It's 20 minutes before the start of Lupe Fiasco's very sold-out show Monday night and already the entire Anaheim House of Blues is a mob scene. The bottom floor bristles with nervous energy and excitable chatter, sweating bodies stacked thick, fans chanting "Lupe" over and over. A top floor is similarly packed to the gills, die-hards lined three deep, craning their necks furiously for a glimpse at rap's latest great hope.
When Fiasco finally takes the stage, it's with moves and a charisma more fitting of a rock star than your average rapper circa 2008. With Fiasco's back to the audience, the anxious crowd erupts in a paroxysm of cheers interspersed with chants of "I love you, Lupe!" There are Kim Kardashian and Ray J doppelgangers, white skaters in Wu-Tang shirts and Latino teens in Vans, all of whom seem to love Lupe because of -- not in spite of -- his ability to diverge from the norm. When the first track, the slick, neo-boom bap of "Real," roars over the speakers, the noise level reaches a white pitch usually associated with teen idols.
For the next two hours, Fiasco puts on a clinic of sorts, running through much of his two albums, 2006's "Lupe Fiasco's Food and Liquor" and last month's "Lupe Fiasco's The Cool." Onstage, Fiasco doesn't swagger, he glides gracefully, darting from one side to the next, a lithe, leather-jacketed, Gumby-limbed apparition.
Much has been made of Fiasco's apathy to rap. He's repeatedly expressed his desire to retire after his next record, he's claimed to prefer jazz over hip-hop and, on one of the tracks he performed Monday, "Hurt Me Soul," Fiasco even admitted, "I used to hate hip-hop . . . because the women [were] degraded."
But from his initial appearance to the end of his marathon set, Fiasco's passion and energy convey exactly how much his art means to him. Rapping in two modes -- a laid-back, jazzy flow and an alternately furious, double-timed assault -- Fiasco spins words like a man juggling plates, a masterful, dizzying, head-nodding performance that leaves you wondering exactly how he does it.
Performed with a dangerously proficient band, Fiasco's songs played better live, buoyed by organic keyboard and guitar licks that would overwhelm lesser rappers.
His skateboard anthem "Kick Push" and the Santos-aided "Superstar" were recited word-for-word by the adoring crowd and by the time Fiasco and company left the stage, "Superstar" was still ringing in one's head. Love him or hate him, Fiasco has finally become a superstar.
Where: House of Blues Sunset Strip, 8430 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Contact: (323) 848-5100