Did you know that along with being an acclaimed rapper, Lupe Fiasco has four black belts – in karate, Chinese wushu and two Samurai sword styles?
“My father ran a martial arts school, it was a family business. That’s where I’d be three times a week for years. So, it’s very much a part of me,” says the 36-year-old American rapper in a phone interview with Star2.
Fiasco, who earned his first black belt in karate at 11, says picking up martial arts at a young age taught him a great deal about discipline and responsibility.
In documentary series Beat N Path, the American rapper travels to various parts of China to train under kungfu masters.
“We would train at different training halls with masters specialising in specific styles. For example, we went to Dengfeng to learn Shaolin kungfu. We would learn the basic form as well as discover the historical and cultural aspect of it,” he explains.
At the same time, Fiasco, who came into the spotlight around 2008 after the success of his single Superstar, seeks to learn about China’s hip hop scene.
“Whenever I travel around the world, I’m always interested in the local hip-hop scene. Who’s the No. 1 rapper? What do the concerts look like? What are you guys rapping about?” he adds.
Fiasco even teamed up with producers in Beijing to document the journey in rap.
1. What was the most difficult martial arts training you had to endure on Beat N Path?
I went to learn internal martial arts. It’s not really for combat, it’s for health.
There was this one stance I had to get into. From far, it looks like I’m just standing there but there’s these micro adjustments I had to do. My knees are a little bent, my hands pointing out a little bit, and my head has to be aligned to my belly button and my feet. There’s so much attention to details.
And when you’ve got the stance, you have to stay in it, you can’t move. If it was an actual class, you have to stay in the stance for two hours.
Throughout my journey, I did a lot of hardcore combat training but that one stance was like the hardest thing out of everything (I have learned).
2. Part of the show also explores the hip-hop scene in China. Are you aware of China’s ban on hip-hop from TV last January?
I think all around the world at different points, there was some kind of censorship on hip-hop. There was censorship on hip-hop in the States … I think hip-hop always kind of speaks truth to the power, it’s kind of a rebellious culture and it’s an artform.
I’m not saying (being banned) is something it has to go through, but history has shown that it has.
Whether it’s hip-hop, punk rock, disco or rock ‘n’ roll, people (from all walks of life) are going to take offence or feel a certain way because it goes against what they believe or stand for.
3. Beat N Path is produced by a Hong Kong production company you co-founded. Why did you decide to venture into Asia?
I’ve worked in the United States for 15 to 20 years. Sometimes you just want to experience new cultures to get inspired and hopefully, get new ideas. And the opportunity presented itself.
We do a lot of stuff in the States as well. Just with the nature of being headquarted in Asia, we have a lot of interest in Asia.
But we’re also interested in doing programmes that touch people all around the world. Whether you’re in Malaysia or Iceland, we want to make content and produce shows that’s entertaining and engaging around the world.
4. Speaking of Malaysia, you visited Kuala Lumpur recently?
I was in Malaysia to do some pre-promotion for Beat N Path. I met up with Joe (Flizzow) and he took me around. I learned a lot about the country from him. He was a good tour guide.
The next time when I come back, I’m going to join him on his show, 16 Baris, which features rappers from around the region coming together to do a freestyle session. It’ll be cool.
5. What did Joe Flizzow teach you about the Malaysian hip-hop scene?
We had a nice long conversation about hip-hop in Malaysia and around South-East Asia.
He gave me the history of things like pantun and some of the old traditions of Malaysia. And with the different ethnic groups living here, how that influences hip-hop music in Malaysia today.
How people draw from the past and filter it through hip-hop to create something new and sort of traditional too. And how rappers are more comfortable rapping in their own language, like in Malay, and not cater to Western sensibilities.
Beat N Path airs every Thursday at 9pm on Kix HD (Astro Ch 729).