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A Lyrical Response to Socio-Political Circumstances in the Worlds of poet Francisco de Quevedo and rapper Lupe Fiasco

A Lyrical Response to Socio-Political Circumstances in the Worlds of poet Francisco de Quevedo and rapper Lupe Fiasco

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Aislín Kearney. Originally submitted for (Maj/Min) Spanish and Drama at Queen University Belfast, with lecturer Isabel Torres in the category of Languages & Linguistics
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Aislín Kearney. Originally submitted for (Maj/Min) Spanish and Drama at Queen University Belfast, with lecturer Isabel Torres in the category of Languages & Linguistics

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
 1
 
A Lyrical Response to Socio-Political Circumstances in the Worlds of poet Francisco deQuevedo and rapper Lupe Fiasco
Although the overall social and political climate of Baroque Spain may have been a uniquecombination of conditions and culminating factors, the fundamental characteristics of thestate of Spain and its Empire by the Seventeenth Century do not stand alone in history as one-off occurrences. Indeed, the decline of Empires, radicalisation of religions - such as thatwhich grew out of the Spanish Counter-Reformation - and tensions that linger after theexpulsion of ethnic minorities surface time and again throughout the ages and right up to thepresent. However, as much as these socio-political scenarios remain familiar to anycontemporary individual, the transition of time inevitably allows for a transformation of contexts and trajectories, as José Antonio Maravall explains:
Las épocas no se cortan y aíslan unas de otras por el filo de un año, de una fecha, sino que
[…
] se separan unas de otras a lo largo de una zona de fechas, más o menos amplia, a travésde las cuales maduran y después desaparecen, cambiándose en otras, pasandoindeclinablemente a otras su herencia
1
 Such transformations are bound to provide new and unique perspectives that are products of their specific time, and what is more, the style in the treatment of subject matter also becomesequally unique and characteristic of the period. Upon considering the style of expression of 21
st
Century rapper, Lupe Fiasco, and the Spanish Baroque poet Francisco de Quevedo, it isclear that these two lyricists derive from relatively distinct socio-historical contexts.Nevertheless, what they do have in common lies in their engagement with their respective
environments and that, despite their differences, each writer‟s work is equally resonant with
their relevant audience. And so, by taking Lupe and Quevedo as exemplars in their genres,this essay endeavours to explore the approaches and methods within which the poets findcommon ground in the formulation of a literary response to the socio-political conditions thatsurround them, and in doing so it is hoped that the rap genre, as a modern form of lyricpoetry, can demonstrate how some of the rudimentary functions of the Spanish Baroqueapproach can exist in a very different modern context.Before the analysis of approaches and methodologies is undertaken it would be worthestablishing the essential aspects of the lyrical and social background of Lupe Fiasco andQuevedo in order to gain a better understanding of the elements that may provoke the twopoets to coincide in their methods and approaches. As previously mentioned, the
1
José Antonio Maravall,
La Cultura del Barroco: Análisis de una Estructura Histórica
(Barcelona: Editorial Ariel,1975) pp. 23-24
 
 2
 
circumstances in which Quevedo lived were times of major economic and politicaldegradation, and given that Spain was falling from its highest of heights as a decayingempire, a nation-wide feeling of 
desengaño
ensued.
In concurrence with this new „yield to bitterness, cynicism and resignation‟
2
that was now felt, Quevedo, who has been described as
the „chief propagator of neo
-
Stoicism in Spain‟
3
, used his writing, not only to comment onthe world around him but also in reaction to the optimism that had developed during theglories of the Renaissance.
Unlike Quevedo‟s opposition to a pre
decessor, Lu
 pe Fiasco‟s
response is to the philosophies of his contemporaries on a society witnessed by Lupe and hispeers of the genre alike, and it is their viewpoint on the same surroundings that Lupe aims tochallenge. In an interview with the rapper he talks about the topics treated by othercontemporary rap artists and the sense of responsibility of which he feels he and other rappersshould be aware:
If you look at it and 90% of it is negative, it‟s like we gotta have something positive in the list[…] if we come to the
nitty gritty
and what‟s effecting the streets, you got kids getting beat to
death in the streets. You really have to take responsibility [
…]
4
 
Although he deals with the same themes as his peers, it is perhaps Lupe Fiasco‟s background
that grants him a different approach to the same themes dealt with in the African Americanrap genre. Real name Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, Lupe is a devout Muslim and contrary to thecultural hegemony of his genre, he abstains from consumption of alcohol or drugs, andamongst other concerns within the rap scene, he takes issue with the misogynistic depictionof women
5
. Social problems in black inner-city neighbourhoods, religious ideology, terrorismin the United States and the diamond industry are just a few of the other themes upon whichLupe touches, most, if not all of which are popular rap topics or have been handled by otherrappers previously.
2
Julián Olivares,
The Love Poetry of Francisco de Quevedo: An Existential and Aesthetic Approach
(CambridgeUniversity Press, 1983) p. 1
3
A. A. Parker, The Philosophy of Love in Spanish Literature 1480-
1689, ed. by T. O’Reilly (Edinburgh
University Press, 1985) p. 155
4
DJ RTC. (2009)
 , Lupe Fiasco: Don’t Forget’em
th
2010]
5
 
In a song Lupe recites ‘I used to hate hip
-
hop…yup, because the women degraded’ –
Lupe Fiasco, (2006)
“Hurt Me Soul” *Needlz+,
Food and Liquor 
[CD] New York: Atlantic Records
 
 3
 
For the reader, the employment of topics and other material that have been previously utilisedby a different artist are often instantly recognisable and it is thus a carefully executed andintentional tactic that one should use texts from elsewhere. In an attempt to bring to light theneo-Stoic grounding of a neo-Platonist courtly love ideal that oscillated between
amor purus
 and
amor mixtus
which
„satisfied the spirit on one level and flesh on another‟
6
, Quevedo usescourtly love poetry, a format closely associated with Neo-Platonist poets such as Garcilaso, totransform the neo-platonic ideal into one that places spirituality and carnality on the samelevel:
Si mis párpados, Lisi, labios fueran,Besos fueran los rayos visualesParker
 points out that „instead of sight being raised to understanding, we ha
ve sight lowered to acarnal possession
7
, in other words, the spiritual enlightenment of love thought to be achieved by neo-Platonism is balanced out by the instinctual need for the physical satisfaction as much as the rationalenlightenment in love. Although Lupe does not bestow the same complex hypothesis upon his work there is an aspect of manipulation of his genre. Whilst i
t may be with wholehearted enthusiasmthat Lupe adopts the rap genre, it could be viewed that there is a sense of reluctance withregards to the philosophies associated with it. It is clear from the satirical tone in a verse
from Lupe‟s song,
 Daydreamin’,
that he refers to the rap genre and its negative treatment of themes such as drugs, misogyny and gun violence:
 Now come on everybody, let‟s make cocaine cool
 We need a few more half naked women up in the poolAnd hold this MAC-
10 that‟s all covered in jewels […]
8
 
On a superficial level it may seem that Lupe‟s intentions are humorous or perhaps even
genuine, but by incorporating these topics that dominate the rap scene as a thematic basis forhis argument, Lupe exhibits gun culture, the objectification of women and drug use as absurdor grotesque. And so, in retaining the subject matter of rap whilst portraying these populartopoi satirically, Lupe is able to subvert the stereotypes of rap in his critique of the hackneyedimagery that dominates the genre. As we have seen in
the case of Quevedo‟s love sonnet
,Juliá
n Olivares indentifies a similar habit in Quevedo‟s
attitude towards the courtly love
6
Julián Olivares,
The Love Poetry of Francisco de Quevedo: An Existential and Aesthetic Approach
(CambridgeUniversity Press, 1983) p. 2
7
 
A. A. Parker,
The Philosophy of Love in Spanish Literature 1480-1680,
ed.by T. O’Reilly (Edinburg
h UniversityPress, 1985) p. 162
 
8
 
Lupe Fiasco, (2006) “Daydreamin’ (feat. Jill Scott)”*
Craig Kallman, Fiasco, Dave Mackay, Sylveer Van Holman,Raymond Vincent],
Food and Liquor 
[CD] New York: Atlantic Records

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