Week Fulla Lupe – My Favorite’s of All Time #15: “American Terrorist” by Lupe Fiasco

I think I’ve mentioned a couple of times on here that I was supposed to go see Lupe Fiasco a couple months ago during his food and liquor tour. But because of verona that opportunity. For me. I’m still sad about it to this day. American Terrorist was one of those songs that I was really excited about hearing during the tour and being able to hear it live.

Wake up, the alarm clock is connected to a bomb
Anthrax lab on a West Virginia farm
Shorty ain’t learned to walk, already heavily armed
Civilians and little children is especially harmed
Camoflauged Torahs, Bibles and glorious Qurans
The books that take you to heaven and let you meet the Lord there
Have become misinterpretated reasons for warfare
Reread them with blind eyes, I guarantee you there’s more there

We came through the storm, nooses on our necks
And a smallpox blanket to keep us warm
On a 747 on the Pentagon lawn

The song itself is a masterpiece. There’s so many little moments on this song that I could point to as moments of Lupe at his best. There’s something that I think is really skillful about his ability to kind of throw the listener around to a bunch of different perspectives and a bunch of different ways that people of color have been mistreated throughout American history. From the “the nooses on our necks” in the first line of the first verse to the “[turning] their whole culture to a mockery” line in the second verse, the song displays Lupe’s amazing ability to tell stories in interesting ways. The things that he’s bringing up in the song aren’t new, but the way that he approaches bringing those conversations into this song and onto the Food and Liquor (2006) album as a whole is an innovative one.

And I love Matthew Santos’s chorus about the connection between money and power. And how at its core, capitalism is simple. It is about people who have the most money being able to have the most influence over the way that our society is run. And that simple core value creates the complexities that exist within the song. It allows the rich to shape what politics and political moments mean for us as a society; it’s that power that allows our historical archive to exist for the sole purpose of showing certain people in particular lights. And that’s a process that happens over and over again, as the repetition – in the chorus and Lupe’s bridge – shows.

And overall, the idea of terrorism in America most saliently points towards someone who is not from America coming here and wrecking havoc. But what this song exposes is that American terrorism exists both within the country and outside of it. It isn’t just the ways that America has treated and continues to treat disadvantaged community like trash, but it also shows itself in the ways that America treats folks in different countries for the sake of being able to claim itself as a global power. But because that kind of forceful presence is such an American characteristic, it isn’t seen as terrorism when the US does it. It reminds me of how only certain behaviors are demonized because of the body attached to it. And Lupe does a great job at making those complexities sonically tangible in this song.

And I also think that Lupe and Matthew Santos can do no wrong. I don’t think they’ve done enough songs together, but this one and “Superstar” from The Cool (2007) are two very strong tracks where they complement each other so well. With Lupe on the verses and Matt Santos on the chorus, it’s a winning combo. And Prolyfic’s production is equally as good. Every time I hear the beginning of the song, I feel like I’m entering the beginning of a martial arts movie. And I just cannot stress enough how excited I was to hear it live. Hopefully once things get kinda back to normal and concerts start to happen again, Lupe decides to go on with the Food and Liquor tour, and I can be able to bask in the full greatness of this song in person.


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