Whether the perception was accurate or not, Lupe Fiasco has by and large been viewed in many circles as an unassuming, almost docile artist. Things changed a few months ago, when the Chicago emcee was at conflict with his label and many of the very blogs that helped him gain popularity. A fan-initiated, online petition against Atlantic Records spawned “Fiasco Friday,” with Lupe’s admirers hoping to lock down a firm release date for the album, Lasers. Additionally, rumors circulated of Lupe being directly and indirectly involved in beef with various blogs over leaked tracks. Now, with Lasers slated for a March 8, 2011 release, Lupe says the key to both situations is balance.
“When it’s something that’s done illegally or maliciously, it’s different,” Fiasco said in a recent interview with Billboard. “It’s songs you don’t even have as the artist, and some dude in the middle of nowhere that hacked into a computer has it. It upsets the balance of what you want to do as an artist and how you want to roll your album out.”
A few weeks ago, while speaking to Dr. Cornel West’s class at Princeton, Lupe claimed leaked tracks cost him upwards of $8,000 each. While he didn’t put a figure on the damages with Billboard, he added that engineers can be fired and studios potentially sued for song leaks.
All seems to be well now, as Lupe and Atlantic are working to promote the latest single, “The Show Goes On.” It remains to be seen just what Fiasco and Atlantic consider success for an artist who has enjoyed critical acclaim from the outset with six Grammy nominations over the span of two albums. The critic’s praise has not always translated into commercial success, as to date, only the singles “Superstar” and “Shining Down” have reached Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
“I think I set the precedent for record labels—showed everyone that you can have rappers that don’t fit the format and still have a presence,” Fiasco added. “You look at a person like me, or Kanye [West], and it was sort of a shock to the system. I definitely think I was part of changing that, and an influence to a lot dudes that are coming out today.”