Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor vs. Common’s Like Water For Chocolate. Which Is Better?

One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?

“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.

In the 2000s, Chicago, Illinois gave its coastal competition a major run for the money. As Kanye West broke through, he set the table for a fellow dues-payer in Lupe Fiasco. After a give-and-go feature, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor played like an album that had been blueprinting for years. Meanwhile, 1990s veteran Common pivoted his career and introduced a series of albums that played with different sounds, premises, and styles. 2000’s Like Water For Chocolate was the first LP, giving Common the commercial and critical accolades at a higher level than his previous three works. Collaborators in recent years, this is a crosstown battle in the City of Wind. With some overlap, these MCs have vastly different styles in delivering their messages of hope, love, and surviving the times. Which Windy City sound do you prefer? (click one then click “vote”).


Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor

In the mid-2000s, Lupe Fiasco took the spiral that was Kanye West’s “Touch The Sky” smash single, and spiked the ball in the end-zone. A formerly shelved-then-dropped Arista Records artist, Lu’ embraced the attention with detailed plans in tow. Food & Liquor was a 2006 concept album that was pretentious in the best way possible. Lupe Fiasco was a fashion-forward MC who strove for lyrical consciousness, and a skateboarder with the 4.6 Range Rover parked outside the skate-park. However, more importantly, Lupe Fiasco was a reminder that like KRS-One or Tupac, great MCs are often big on contradiction. In telling his story and projecting his highly-stylized debut album, the MC made his influences known, with a theatrical sound-and-stage show all of his own.

Food & Liquor took lofty risks. Songs like “Daydreamin'” with Jill Scott were a detailed walk through the Chicago project houses. However, with an extensive Jazz-Soul sample, Lu’ slowed his delivery to make a Grammy Award-winning song that emphasized style and substance, where it may have lacked in flow. “Kick Push” was another Jazz-informed single that honed in on a different kind of “grind” than Hip-Hop was used to. Lupe’s delivery emulated the exercise of skating through a city, with the showmanship to make the song balanced and aggressive, without being overt. “Just Might Be Okay” was a hopefully elaborate air of change. Here, Fiasco’s razor sharp delivery cut into a Soul track, with care, compelling content, and confidence. Although album executive producer Jay Z appeared as a guest (“Pressure”), as did producers Kanye and The Neptunes, Lupe’s 1st & 15th family made profile obsolete. A Grammy-nominated debut, the album bloomed in the face of label delays, bootlegging, and grassroots campaigns to make radio take note. Lupe Fiasco’s debut followed the ‘Ye playbook for underdogs to the tee. The MC could compete with the reigning stars, and make distinct music that meshed beside them in a playlist. Carrera Lu’ bridged the gap between Jay and Mos Def, and was a pivotal figure in Chicago’s mid-2000s Rap renaissance. This album would not only define Wassalu Jaco’s greatest strengths, it arguably set the table for Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Kid Cudi. Food & Liquor both satisfied and intoxicated, and presented a different kind of Hip-Hop hero.

Album Number: 1
Released: September 19, 2006
Label: 1st & 15th/Atlantic Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #8
Song Guests: Jay Z, Gemstones, Jill Scott, Matthew Santos, Jonah Mantraga, Sarah Green
Song Producers: Kanye West, The Neptunes (Pharrell & Chad Hugo), Craig Kallman, Soundtrakk, Needlz, Prolyfic, Chris & Drop


Like Water For Chocolate by Common

Like De La Soul’s Stakes Is High (which featured Common), Like Water For Chocolate represented an artistic pivot for Common. Stepping away from mentor/producer No I.D., Common found the mainstream success that evaded him on the first three albums, despite vast Hip-Hop credentials. Now a full-on MCA Records act, Comm’ Sense relocated to the East Coast and embraced his ties to The Roots and D’Angelo, for an album bolstered by the role of The Soulquarians. The appearances Rashid had given Rawkus Records projects and the like in the late ’90s helped him hit a pocket that was brilliantly introspective, sensitive, and yet commanding on the microphone. More than his previous works, Common knew how to bring his mental strengths to an album that had knocking beats, and an offering that showed the mainstream the greatness submerged beneath radio and video.

Common raised the bar in singles like “The Light.” The J Dilla-produced moment made the Rap serenade cool, as the MC took chances in courting a lover, over a massaged Bobby Caldwell moment. However, Common refused to be taken as a soft rapper. Songs like “The 6th Sense” played the deeply-introspective lyricist against the Gang Starr sound. There, he hurdled over DJ Premier’s chops as exceptionally as Guru, Nas, or Jeru The Damaja. The album carried with it songs akin to those Common had made since Resurrection (“Dooinit” and “Payback Is A Grandmother”), but somehow with a more knocking sound. As The Roots were getting Grammy nods, and Neo-Soul and the Okay Players were booming, Common blended in brilliantly by association. Like Water For Chocolate was Common rising to the occasion. Still in the long night after the death of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G., the gold-certified album was the suggestion that perhaps Hip-Hop’s next leader need not be a thug, a gangsta, or a polarizing figure. Not without his own on-album controversies (“A Song For Assata”), Common made the album his well-heeled peers would later admit they wished they could. Before the Oscar, Golden Globe, or the multiple Grammy’s, Like Water For Chocolate was Common’s first major pivot, demanding a bigger stage than the Underground had previously allowed.

Album Number: 4
Released: March 28, 2000
Label: MCA Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #16 (certified gold, August 2000)
Song Guests: Mos Def, D’Angelo, Cee-Lo, Slum Village (T3, Elzhi & J Dilla), MC Lyte, Bilal, Jill Scott, Vinia Mojica, Femi Kuti, Roy Hargrove, Lonnie Lynn
Song Producers: The Soulquarians (J Dilla, Questlove, James Poyser, D’Angelo), J Dilla, The Roots, Kelo, James Poyser, Karriem Riggins, DJ Premier

So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.

Related: Finding The GOAT: The Albums