Lupe Fiasco may have never uttered a more farsighted statement than the one he delivered to MTV News from the red carpet at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors taping last week.
"[Q-Tip] was really adamant [about selecting me to be a part of the A Tribe Called Quest tribute]," he said. "And then there's a little sub-story about why he was so adamant that we'll get into, I guess, after the awards. He's kind of giving me a hazing, giving me a reprimand."
What exactly he's referring to has been dubbed "Fiascogate" by the hip-hop blogosphere, and it stems from his flubbed performance during the Tribe tribute at the Honors show, a post he created some time ago about A Tribe Called Quest on Okayplayer.com, his claims (like the one above) that Q-Tip was adamant about him performing in the tribute — and subsequent reactions to all of the above.
In the post, Lupe wrote that he's not too familiar with Tribe's catalog, specifically 1993's classic Midnight Marauders,, which he claimed he'd never heard all the way through. Instead, Lupe — whose style is aesthetically very similar to Tribe and their "Native Tongues" contemporaries like De La Soul — said he grew up on West Coast gangsta rap more than East Coast "backpack" rap.
But the real controversy began when Lupe flubbed the lyrics to one of the album's standout tracks, "Electric Relaxation," during his performance. He also tripped up on Tribe's posse cut "Scenario." But rather than letting it go, Lupe let loose.
On Monday afternoon, before the show aired on television, he posted on Okayplayer again, rather aggressively explaining — in all caps — his mistake. And if you haven't been paying attention to the way Fiasco-gate has played out, below we'll take you step-by-step. [Editor's note: For readability, we have edited some of the following posts and put most all-caps posts into normal case.]
Saturday, October 6, 5:07 a.m.: Several news outlets, including MTV News, report about Lupe Fiasco's stumbling over his lyrics during the Tribe tribute. Messageboards react. Lupe responds in a thread on Okayplayer titled: "...Becuz Q-Tip Is My Friend And He Asked Me To..."
"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!!!
"and more ... ahem ...
"I DID NOT GROW UP ON ATCQ!!!...
"The little ghetto kid from the mean streets of the West side of Chicago grew up on Spice 1, 8Ball & MJG, N.W.A and Snoop Dogg. I wasn't a backpacker rap enthusiast! I never claimed to be. I grew up on gangsta rap! Have I listened to [Midnight Marauders] in its entirety? ... no!!! ... (sorry ?uest). Get off your high horses and your sacred cows. Some of ya'll make me sick. ...
"And fyi when [the Tribe tribute] 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 wasn't really aware of their music like that ... but guess who wanted me to be a part of it ... hmmmm ... how about ... Q-Tip!!!
"So now are you going to hate on [A Tribe Called Quest] because they wanted somebody who didn't really know their music to honor them by covering some of their music? ... think on that [Okayplayers].
"P.S.: I forget the words to some of my own songs on stage ... hey it happens."
Saturday, October 6: Lupe clarifies his remarks to HipHopDX.com from the set of his forthcoming video, "Superstar."
"The label brought the idea to me and I told them that I didn't think it was cool because I didn't grow up on them," he explains. "People are going to think that's phony. I think people who know that I haven't listened to the Midnight Marauders album are going to look at me and say it's phony. They gave me mad press kits on Tribe and I was like, 'I know who they are!' But now this was becoming [even more] phony because I had to beef up and play a role [pretending] that I know them. Just for the sake of putting on a facade for my fans? I'll never do that."
Sunday, October 7, 12:01 a.m.: Some messageboard users are none too pleased by Lupe's post, with many calling the MC all kinds of disparaging names. Although Lupe has plenty of supporters as well, Phonte of North Carolina group Little Brother is not one of them. The rapper applauds Lupe as a peer before criticizing his thread in a post on Okayplayer titled: "Since Ahmir and None of Y/Our OG's Are Willing To Say This, I Will."
"You f---in' up, my n---a. Straight up and down.
"What's even more amazing is the same cats on this site defending your arrogance and ignorance on this topic are the same ones who would be ready to FLIP if the statements you made about MM were said by a Webbie, Plies or Soulja Boy.
"I purposely remained silent during Fiascogate just to see how it all would play out and to see how my man would gain control of the situation, but with you forgetting the lyrics to a classic song from a classic group on national television while paying tribute to them, the 2nd plane has officially hit the tower.
"You're my homeboy and a colleague that I hold in high regard. I'm a fan of your work. Even more so, we've chopped it up on numerous occasions so you know that everything I say is coming from a place of respect and concern. [Regarding your comments about growing up on gangsta rap], that's fine, but your music and more importantly your image leans more towards Native Tongues than killaman-killaman-saykillamankillaman-wit me glock. If it walks and talks like a duck, most people would call it one. You can't blame [Okayplayers] or anybody else for putting you inside a box that you were willing to sit comfortably in and benefit from."
Phonte then responds to most of Lupe's statements in the Okayplayer post in turn, concluding by saying:
"More than anything, it seems to me that Tip knew you were one of the only available celebrities that would translate to VH1's audience and do his legacy justice. ... You and Pharrell are the only celebrities who are (seemingly?) cut from Tribe's cloth and would make sense in the context of the show.
"Normally cats would be forgiving of a slip-up, but when that slip-up was preceded by several months of bragging about how 'I've never heard the album and really don't care to,' well ... you do the math.
"Just some words of concern, fam.
"Best of luck with 'The Cool' and I hope the remix comes out dope.
"Your Homie, Peer, and Fan,
Tuesday, October 9: A Village Voice story on A Tribe Called Quest makes its way around the Web. In the story, Q-Tip pays his respect to Lupe and mentions being briefed on the rapper's comments about never having listened to Tribe.
"I dig Lupe, and somebody hit me today, showed me something that he said online about how he'd never heard Tribe," Tip says. "He said something like, 'I never heard Tribe and never listened to Tribe,' which I thought he was just saying to stir sh-- up. I know he doesn't believe that, and I certainly don't, and it's all good. I have love and respect for him."
Later that day, in an interview with New York radio station Hot 97's Miss Info, Q-Tip says that he did not beg Lupe to perform, but that Lupe's name, along with others, was presented to him in a shortlist by executives at VH1. Out of the list, Q-Tip selected the rapper, along with Common, Pharrell and Busta Rhymes.
"I'm not trying to make this any bigger than it is, but I just want to clear up one thing," Tip says. "We never hunted him down and begged him to be a part of the show or anything like that. His name was pitched to us by VH1, and we said 'OK cool.' The only time I spoke to Lupe about the Hip Hop Honors performance was on a conference call, which we did with the other artists too, like Busta and Common, to plan the performance. When VH1 brought his name up, based on what he had said about us before, I thought it was ironic and it kind of humored me.
"All that stuff he said about never listening to a Tribe album before and having no interest in doing so, it doesn't make sense to me. As I said on the show itself, it was listening to N.W.A's Straight Outta Compton that inspired us to make [1991's] The Low End Theory, and years later I spoke to Dr. Dre and he told me that hearing The Low End Theory inspired him to make The Chronic. That's what music does. That's what artists do, they seek out information of all kinds. But no, I never hunted him down to be part of the tribute. That didn't happen."
Wednesday, October 10: In an interview on Vibe.com, Lupe steadfastly refuses to back down. He further tries to explain his slip of the tongue by strangely reasoning that MC Hammer had greater prowess than Tribe.
"[Tribe] didn't sell 10 million records, so why would people think they had a blanket on the world like that? MC Hammer was way more popular to me than A Tribe Called Quest," he says. "Those hip-hop elitists who think [Tribe] hold the crown and the copyright to hip-hop ... I listen to 8Ball & MJG and I think they're better than [Tribe]."
Later in the day, Lupe appears on DJ Kay Slay's satellite-radio show and, when asked about his comments regarding Hammer and Tribe, the rapper says he'll be sending a cease-and-desist letter to Vibe and suing the magazine for presenting the interview out of context. According to Lupe, the online interview was conducted before the Hip-Hop Honors show. He later tells Kay Slay he's not mad at anyone over the incident — Phonte, Q-Tip or outlets that picked up the Vibe story.
"First, let's rewind," he tells Kay Slay. "First, I just want everyone to know I'll be suing Vibe for defamation of character. Shout to Q-Tip, shout to A Tribe Called Quest, shout to Phife Dawg, shout to Shaheed. So be clear: Vibe magazine — and this is where this comes from — took one of my interviews from a month ago that's supposed to come out next month. And the pretext to that interview was talking about the elitism in hip-hop and how that people feel that you have to have. ... I don't know the lyrics to certain songs to Midnight Marauders. And then I'll turn around and ask someone, 'Do you know the first verse to "Lay It Down" on 8ball & MJG's Comin' Out Hard?' [Editor's note: "Lay It Down" actually appears on the duo's 1994 On the Outside Looking In album.] But I'm a country bama because I don't know that? Do I attack you because you don't know that? ... Vibe magazine took that and made it seem as if I was responding to Q-Tip, my man, my brother ... this is a quote from a month ago."
(MTV News' requests for comment on the matter from Vibe had not been granted at press time.)
Thursday, October 11: Vibe's Web site updated the Lupe story by placing a disclaimer above the text revealing that the interview had in fact been completed before the Hip Hop Honors event.
"The interview with Lupe Fiasco regarding his feelings about Tribe and Midnight Marauders was conducted prior to his Hip Hop Honors performance," the statement reads. "The article should have made clearer that Lupe Fiasco was responding to statements he'd previously made, not his Hip Hop Honors performance."
And that's the story for now — until the posts start heating up again ...