How Genius Works May 2011

Lupe Fiasco

RAPPER



Project: Write the lyrics for “Words I Never Said”



Special Report: How Genius Works Fiasco is a Grammy-winning hip-hop artist celebrated for deft, witty lyricism and socially conscious themes. Here he describes his songwriting process and shares the draft of “Words I Never Said” from his new album, LASERS.

"I've always been into political commentary and social events. This one is a little more stinging. It's very direct and real and raw. Atlantic Records put together a team of lawyers, fact-checking every single little piece, making sure it wasn't libelous. The lawyers always want to make sure everything is nice and tidy. But I didn't get any revisions or edits in the actual lyrics--not from my crew or the record company."

"For songs that I write prior to hearing any music, it looks like this. It's just words that rhyme--jail, bail, tail. It's just a bunch of words scribbled down that I'll put together once I have a piece of music I actually like."

I’m not the type that writes before I have music. I know some people that do that. When I’m creating something specifically for an album, I’ll sit down with the track and communicate with the music first. A lot of times, I write in the studio. It’s usually just the engineer and me, and I’m either writing at the engineer’s desk—where the mixing board and all that stuff is—or with the music playing through the speakers or headphones. I write down a line, I’ll go record it. With this song, I’d write a little bit, record that, then maybe stop for a bit. Listen to the track a few more times, write a little, record a little more.

Creativity comes in weird places and in weird ways. Sometimes I find I write better in the car, with just the beat playing and me driving. There’s something about the way the thoughts come out when I’m actually in motion. Everybody has a different take. With Jay-Z, for instance, I’ve seen him go into a studio and lay a record down just like that. Walk out, finished. I’m like, “How did you just do that?” Then some people, it will take them three days to write the song. They’ll sit there and literally write word for word, erase, try it again. Some rappers need to sit to write, but for some raps, you need to stand up. It’s a weird process. I definitely think people would give hip-hop a little bit more credit if they saw the actual creative process.

—As told to Alex Hoyt

Presented by

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In