EXCLUSIVE: Unlocking Fiascogate
By: Linda Hobbs
POSTED: 17:50 EST, October 9, 2007
After screwing up his rhymes during a tribute to A Tribe Called Quest on VH1’s Hip Hop Honors awards show on Sunday, rap star Lupe Fiasco has quickly become a blogger’s whipping boy in a drama now referred to as “Fiascogate,” with new allegations from Q-Tip that Lupe was never asked by him to perform at the VH1 ceremony at all.
The 25-year-old rapper claimed Q-Tip personally asked him to perform “Electric Relaxation,” off 1993’s Midnight Marauders, an album critics and rap heads alike have called Tribe’s best effort. But Lupe, an artist with a predilection for positivity, shot himself in the foot when he flubbed the lyrics to Phife’s verse.
The screw-up fell in line in the great tradition of award show lyrical bloopers, from Kid Rock’s flub during a cameo performance of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” at the 2004 BET Awards, to Nas butchering a Tupac song during his tribute performance to the slain rapper at 2005’s Hip Hop Honors. But unlike these fumbles, Lupe’s mistake resulted in blog crucifixion – Fiascogate.
The day after the show, Eskay of the popular hip hop blog Nahright left the rapper a rebuke: “Lupe, I fucks with you my dude, but you were wrong here,” he wrote. “I think you should take a close look at how this whole situation played out and what went wrong and use it as a learning experience. To me, it’s unacceptable that any professional rapper could have never heard Midnight Marauders. Particularly one whose work is so Tribe-esque.”
But Lupe never hid the fact he missed out on the early-90’s Marauders mania, something he revealed on the nouveau soul hip-hop site, Okayplayer way before his current backlash. And though he was asked to pay tribute, he ironically never expressed open interest in Tribe, who were a part of the late ’80s / early ’90s collective Native Tongues Posse, which brought whimsical and so-called righteous hip-hop to the mainstream.
Lupe wasted no time addressing the VH1 mishap on Okayplayer. Under the screen name FNF Up Up And Away, he causticly wrote in all caps concerning the performance, “When it was initially offered to me, I turned it down because I felt it was out of place for me to be honoring them because while I was fully aware of their impact in hip-hop, I wasn’t really aware of their music like that . . . but guess who wanted me to be apart of it . . . hmmmm . . . how about . . . Q-Tip!!! . . .”
But according to Q-Tip, that wasn’t the case. On the gossip blog of Miss Info, Q-Tip was reported as saying, “I’m not trying to make this any bigger than it is. But I just want to clear up one thing. . . We never hunted him down and begged him to be a part of the show or anything like that. His name was pitched to us by VH1, and we said, ok cool. The only time I spoke to Lupe about the Hip Hop Honors performance was on a conference call, which we did with the other artists too, like Busta and Common, to plan the performance.”
The legendary rapper and DJ added: “When VH1 brought his name up, based on what he had said about us before, I thought it was ironic and it kind of humored me. All that stuff he said about never listening to a Tribe album before and having no interest in doing so, it doesn’t make sense to me.”
In the past, Roots drummer Questlove has criticized Lupe for never having heard Marauders. Most recently, Phonte of the group Little Brother gleefully added fuel to the fire. “You fuckin up, my nig. Straight up and down,” Phonte posted on an Okayplayer message board. “What’s even more amazing is the same cats on this site defending your arrogance and ignorance on this topic . . .you forgetting the lyrics to a classic song from a classic group on national television while paying tribute to them, the 2nd plane has officially hit the tower.”
Lupe aired out his grievances exclusively to VIBE concerning the backlash to the revelation that he missed out on Marauders. “[Tribe] didn’t sell 10 million records, so why would people think they had a blanket on the world like that? MC Hammer was way more popular to me than Tribe Called Quest.”
It’s all about hip hop vanity, Lupe explains. “Because there’s kids in Harlem who right now would never ever listen to Midnight Marauders, I don’t give a fuck what you do, they’ll never listen to Q-Tip and they want to be rappers and they want to talk about positive things. So why would you shoot them down?”
His voice rises. “It’s like, ‘Oh, you ain’t never listened to Midnight Marauders? You ain’t expanding your horizons? Oh, you ain’t real’ cause they did that shit to me! ‘Oh Lupe, that’s fucked up man, I don’t fuck with you now, I’m not buying your next album’ and be dead serious! It made me feel like, ‘You dirty bastards. Like how dare you.'”
Overall, the rapper appears to be more hurt than furious from the blog butchering. And he claims he’ll still “never” listen to Midnight Marauders, though he’s criticized for denying the fact that groups like Tribe opened doors for the lyrically-PG, happy-go-lucky form of rap he’s known for. But no matter how you look at it, Lupe’s refusal to throw on some headphones and pop in the album isn’t about Midnight Marauders, or lack of interest at all: it’s about defiance.
And his power comes from being unapologetic to critics. “Those hip hop elitists who think [Tribe] hold the crown and the copyright to hip hop,” he says. “I listen to 8Ball & MJG and I think they’re better than you [Tribe].”