Rapper Lupe Fiasco may be known for his contributions to the biggest musical genre of the 21st century than his passion for martial arts, but the award-winning star is more than just good at rhyming – and you’ll be seeing it first hand in Beat N Path, a new KIX HD show featuring Lupe going on an epic cross-cultural journey across China. The series, which sees him not only seeking out the guidance of the kung-fu masters of China but also exploring China’s exploding hip-hop scene, is definitely one of the most entertaining shows out there right now, and if you’re a fan of rap, you owe it to yourself to check this out!
KIX HD recently let us pick the mind of this rap legend, and without further adue, we give you – Lupe Fiasco!
How has this whole experience in China opened your eyes in terms of music culture and also studying martial arts, particularly Kung Fu in the land where it was created?
Ummm, so, you know, China always has been, for at least an American, the opposite of America in our minds, you know, it’s just so foreign, and the culture shock there, can be… It can be unsettling for some people, for me specifically because I felt it was like an adventure, it was like an undiscovered place for me, and with music when I go around the world, that’s the first thing I try. It connects me with the culture, even if there’s a language barrier, I still try and connect all the things I have in common, and the things I have in common with mostly everywhere is music, specifically hip hop.
But it was kind of easy, you know, all rappers speak the same language all around the world, so immediately I kind of started to connect with it and get a better understanding from the music side and through that I started to discover that a lot of the stuff that we were sure was so opposite was actually very similar. We talk about similar things, we go through similar situations, some of the wants and needs, so even though I still couldn’t understand the language totally, I got a greater idea of the context through the music side of things and also got an understanding of how the music business and how the music culture, specifically hip hop is used and practiced in China.
On another side, the martial arts side, I have been involved in martial arts my whole life. I’ve been doing martial arts since I was a kid, specifically karate first, and then branched out into all different forms, and eventually landed on Chinese Wushu.About the time I was 3 years old up till I was like 15 or 16, my father was a martial arts teacher, he was also a martial arts master. he would always tell his students, if they had the opportunity to go back and study the art that you were teaching that here like Chicago, they get a chance to go back to Asia, or go back to wherever if it’s India, or if it’s Thailand, Muay Thai or whatever, if you get the opportunity to go, go.
So part of it was me fulfilling my father’s wishes, and then getting there and like training and practice, it was really familiar. A lot of the training regiment, techniques and other stuff were things that I had either done in the States, or just things that just felt really familiar. I think when you see this show, you’ll see a lot of moments where that familiarity kind of comes across, you’d recognize like wow I trained in a place like this before, the pain that you feel from standing in the stands all day is the same pain that I felt when I was 12 or 11.
What sparked your interest in martial arts, was it because of self defense purposes or because you just took a liking to it?
It’s my father’s fault. He started to study martial arts when he was like about 14 from what I understand from the legend, and he went on to study it his entire life, and it was actually our family business. So we had martial arts schools all across the city of Chicago, Illinois in the United States.
And he would just open up karate schools. So we were born into a kind of the martial arts tradition teaching at the karate school, we would have class maybe like three times a week so literally like half of my life was spent inside a karate dojo or something like that, so it was something I always born into whether I liked it or not, it wasn’t a choice, it was like this was something you are going to do, right after school you go to karate school or karate practice. And so it’s really one of those things you were born to do – born into, your entire family were involved in it if your father’s a martial arts expert and it’s just something you can’t really escape.
The only reason I actually stopped practicing on a daily basis is because I discovered hip hop, I started to rap. And rap kind of became the thing I became more and more interested in and it kind of took up all of my time so… Those two things in my life, are kind of represented in this show to the fullest, the martial arts side which is my early life, and the music side which is what I’m doing now.
How did the name come about? Beat N Path. It’s kind of perfect, but how did this name come about?
Umm, we were sitting down with my business partner, talking, and it might be something I think it was me and her going back and forth thinking about titles, and we had all kinds of crazy titles, about different things and it was just like we were thinking about it was a journey, and there was a rhythm to it.
So it was like, “Rhythm and Journey”? And we were like no no no it’s more like “Beat and Path”. And it’s funny because it isn’t like a new thing for me, this isn’t like a new experience, it’s not something like I have no relationship to or no prior understanding, so it’s not like a new thing – it’s new that I’m learning it in China and going to the different countries where it started – so it wasn’t like an unbeaten path, it wasn’t like something that I’ve never tried before, it’s more like I’m going back, down the road from which I came, so it became the path has already been “beaten” probably.
But then, funny note – which I have to kind of like admit, I have a friend, who’s actually a musician which I work with all the time, she’s on all of my albums, and her husband who is actually my DJ, who actually I go on the road and tour with, were promoting a show and I and (can’t hear) don’t you remember that Mickey J had a show called “Beat and Path”? And I’m like did I unconsciously take the name of show? She was fine – that wasn’t the case but she was fine with it anyway, so yeah!
Do you have any plans to collaborate with any Asian rappers and is there anyone you’d like to give a shoutout to?
So hopefully, hopefully, this season of Beat N Path we did it in China, so we focused everything in China, but the plans are to go to Japan, to come to Southeast Asia, to go through all martial arts world starting in and around Asia, and doing the same kind of thing, like going in with a real true and honest appreciation and wanting to gain an understanding of how the hip hop scene there works, and through that process we will meet tons of people. So even when we just came down, this was in Kuala Lumpur, doing promotion for the show, and I met Joe Flizzow who’s a big artist down there I met down there, and through them, they become the ambassadors to the scene, so through them I meet these guys and we set up some concerts and a couple of other things. I’m sure we’ll replicate that process wherever we go and before we go into a country, that’s one of the first and foremost thing – who is the person that’s going to introduce us and collaborate with us on the music side, so super excited about doing that in Thailand, and hopefully in Vietnam, and all these different places we plan to visit for these upcoming seasons of Beat N Path. But yeah shoutout to Joe Flizzow, he’s a real good guy, hope we can collaborate on some stuff soon.
Just going to veer off-topic slightly – what’s your opinion on mumble rap?
Umm, mumble rap? *laughs* So I study rap, like a scientist, and I actually founded an organization called Society of Spoken Art, which is a guild for rappers to study rap and the academic side of language and communication. So we study rap like it’s a science. Like it’s a science. And through those studies we find there are different sides – there’s all different ways for people to approach rap stylistically, and creatively and content wise and things like “mumble rap” aren’t really as new as people like to think that they are? I think people have approached rap through the history of rap in so many different ways that you’ll see kind of examples of that in the past or in the old school – I think now what you see is just now a lot of those guys who do the mumble rap can actually do all different forms of rap they just choose to do that because it’s either fun or it’s much more commercially viable at the time. I enjoy it – some of it – I don’t like all of it – but I enjoy some of it just like I’m sure everybody does. I think it’s just a style of rap that as a rapper myself I promote and hope that the music is great and that I can actually learn something from it.
Rap has evolved a lot throughout the years, who do you think is actually the number one guy in the business?
In the business of rap? Ummm, right now it’s Kendrick Lamar. I think he has all the momentum, he has all of the music and the content I think that the stuff that he puts out is great. So I think it’s him in terms of a complete artist. But in terms of just like straight rapping, who I think are like some of the best rappers there’s a rapper by the name of A$AP Rocky who’s an American rapper who just like blows me away. Skill level is amazing, the things he talks about is amazing, but if I had to choose one person who’d be like the top guy right now, it’d definitely have to be Kendrick Lamar.
Can you share with us whatever your next project is – musically – whatever you have in mind? Are you working on it?
So I’m working on a music album now, and it’s called DROGAS WAVE, it’s a conceptual album that I’ve been working on for the past maybe two years, year and a half, and we’re in the final stages of making it, hopefully it’ll be out sometime within the next three months? And it’s a really, really good album – I think my fans will really enjoy it. I think new fans will enjoy it, and I just hope it’s something that people gravitate to and pull something positive out of.
Watch Beat N Path on KIX HD (Astro Ch 729) on 8 March, every Thursday at 9pm.