and the other moral. The phrase ‘emaciated models’ that follows suggest that these two forms of radicalism are in fact mere skeletons and shadows of what was originally full, healthy religion that was abused by the minority to abuse the majority.

Really, there are so many more references to current world issues like the situation in Iraq or racial discrimination and marginalisation in this song for all to discover and explore. Lupe is a dying breed of rappers and I implore all of you to read and fully understand the depth of this song which exposes the morally disgusting and intellectually base sides of Man and brings awareness to so many socially damaging issues we need to know about to effect change. 

P.S. not all rap is about booty and dope.

Read more: Lupe Fiasco – Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free) Lyrics | MetroLyrics