Lupe Fiasco Has The Year’s Best Verse & It’s Only 1 Line
Each year, there are a handful of raps that compete for verse of the year. Sometimes, these extraordinary lyrical displays come in the form of freestyles, like Black Thought’s unforgettable 10-minute MC master class for Funkmaster Flex, in 2017. Occasionally, an MC who has been absent for a while drops gems to show he or she has not lost a step, like Lauryn Hill did in 2021 and Andre 3000 has done time and time again. Other times, it is the substance of the verse, rather than the lyrical dexterity, that makes it special. That was the case when earlier this year, JAY-Z wrestled the prize for verse of the year from J. Cole, with his four-minute autobiography which told his life story from flipping keys to delivering major keys for DJ Khaled.
A common element in many of these cases is top verse contenders tend to be outsized. Rarely is an MC able to deliver a standout performance in only 16 bars. However, with his song “On Faux Nem,” from his outstanding Drill Music In Zion album, Lupe Fiasco has shown that 1 line can sometimes convey more than some artists will say in their entire careers. Although the song was released in June of 2022, two months prior to DJ Khaled’s “GOD DID,” which featured JAY-Z’s monster verse, with the losses of both PnB Rock and Migos’ Takeoff since then, the power and depth of substance of Lupe’s verse has only grown.
The verse, in its entirety, is “Rappers die too much.” Period.
That one line sums up not only the Hip-Hop community’s anguish over the last 2 months, but also the pain that has accompanied more than 60 other such tragic demises of MCs since 1986, beginning with Boogie Down Productions’ Scott La Rock.
As powerful and complete as Lupe’s single bar verse is, his incisive commentary does not stop there. In verse 2, he expounds on the line, rapping “Yeah, silent reflection was the first verse’s mission / I ain’t want to water it down with a whole bunch of conditions / Just give it to you raw how a ni**a really feelin’ / ‘Rappers get shot too much’ probably has a lot more precision / But that was the dеcision, and with that, I’ma stick / I don’t really support ni**as ’cause the sh*t bе making me sick / Look at what we say in this b*tch just to get rich / Shoot a ni**a right in the head, don’t even flinch.”
The themes that Lupe Fiasco is espousing on “On Faux Nem” have been the subject of great debate and widespread media coverage, since Takeoff’s life was senselessly ended. Few who have been critical of Hip-Hop’s nihilistic subject matter have truly been of the culture and even fewer have been MCs with the prominence and credibility of Lupe. And, almost none were doing so before the 1-2 gut punches of losing Takeoff and PnB Rock in such close proximity.
However, Lupe is far from moralistic in his critique of his livelihood. In his third verse, he deftly addresses the paradox that comes with being a rapper. He also turns his lens on the industry that profits from the carnage. Toward the end of the verse, he raps “I’m go**amned tired / If I say I didn’t indulge, my pants would be on go**amn fire / ‘Cause I’m a part of the problem / Sometimes the P-, sometimes the -roblem / Fame, all in the name of martyrdom / I wish that you were lying / What’s the difference between a posthumous album and a life insurance policy? / Spotify / A dollar’s worth what a dollar buy / Go monetize.”
After the events of the past 2 months, it is hard to imagine a verse that will have more resonance than verse 1 of Lupe Fiasco’s “On Faux Nem.” For months, the song has been featured on Ambrosia For Heads‘ official playlist:
#BonusBeat: AFH did a recent deep dive into the evolution of Hip-Hop content, in an episode of its What’s The Headline podcast.