He's a backpack rapper with a penchant for flashy items and a knack for forgetting A Tribe Called Quest lyrics at the wrong time.
But Lupe Fiasco's recent single, "Hip-Hop Saved My Life," is as endearing a record as any MC could put together. The song is from his sophomore set, The Cool.
And he's dedicated it not to one, but two of the game's finest: Bun B and Slim Thug.
"With 'Hip-Hop Saved My Life,' I attempted to make 'Kick, Push,' but for rappers," he explained to MTV Base. "To give a real basic play-by-play of the life of a rapper before he makes it — if he ever makes it, because you can get stuck in that and be trying to make it for the rest of your life."
The genesis of the track came when the Chicago lyricist went to Houston for a show. The rapper said the town was "spaced-out," in terms of the distance between things, and it gave the city a feel as if there wasn't much to do. So UGK legend Bun B picked up Lupe and led him on a tour of H-Town.
"He had his wife Queenie with him, and I was just sitting back, soaking it all in, and I was just thinking, 'How can I pay Bun B back?' " Lupe recalled.
The result was "Hip-Hop Saved My Life." The track is a three-part narrative following a rapper putting together a track from scratch, going through the struggles of performing at open-mic sessions, then hearing a freestyle of his make it on the radio.
When Lupe filmed the video in Houston, Slim Thug — who makes a cameo in the clip — approached the MC and asked if the song was about him.
"My DJ first heard the record when Lupe's album came out," Slim Thug told MTV News. "I went on iTunes and bought it and was surprised it had a lot to do about me. I don't think it's entirely about me, but he took pieces of my hustle and put it in the song. We might not have the same type of rap style, but I respect him. I knew a lot of people that liked him when he first came out and checked him out, and he was jammin'. And anyone that's jammin' is all right with me. When he came to shoot the video, I got the call from Dr. Teeth, who directed it, and I was down. I brought some of my cars, you know, with the candy paint, and we did it."
"It is based on Slim Thug," Lupe revealed. "I was with him when we shot the video, and he was like, 'Yo, is this song about me?' I didn't know at the time, but there was a situation in Houston where they were trying to figure out who the song was about. Was it about Slim Thug? Was it about Chamillionaire? And it was about Slim Thug, but [then] I dedicated the song to Bun. I called him up and said, 'Yo, Bun, I've got a song for you, check it out,' and he was the first person to hear it. I sent it to him and he was like, 'Yo, it's all good.' "