To name my favourite mixtape is definitely a hard question, but I’ll have to go for Lupe Fiasco’s Fahrenheit 1/15: The Truth Is Among Us, which is the first of four tapes he did under the Fahrenheit title and it came out in 2006, probably a few months before he released his debut album, Food & Liquor.
This was basically the soundtrack to my entire high school life and experience. It was dope to hear Lupe because I hadn’t heard or listened to him prior to this mixtape, but he’s from the West Side of Chicago just like I am, and from listening to the mixtape it sounds like we had a lot of similar experiences growing up so it was dope to have a positive influence from my neighbourhood kind of make it, and the mixtape meant much more to me because of that.
I was in the library when I discovered Fahrenheit for the first time; I went to a private high school and we had to have a laptop to go there and I had a laptop but we didn’t have the Internet at my house, so I went to the library to use the Internet. One of my friends had given the mixtape to me and, from front to back, it kind of became the soundtrack to what was going on in my life, and even to this day, my life is still similar. Back then, all I pretty much did was school work, play video games and do stuff in the studio and today I still do all of that minus the school work.
I was playing one of the Tony Hawk video games and bumping this Lupe tape, which was basically my everyday routine at one point so after I discovered it in the library I took it home and it was like Christmas every day! It definitely came at a significant point in my life; at 13 years old, you think you know everything so it was dope because, in retrospect, at that age you feel you’re the easiest to influence as well so if I had discovered something else I may have grown up a completely different person.
Listening to the positive reinforcement that came out of Fahrenheit let me know that I wasn’t crazy for wanting to pursue rapping – I was rapping at the time, and I knew that I wanted to go on and really make it happen. So, seeing this guy in a similar fashion kind of make it felt like a really positive reinforcement. Even at 13 the mixtape was important to what I would eventually grow up to do.
The raps on the mixtape are just phenomenal! It was before Food & Liquor, and the tape is very rappy, not like those mixtapes that sound like an album but a hardcore, “I’m about to rap to whoever beat I want to rap to” type of mixtape, and this was especially during a time when everybody was going Lil Wayne crazy. I don’t want say the tape is rappy because it’s a rap mixtape, but he was barring the fuck out of these songs.
There’s a song on Fahrenheit called ‘Ooh’ that’s one of my favourites on the tape but it’s really between that and a song called ‘Twilight Zone’. In ‘Ooh’ Lupe sounds like Biggie to me, and it was really interesting to hear Lupe switch up his cadence like that. He was very much in the pocket of the track. With ‘Twilight Zone’ he kind of created a world which kind of shaped his career after that.
It was a really metaphorical world in the song but everything was connected and it’s one of those songs that you have to just listen to in order to really get it. It’s very next level in terms of bar structure and the shit he was saying will not make sense until you’ve listened to it a billion times, and then you’re like ‘Oh now I get it’. ‘Ooh’ was more of a straightforward rapper’s song, like ‘I’m cold and here’s why’.
At the time I was just listening to Lupe and other artists from Chicago. There was a Kanye West mixtape that was out at the time as well but Fahrenheit was just that little bit more important to me, especially when it came to growing up. You don’t get many mixtapes like that these days, because now your mixtape has to sound like an album.
I discovered a rapper named Gemini, or Gemstone, from this tape and the series of tapes Lupe released, and he was super cold which was cool for me at 13 when I discovered the mixtape. But to see people that are from Chicago that are pursuing their dreams and making it happen – it was really the inspiration that came with the mixtape that did it for me. The music was good but the fact that they were from where I’m from made it that much more important to me, and way more personal.
The cover of Fahrenheit was a super young, mixtapey cover. You have Lupe and it looks like its been Photoshopped really badly and its him in front of the Sears Tower, or the Chicago skyline, which is what every Chicago rapper was supposed to do at the time; cut and pasting yourself onto the skyline because you’re from Chicago. Then there was a huge sign that said Fahrenheit 1/15, with The Truth Is Among Us at the bottom. So the cover is actually not the best cover, I would probably give it a 4 out of 10! Its not a very lit cover. If I was just scrolling and saw the cover, I’d probably keep scrolling! But I already knew what it was so I pressed play and it was just cold.
The cover thankfully didn’t affect the music too much, especially then because the standard for artwork wasn’t as high in hip-hop, I don’t think. What was dope was the music and how it sounded. Fahrenheit was mixed pretty good compared to other mixtapes at the time but you can see the focus of the tape was like, “Yo I’m from Chicago and I rap raw as hell and you’re gonna listen to me rap”, so it was just like 100 bar verses throughout the whole project and it was definitely his rapping and not the branding and shit like that that pretty much sells the mixtape now. It was so much more music-focused.
If I had to describe Fahrenheit in three words, I would firstly say that its very lyrical. The production was very hip-hop and not trap beats or drill or any of that shit.
I hate to be that ‘real hip-hop’ guy but the production had a very 2005ish hip-hop vibe with samples and everything, and you can hear that he was from Chicago by saying words like ‘joe’ a lot – a lot of people in Chicago say that everyday – but it was very direct in that he was from Chicago. He has a WGTI (the radio station out here) freestyle on the tape and he covered ‘Jesus Walks’ but some of the songs have a real Chicago feel to them. It’s a very Chicago mixtape – he had super bars!
It’s also a very smart mixtape; a lot of hip-hop is very direct and straightforward but this wasn’t like that. You really had to connect sentences and the bars were structured like a puzzle that you have to solve to get it. Each line was really connected to the next line. So I would say the mixtape is smart, lyrical and Chicago.
If I had to put a price on Fahrenheit, I honestly don’t know what price I would put. I feel like it’s one of those things where, just for music in general, it’s kind of weird to put a price on someone’s art. You could sell a painting for a million dollars but that’s art and to not be able to do the same thing with a piece of music, unless you’re Wu-Tang, is interesting. But I’ll leave that as a TBD.
Catch SABA tonight at XOYO performing alongside Jazz Cartier.
Words by SABA.