Ahh, the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors show. Overall great, but the many comments about Lupe Fiasco’s slip up while performing on the show is becoming ridiculous. For those who do not know, yes, Lupe forgot a piece of the lyrics to Electric Relaxation , a classic A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) track from the early 90’s. Yes, he took defense to many comments, yes, there has been a bunch of he-say-she-say, and yes fans and various hip-hop websites have been trying to execute him since.
First things first, I do not write this to take sides with anyone. I have a genuine respect for both A Tribe Called Quest and Lupe. My intent is to look at this situation from all angles and possibly play the Devil’s Advocate. The bottom line is Lupe had what some consider a small mess-up during his set. Again, he forgot a small portion of the lyrics from Electric Relaxation while honoring the group on VH1 this past October 8, 2007.
Performing another artists’ track I can relate to. I performed Method Man’s Bring The Pain back in August at a show put on at Sonar in Baltimore. Though the show was not at the level of a VH1 show, I took the time to rehearse the lyrics alone for 3 weeks straight to get down the energy and presence as if Method Man himself was spitting the verses. After that, I spent several days getting Meth’s trademarked movements down from the Bring The Pain video. All this to say, as an artist who considers himself a professional, when you sign on to perform a legendary track by a legendary artist, you should immerse yourself into that song and show it much respect.
However, mistakes can happen, I honestly do not remember slipping up when performing Meth’s track but of course, I slipped up a bit rehearsing it. At the level of a VH1 show, nervousness definitely can kick in and depending on the artist’s level of comfortability, various things can happen. I have seen artists forget all the words to a song, some of the words and others have walked off the stage. Once again, it is about professionalism and being comfortable before you step on the stage. Not only that, but knowing how to cover up mistakes so that the audience thinks it is apart of the show; but that was not possible in this situation.
In this case, taking the time to memorize the Electric Relaxation lyrics to a 100% confidence level would have been a good idea. Did Lupe rehearse? For a show like this, I am positive he did. Various articles state that he did. Did he rehearse outside of the VH1 scheduled sets? I do not know. Did he print out the lyrics and read them? This I also do not know. Did he simply get nervous? Possibly. Lupe is an artist with more demands now so he might have got the call late and didn’t have much time to rehearse. Who knows…?
Many have made comments that Lupe had no respect for the song or ATCQ. One point made was that when he messed up he laughed it off as if it was his own song, this I find interesting. That is one angle, another angle is that many people laugh when they make a mistake or get nervous, others shiver, some tremble. If he laughed it off just to say “fuck it, I fucked up” then I would say he deserves the bashing, but if he was trying to cover up his nervousness, give him a break. The fact that he kept the energy up and “picked up his fumble” as Okayplayer.com states should give him some of his “Cool” points back.
Moving on, after many comments, posts on YouTube, Lupe moves to the defense. He states on Okayplayer.com:
“So I've explained this to a lot of people...let me name drop a few:
#1 Fab 5 Freddy
#2 Q-TIP!!!!...THAT'S RIGHT THE LEADER OF THE GROUP HIMSELF!!!
"I DID NOT GROW UP ON ATCQ!!!..."
THE LITTLE GHETTO KID FROM THE MEAN STREETS OF THE WESTSIDE OF CHICAGO GREW UP ON SPICE 1, 8-BALL & MJG, NWA AND SNOOP DOGG...
WASNT A BACKPACKER RAP ENTHUSIAST!!!...I NEVER CLAIMED TO BE...I GREW UP ON GANGSTA RAP!!!
HAVE I LISTENED TO MM IN ITS ENTIRETY?...NO!!!...(Sorry Quest)...
GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSES AND YOUR SACRED COWS...SOME OF YA'LL MAKE ME SICK...
AND FYI 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 WASNT REALLY AWARE OF THEIR MUSIC LIKE THAT...BUT GUESS WHO
WANTED ME TO BE APART OF IT....HMMMM...HOW ABOUT...Q-TIP!!!...
SO NOW ARE YOU GOING TO HATE ON "ATCQ" BECAUSE THEY WANTED SOMEBODY WHO DIDNT REALLY KNOW THERE MUSIC TO HONOR THEM BY COVERING SOME OF THEIR MUSIC?...THINK ON THAT OKP'S
P.S. I FORGET THE WORDS TO SOME OF MY OWN SONGS ON STAGE...HEY IT HAPPENS...”
No matter how bad the slip up was, if I were Lupe I would not have released this response. The fact that he did not grow up listening to ATCQ really does not make a difference. I can see how to many people this is just an excuse. When I was selected to perform a legendary throwback track, as stated, I immersed myself into the song and I think Lupe should have done the same. I have listened to many of the same artists he listed and I am on the East Coast, specifically Maryland where we get most of the new shit when its six months or more dated to everyone else.
Again, this article is not to take sides nor judge Lupe as an artist. I own a copy of Food & Liquor and I think it is a hot album. I think his next joint will be hot. I think he is still deserving of respect. Would I pick him to do the lyrics on another throwback show? After his statements, I would not unless he validates that he has followed the artist to some degree as well as having the time to rehearse. C’mon, those of us who claim we are huge hip-hop heads cannot remember every single lyric from every single track over the past decade or more. Stop fronting. To this, I will join with Lupe and reiterate, get off your high horses. At times, we all need a refresher.
Now, the issue on whether Q-tip begged Lupe to do the set or vice versa, put your nuts back in your draws. I do not care who did what in regards to this matter, it sounds like a case of d*ck riding via huge ego’s and I wont cater to it. I am sure a hip-hop committee at VH1 sat down and analyzed ATCQ’s persona as well as artists of today to see who could fit the ATCQ mold for the show, shot out the list to ATCQ in which ATCQ responded with a “ye” or “ne,” then VH1 worked their way through the list. Clearly, Lupe was at or near the top. I am sure it was not just Lupe and no other artists. My thing is, if Lupe in fact turned down the job, why wasn’t someone else chosen on the list? I am SURE that it had to be a plan B and C on this list, right? If not, where was the contingency planning? Maybe there was some begging involved. Arsenio moment.. “hmmmm?”
In regards to the fans and critics, whether you agree with what I have written or not, come off it. Judge the show and move on. Do not reach deeper into a ridiculous issue. Looking at it from ATCQ’s eyes I would have been briefly disappointed with what happened but 10 seconds out of one of a few songs featured is not going to spoil my night, week or relationship with a respectable artist.
We all make mistakes, put your pride down and be more thorough! Do not get too comfortable, too cocky and depending on the occasion do not be quick to take offense or defense. Stop making excuses and improve. Close curtains.