Lupe Fiasco Gives Rare Performance of 'Food & Liquor' Debut Album in L.A.

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco performs at the Novo in Los Angeles on Feb. 23, 2019.

Lupe Fiasco took the stage at the Novo in Los Angeles Saturday night (Feb. 23) to give a rare performance of his Grammy-winning 2006 debut album, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor.

The freshman project is often considered a magnum opus of sorts for the Chicago emcee, who went on to release a seventh studio album, Drogas Wave, last September. Accompanied by a live band whom he described as “the best musicians money could afford,” the rapper opened the evening with a rendition of “Real” before getting more intimate with the crowd.

“I need you to remember where you were ... Wherever you were when you heard this,” Fiasco said as the opening chords of “Kick, Push” drew whoops, screams and an inundation of phone lights. “You think it means something to you? Guess what it means to me. This right here started it all.”

Throughout the evening -- which included the trumpeting of Crystal Torres, whom he featured on “Adoration of the Magi” in 2015 -- Fiasco reflected on the arc of his career and shared details of the album’s creation. Pausing to address the audience before hurtling into “I Gotcha,” he detailed how badly he’d wanted a song with the Neptunes, revealing, “Pharrell charged me so much money but this one joint alone is worth its weight in gold.”

Fiasco revisited his affinity for the legendary production duo when the band swelled into a bright and brassy instrumental of “Sunshine.” “This is a true story,” he shared. “We couldn’t afford another Neptunes beat so I was like, ‘Soundtrack, [the song’s producer] can you make a beat that kind of sounds like a Neptunes beat?”

However, it was prior to gliding into a measured yet energetic performance of “Pressure” that he addressed the album’s inspiration most directly.

“These were cries of pain from a young man who was 23 or 24 ... Most of the album was done prior to me coming into being a man, so I apologize if it sounds a little adolescent.”

Ironically enough, adolescence became a highlight of the night when Fiasco introduced 13-year-old Compton rapper who ripped through JAY-Z’s verse on “Pressure.” Above all, Fiasco had fun -- two-stepping, shimmying and cavorting around across the stage with an infectious joy. For an audience spellbound by the 13 years of memories made since the album’s debut, it was just as easy to be caught up in the rapture.