Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco has set a June 27 release date for his debut album, "Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor," which will be issued by Atlantic and his production company 1st & 15th. The set is co-executive produced by Def Jam president Jay-Z and features production by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. Pharrell Williams and Kanye West are also expected to contribute.
Lupe, 24, a practicing Muslim, says the album's title represents the constant tug of war between good (food) and evil (liquor). "My mixtapes cover a lot of ground, and the album is based on that, but it's a little more in-depth and lyrical," the rapper tells Billboard.com. "It's less of me trying to showcase my skills as an emcee and more about where I come from and really touching on issues I feel are valid."
The first single, "Kick, Push," is an ode to skating, but Lupe insists that his nerd image is not a gimmick. "It's not deliberate -- that's really me," he says. "If you look at what I do on a daily basis, you'd be like, 'Wow, he's a nerd.' About two or three years ago, my music was more street but it just played itself out. As you grow up, you start settling back to what you do normally so now the music I make is based on what I do on a regular basis."
When he was 19, Lupe's group Da Pak disbanded despite signing with Epic and releasing a first single. In 2002, he caught the interest of Jay-Z, who had hoped to ink the young rapper to his Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam imprint, but the deal later dissolved.
Lupe, along with Mike Jones and Lil Wayne, are now the latest rap artists (Jay-Z, Nelly, 50 Cent) to join Reebok's "I Am What I Am" campaign. The three have also partnered with Reebok to release the O.G. footwear collection.
A self-proclaimed sneaker buff, Lupe has already penetrated the design world, working closely with overseas designers like Edison Chen in Hong Kong and the London-based Maharishi. "Reebok gave me freedom and they gave me a chance to really do something big," says Lupe. "They look at me as a designer with links to streetwear and the sneaker world and they hope I can do some things to help in those areas. It's definitely a boost for more exposure because I have billboards all over Chicago and all over the nation."