Lupe Fiasco vs. Kendrick Lamar: Who’s the Better Artist?

photo courtesy of “The”

Recently, Twitter had a massive debate over who was the better lyricist between Kendrick Lamar and Lupe Fiasco, after Lupe openly tweeted that he was better than Kendrick. Although it’s openly known that Kendrick is one of the best rappers alive right now, after other major rappers claimed that Lupe was a better lyricist, the title previously given to Kendrick has been put into question.

In my opinion, while he might not better than Kendrick overall, Lupe Fiasco is without a doubt, the better overall lyricist. In fact, Lupe Fiasco walked so that Kendrick could run.

Before the early 2000s, rap was dominated by the gangster rap scene. After all, it was a time marked by gangsters turned rappers like Jay-Z, Tupac, DMX, and The Notorious B.I.G coming out of nowhere making hit after hit. They essentially controlled the whole market until a certain pink polo rapper from Chicago came along. Kanye West was the first rapper to break into the mainstream and also signify the end of gangsta raps dominance. 

He offered the world a perspective that they were eager to hear in rap, which consisted of what it’s like growing up in the ghetto and witnessing bad things, without becoming a product of your environment. And on Sept. 11, 2007, we saw the gangster era officially come to a close when Kanye West managed to beat 50 Cent in albums sold with “Graduation” selling a ridiculous 957,000 units while 50 Cent’s “Curtis” sold 691,000. Thus resetting hip hop and changing what it took to become a successful rapper. 

That’s when we first started seeing amazing lyricists like Chicago’s Lupe Fiasco emerge.  People that could describe the whole world around them and still garner the attention of the ghetto while also attracting mainstream white Americans. 

Lupe came onto the scene with “Food and Liquor” and “The Cool” two of the most critically acclaimed albums of the early 2000s. While also previewing to the world what rap could be if it moved away from its gangster focused narrative. 

In both of these albums, America not only saw Lupe rap circles around his competition, but they also saw the start of a major concept: rap albums that flow like movies,  rather than a collection of songs. 

That’s where Kendrick Lamar comes in, as Kendrick has made his career with concept albums that tell a story that could easily be made into movies. Although not a gangster himself, Kendrick raps about his surroundings in a way quite comparable to Lupe. Pre-Kanye and Lupe era, people like Kendrick or Drake would’ve never seen the stardom that they have, because they formed that movement, and also made it cool. 

Though Kendrick has incredible lyrical moments himself on massive conceptual albums like Good Kid Maad City, it’s songs like “Mural” off of Lupe’s “Tetsuo & Youth” that showcase that Lupe might be one of the greatest lyricists the world has ever seen. 

“Mural” is a song that stands at nine minutes and has no chorus or hook, just one extremely long verse. “Mural” is quite literally one of the greatest displays of lyrical potency in rap ever, and it’s such a lyrically dense song that there are legitimate 25-minute videos on youtube that dissect every bar Lupe says.

It also showcases the monster that Lupe truly is. when someone researches what Lupe is saying, his homophone use, layering, and triple-ententes, it’s apparent that Lupe might be untouchable. As Lupe forms riddles to make an image in your mind, that’s more comparable to poets like Shakespeare than any modern-day rapper. 

“Mural” Singlehandedly is what makes me believe that Lupe is better than Kendrick. Lupe uses the idea of a mural to paint pictures with every bar and essentially create a mural in your mind out of the bars he’s used. But nothing is wasted. Not a syllable, not a sound, not a breath. Everything is used to paint a picture.

 Even the instrumental is a part of the mural. As obviously Lupe himself is the artist, and the instrumental itself is in fact the wall that he is painting over. It’s why the instrumental is so subtle and repetitive so that an audience can truly appreciate what Lupe is painting over it. 

There is literally not one song nor concept album in Kendrick’s library that can match up to the lyrical expertise that Lupe displays on just that one song, much less a whole album. This is why I don’t even have to go into a whole album or Lupe’s discography as a whole because Kendrick lyrically cannot compare. 

I will give credit where credit is due though. Kendrick is masterful as well, and as an overall artist, I’m taking Kendrick any day of the week. But he’s just so outmatched and outclassed when it comes to lyrics that it’s not even a worthy comparison. Especially since if Lupe didn’t exist Kendrick would never be able to reach the heights he’s achieved today. So in the end it’s more or less comparing a father and son relationship than anything else, and ultimately I’m going to take the originator in the end.