“My biggest secret up until today was how deeply I’m into cars,” he replies when asked about what his fans may not already know about him. He’s been a prominent figure in hip-hop since he dropped his first solo album, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, back in 2006, so he’s had more than his fair share of media scrutiny. “I’m big into cars and car culture—from understanding, studying, driving and researching everything in the automotive world.”
The Grammy-award winning rapper no doubt has an accolade heavy career that can take up hours to analyze and discuss, but it’s the car questions that really has him poetically flowing.
During our interview with 30-year-old Chi-Town lyricist Lupe Fiasco (born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco), we were surprised that he was one of those enthusiasts whose eyes lit up as he talked about his first custom build (a Lowrider truck he visually imagined building from his dad’s old pickup). Like most, his love affair with cars began as a child, particularly with BMWs. “For some reason, I wanted to race BMWs. I don’t remember if I saw one in my Hot Wheels collection, but all I remember is how I loved their body and silhouette and really wanted to race them.”
I’m big into cars and car culture—from understanding, studying, driving and researching everything in the automotive world.As he grew older and began to take rapping seriously, he began indulging in things he had seen as a kid like a “car that [he] always felt was fresh riding down [his] block” or nostalgic stuff from his childhood. And like every gearhead, he has an affinity for racing, which lead him to a couple of speed demon-like toys.
But currently, his main automotive fixation are race cars from the 1960s. “I can go and research these types of cars all day long,” he explains with a smile. “I’m researching specific cars and the histories behind them. And like everything, once you get so involved in it, you start to meet other people that are involved in it and build relationships with them. I’ve enjoyed talking to different builders about the cars, even if it’s not to buy or own a certain model, but more about the experience and knowledge that comes with knowing their in-depth history. I’ve had a lot of great experiences in the automotive world—from being invited to F1 races to going go kart racing in Australia and even Ferrari letting me run through the streets of Sydney with their fleet.”
When asked what his current garage looked like, he listed them as if he was performing one of his acclaimed tracks. His descriptions were like prose, while his eyes glistened recalling every model and its details. “I got a Shelby Daytona Coupe replica, picked up a 1967 Austin Healey 3000 MK replica and I’m looking at a Series 1 Jag from the ’60s,” he says. “When I first moved to L.A., I bought an Audi A4 wagon before I stepped it up to a Ferrari 575M, then I got one of my first cars that I actually loved; a 2000 Mercedes-Benz SL 500 that I had the boys at Platinum [Motorsports] construct for me. After that, I went on a Ferrari craze and bought a 465 GTA, a 1986 412 which was super duper clean to a point where I never drove it at all and a 400i, which is a total basket case of a Ferrari, but still a favorite car. There’s also a 1991 [Honda] NSX first generation that’s all black and kind of crazy.”
Since he’s built a steady relationship with BMW, his daily drivers are usually Bimmer models his heart desires, while his current 2011 twin-turbo Camaro widebody (a gift from his manager Charles “Chilly” Patton), 2007 lifted Jeep Wrangler (complete with a snorkel) and his prized 1971 Chevy Cheyenne CT pickup he calls “Sling Shot” (in addition to his SL 500 Benz, his first official customized car) were all on display for us at Platinum Motorsports, his favorite shop that has become like a second home to him when he’s in L.A.
“The Camaro is all about speed and power; the Benz is a personal favorite and all-around speedster; the Jeep is for when I want to drive from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Bear Mountain; and my CT is just to look cool,” he describes as if it’s a lyric from one of his many rap songs, even though he adds that the truck has no A/C or working radio. With an extensive array of vehicles, he’s still looking to acquire a [Ferrari] F40 and is eyeing a “1965-ish” Jag XKE Series 1. But his ultimate goal is to create his own build.
“I want to take something that already exists and make something totally new out of it,” he says. “It’s really the same mindset that Carroll Shelby had, which was to take something European based that had great body lines, but give it some American muscle and reliability. I want to take something that exists already and is notoriously maintenance heavy and unreliable and throw in something like a Cobra motor and gut the entire car to replace everything, while keeping its old bodyline shapes. I’ve got a couple of projects I’m finishing that will definitely make noise in the car world.”
No doubt he’s probably turning to his homies Jack and George Keshishyan, who he considers to be like his brothers. “After I dropped off my first car [the SL], we built this tight relationship. I usually come up here and kick it all day. It’s like a club house: the swaggy boys clubhouse where we sit down and talk about cars and how we’re gonna take over the world.” But Lupe isn’t the only celebrity visiting the Keshishyan brothers, as he details numerous run-ins with other celebrities like Ray J and the Kardashians. “I’ve met David Beckham because of this place,” he laughs. “But, really, I’m not about all the celebrities you meet up around here and am more about the dudes who work here and the regular Joes that come in from all walks of life. You have good guys here that you can just chill with.”
While chilling with us at his home away from home, spitting verses on his obsession with automobiles, he also provided insight on his latest effort and fourth studio album, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1.
I want to get back into it for the love of music and for making art; not for it to have to sell or be played on the radio. I want to make music just to make it“My musical endeavors are known for their lyricality, conceptual subject matter that makes Lupe Fiasco who he is and it’s poured into this record. I know it’s going to be well-received, but we’ll see what happens,” he modestly says.. “This album is specifically about America. I’m always telling stories through different characters and things in my records. Like [Lupe Fiasco’s] The Cool was about a zombie coming back to life and me telling his story and all of his influences. I’m good with that ’cause I’m a writer first then a rapper.”
“For this one, I chose America as that character and tell different stories through the history of America, American food, American society and more. Some of it is very controversial and terrible, while some of it is heartfelt and warming. To balance it out, there’s me just rapping and rambling to show my skills, so it’s an album that runs the gamut.”
And in traditional Lupe Fiasco style, this album is not without its controversies. His “Lamborghini Angels” track was released with warnings that if you’re easily offended or thin skinned, then you shouldn’t listen to the song because of its controversial themes.. “A majority of people like to be challenged and listen to these sorts of tracks so to speak, but there are still those who are sensitive. And I’m not trying to hurt anybody, but sometimes the truth hurts.” It’s these reasons that he feels his next few albums might be his last “hoorahs” in the commercial space before he goes back to something more artistic and not for commercial success.
“I want to get back into it for the love of music and for making art; not for it to have to sell or be played on the radio. I want to make music just to make it,” he confesses. On a similar note, the accomplished artist also has his bucket list filled with traveling more, not for public consumption, but more for experiencing the world and its different cultures. He also wants to put together rallies that have drivers experiencing the world from four wheels. “I want to drive from Beijing, China all the way to Lisbon, Portugal and then drive from L.A. to the bottom of South America for the sake of experiencing the diverse cultures in a format that I love, which is driving. As soon as I can break away from music and being Lupe Fiasco, I want to be a bit more adventurous and experience the world from a different perspective.”
But Lupe Fiasco’s musical journey isn’t over just yet, providing fans a sigh of relief. Barely dropping Pt. 1 of his Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap, he’s slated to release Pt. 2 in the near future and admits to music and cars taking up the majority of his life. As he finishes up talking about his music, his eyes light up again as the talk returns to cars and his philosophies on buying replicas versus original models.
“My rule is that originals are just gonna be a basket case, especially cars from the 1960s, so I’ll just get a replica. They’re well built with modern parts, so you don’t have to worry about flying to another country just to get an alternator or something as you would for an original. You can just go to Pep Boys and pick something up for it. And you’ll never get an original since the line is like 60 billionaires long, so I’d just rather go with a replica...” It’s a conversation that could last forever with Lupe Fiasco, which only further demonstrates why his car game is so impressive; not because of the rides he has, but because of the knowledge and enthusiasm he shares with like-minded gearheads like us.