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EXCLUSIVE: Lupe Fiasco talks Atlantic Records agreement

BY , October 11, 2010

Over Columbus Day weekend, Lupe Fiasco served as a lyrical master to kids participating in World Up’s Living Remix at  REDU’s Re:FORM School, a pop-up art exhibit raising awareness for education reform in the United States. In a candid interview, he discusses the inspiration he felt from the kids in our Living Remix workshop, his settlement with Atlantic Records, and the concept behind “LASERS.”

The Living Remix workshop is a live recording session that gives kids the opportunity to create a track from beat to lyrics, and for the Re:FORM School edition we brought NYC students of all ages together to develop a beat with Spazecraft, write lyrics with Lupe Fiasco, and have the track remixed by producers worldwide. Indaba software allowed people on five contents to touch the music, and Maga Bo Skyped in from Brazil to join in our epic global cipher. Here’s a bit of what Lupe had to say, you’ll have to check back for the full-fledged video interview.

World Up: What did you think of World Up’s Living Remix workshop and its interactive global format?

Lupe Fiasco: The Living Remix involves taking everything in its simplest format and letting [the kids] do it. So, they put their life into in every aspect of the track or song: the way they want to record it, the style they want to record it in, even the voice they want to record it in, and the sound effects they want to use.

Then, to give that [track] to the world so it’s constantly growing, so it’s not just “stop and that’s it and that’s all we’re going to do.” It like “nah, let’s send it to Brazil, let these dues put their take on it, then send it to India, let these dues put their take on it, now send it back and let us take what they said, and we’re going change this little bit, and send it back to Brazil.” So it’s never a finished product, it’s always a work in process, like human life is always a work in process.

WU: How did working with the kids in World Up’s Living Remix fuel you as an artist?

LF: To see kids doing something that they love, as you can tell, they were home doing this, this ain’t their first time coming into a place and rapping, or putting a beat together, or singing, or writing hooks or choruses. To see them do something that I do professionally, I was in their shoes at one point. To see them at the level that they were at, I’m instantly just like this dude is nicer than me right now, she’s better than me, I don’t even know how to write hooks, she got all that all day long. It’s just inspiring to see that the generation that’s coming to take my place is dope.

WU: It seems there will be a victory march instead of a protest this Friday. Can you tell me about the resolution that was reached between you and Atlantic Records.

LF: We had a difference of creative opinion, difference of business direction, so we reconciled it all out.  Everybody got to say what they wanted, and we had a good meeting about it. Everything is fine, we are walking hand and hand into the sunset. We got the album released because of the fans, marches, petitions and protests, and everything. The people worked, they listened, they heard.

WU: What statement does this resolution send to other artists (possibly Nas), record labels, and fans about the current state of the music industry?

LF: The power is in the people, where it’s always been. Stay true to your fans, the people who support you and pay the tickets to come to your shows. I buy the clothes that I have on with the money I get from people watching me perform, it’s that direct of a connection. Respect that relationship and there’s no telling what they’ll do for you when you need that support. Stay true to your fans.

WU: How has social media and global technology, like we used in World Up’s Living Remix workshop, affected your ability to reconcile with Atlantic Records to get “Lasers” a release date?

LF: It started on social media. It was all these different kids from all over the world connected into these one or two forums or blogs that everybody frequented. That’s where they kind of organized it, and you could see it in real time. They got a checklist of things that need to take care of, who’s going to get the vans, who’s going to get the permits who’s going to write the press release, who’s going to do “da, da, da,” and check it off. So, it’s like a real-time collective growing social activity, which is dope.

You had it in the past with a conference call. When you had to actually come down and have a meeting or at the church or wherever people met. With this one you get kids from all over the world. So even if you had a small community of kids and fans in one place and that’s where all your fans was, imagine now you got access to those little pockets in every country in every state in every town in the world. It’s dope.

WU: Child Rebel Soldiers dropped a single yesterday, what else can we expect from CRS moving forward?

LF: Child Rebel Soldier is myself, Kanye West, and Pharrell Williams. We released a song yesterday called “Don’t Stop!”  We’ll see what happens, it all depends what the response is from the world. We all have our own separate successful careers and different capacities. There really has to be a strong demand from the world for us to come and do it.  For us, it’s kinda like a pet project.

WU:  Is a collaboration with Jay Electronica still in the works?

LF: Um, everything is constantly still in the works. I’ll put it like that, everything is constantly still in the works.

WU: No closed doors on that one?

LF: No.

WU: Is “LASERS” your third and final album? Is Lupe Fiasco retiring?

LF: No. One day I’ll retire. Not after “LASERS.”

WU: Can you talk about the concept for Lasers and how it may function schematically with ‘Food and Liquor’ and ‘The Cool’?

LF: That’s deep. That’s a deep heavy question. To get the gist of “LASERS” is really simple, we have a website called WeAreNotLosers.com, and “LASERS” stems from a manifesto that we wrote. The manifesto is basically all the changes and things that we want to see in the world.  Things we aspire, to whether it’s choosing substance over popularity, making the declaration that we will have respect for our minds, things of that nature. The album stems from that. We did the manifesto first, and then the album. It will bring you up to speed on what “LASERS” is all about, what the album is going to be.

That’s all for now, but way more coverage of World Up’s Living Remix workshop with Lupe Fiasco at Re:FORM School to come! Check back for pics, video and more insider interviews!

Follow Valerie on Twitter @lycheemamba

*Interview content lightly edited for clarity.

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