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Lupe Fiasco finds freedom on an island of misfits

Big Day Out Festival - Sydney

Big Day Out Festival - Sydney

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Updated: August 19, 2012 6:11AM

Skyrocketing through the sky in a business-class, bulkhead seat pointed due east, we find the invited guest of Amnesty International in a shifting, albeit solid disposition. It’s not the nature of the invitation that’s caused the shifting. It’s the desired action expected upon acceptance of said invite; this invited guest is to perform for a revered international luminary in full regalia. The “invited one” is me, the requested mode of performance is rap and the “luminary” is one Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner and former political prisoner.

The shindig is set in the lovely and loveless city of Dublin. The range of my fellow invitees extends from Riverdancers to Vanessa Redgrave to the guy who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square (or so goes the rumor), to Bono to Bob Geldof, and reaches its zenith in a parade of characters and personalities from all walks of life.

The mix strikes me as being quite odd, and I don’t mean the cast of poets, speakers, singers, dancers, musicians and all around groovers. Truthfully, the oddest thing in the mix is me. It’s like when they add that green dye to the Chicago River on St. Patty’s Day.

I basically have to rap for Aung San Suu Kyi, and we all know things are PBS- and NPR-friendly until they let the rappers in. But in went the rapper, and friendliness was thrust into the company of harm. Clean versions were cast aside, politically corrected edits were put to the sword and I found myself in odd but unwavering form cursing in front of Aung San Suu Kyi! I was the only one to use profanity during the entire event. Repeatedly.

Afterward, whilst nestled in the uneasy seat of my own self-imposed and singular notion of oddity, I pondered, “What if I’m really in the midst of my contemporaries?” Surely the classically trained violinist who gave the stellar solo performance has struck harsh and vulgar notes upon his instrument. And no doubt the traditionally dressed monks in attendance have some profound obscenities laced within their poems of wisdom and humility. And what of the woman of the night herself? Was she not shackled and imprisoned due to the “vile” nature of her freedom talk?

With that I found comfort. I was not an outcast among accepted people, not the weirdo king sorely overdressed for the moment. Nay! These were my people and this was our convention: a cross-pollinating freakish mutant horde of talented badasses, putting on a fireworks display for a queen badass. And in that Irish-hosted cacophony of the persecuted, and circus of discontented social dynamos, the odds — at least for a night — got a little even. The odds got even indeed!

Lupe Fiasco donated his fee for writing this column to the Lupe Fiasco Foundation.

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