'Liquor' Before Beer

Lupe Fiasco has been grinding on Chicago's independent hip-hop scene for more than five years, building himself as a stand-alone brand.

Lupe Fiasco has been grinding on Chicago's independent hip-hop scene for more than five years, building himself as a stand-alone brand. Now he's taking the major-label route with his Atlantic debut album, "Food & Liquor," portions of which leaked online earlier this year.

The production lineup includes Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, Three 6 Mafia and Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. Jill Scott is the sole confirmed guest artist, as Fiasco opted not to reveal details about the album beforehand.

Fiasco (born Wasalu Muhammed Jaco) was raised by a revolutionary, karate-chopping father and gourmet-chef mother. Growing up in Chicago's housing projects, Fiasco was more nerd than thug. He was a good student and refused to smoke or drink, following the strict guidelines of his Islamic religion. As a kid, he disliked hip-hop because he found the cursing offensive. Instead, he spent hours listening to jazz great Thelonious Monk's "Final Fantasy."

"My dad used to blast N.W.A., and I'd be so embarrassed I would duck down in the car," Fiasco says. That was until he found the humor in foul-mouthed favorites like gangsta rap MC Spice 1. "Spice 1 did a song called '187 Proof' that was dope to me," Fiasco says. "I liked West Coast hip-hop, but I guess that's because I was brought up on that with my dad."