In recent times Lupe Fiasco dropped “Mural” – a 9 minute track with no hook, purely spitting bars filled with metaphors and out-of-this-universe wordplay – that resulted in people quickly making comparisons to Eminem’s “Rap God” released in 2013. Pretty much everyone went crazy. It reminded people why he is still one of the greatest rappers of all time.
Is this a fair comparison?
Amongst the hype of the Mural Vs. Rap God comparisons raging on Reddit and Rap Genius forums, I took an interest because I initially disagreed with this comparison. I realised you couldn’t easily compare them at all because there’s a different process to listening to Lupe than to Eminem.
How do you enjoy Lupe Fiasco’s music?
One of the main reasons why Lupe has reduced in relevance was because his raps have become more abstract and metaphorical over time (besides LASERS). You couldn’t just pick up his music and “get it” the first time round. You actually have to:
Listen to the song.
Go on Rap Genius.
Study the content of the lyrics
Go back to the song, listen again (maybe while reading the lyrics)
Study the lyrics again because you forgot the meaning behind half lyrics
You can see how this process can become ever more strenuous before Rap Genius ever existed. It makes you wonder who benefits more from this process Genius Inc or Lupe Fiasco.
This process probably is needed if you want to understand him fully. If not you can still enjoy Lupe in ignorance and appreciate the hooks, melody and flow of his songs along with a slight idea of what he is actually talking about.
Back to the Mural and Rap God argument…
The more I thought about it, the more it made no sense to compare them because Mural lasted 9 minutes with no hook whereas Rap God lasted 6 minutes with a hook and a structure. Technically, Lupe had more space for lyricism to impress the more hard-core listeners whereas Eminem’s listener-friendly structure of the song appealed to the masses.
Which is better?
Here’s my opinion, I wouldn’t compare them but we can try right?
Let’s take them one by one:
Flow – Lu 0 – Em 1
Lupe had a more consistent flow that sounded smoother but that can interpreted as easier to execute. Em on the other hand, used around 5-6 flows in a shorter space of time. This didn’t come off as polished as Lupe’s but was more challenging thus probably a more impressive feat.
Lyrics – Lu 1 – Em 1
As mentioned Lupe had more space to include more lyrics even so the best lines and wordplays clearly go in favour of Lupe. But just to note, if you analyse Rap God, you soon realise that Em has produced greater feats of lyricism than in this song. So it would be unfair to judge him entirely on this track, as it is not his best work.
Complexity – Lu 2 – Em 1
This is difficult because Lupe fans worship him for his mastery of complexity which I believe shouldn’t entirely be seen a positive trait a lot of the time. My argument is that Eminem is able to accomplish technical and lyrically challenging feats with everyday words, pulling on a smaller pool of concepts, ideas and themes.
Lupe on the other hand has access to a wide knowledge base that provides him with more lyrical “ammo” as I would say to draw on. Essentially it’s easier to write something insightful and genius when you have access to a library than if you’re relying on a single dictionary.
Yes, Lupe wins!
BUT if you have been following then you would have soon realised that it is unfair to compare the tracks because the way it is set up favours Lupe Fiasco. So the verdict is still out, who is better? Dunno mate. I think if these two were to go head to head it would fantastic and interesting to see how great Lupe is when he can’t rely entirely on his abstract metaphors but solely his technical ability vs Eminem.