How -Topic Almost Got his Ass Kicked on the Luckiest Day of His Life at Fun Fun Fun Fest
Dallas rapper -topic is crouched low, sitting on his heels, his weight resting on the balls of his feet. He's at Fun Fun Fun Fest, behind about four fences he really shouldn't be behind, and standing fifteen feet away is Lupe Fiasco. -topic has a CD in his hand.
Mike Brooks -topic (right) and KoolQuise kill time at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2013.
Lupe is facing the other way, furious, surrounded by his manager and the inner circle and anyone else unlucky enough to still have to be here. It wasn't a good show. Most of the people who followed him off the stage peeled off at the first opportunity. A few approached as he walked toward his bus but they turned heel quickly. So now it's just those who wish they could leave and -topic, who followed the crew back here from the stage - shit, all the way from Dallas, really, and he has no choice now but to stand up and walk over. So he does.
A bad Lupe Fiasco set is still a Lupe Fiasco set. Seven years ago, the Chicago rapper preached individuality from his skateboard and reached kids all over the world. Two of those kids were -topic and his Team From Nowhere running mate and fellow MC KoolQuise, who is standing behind the stage at Fun Fun Fun Fest a few minutes earlier. -topic's one barrier closer to the stage, somehow, standing right by the steps up to where Lupe's standing with his mic. He's playing "Kick, Push," and Quise is rapping along, his head bowed, his arm held loosely out. He stops and says, "This song inspired me and -topic. I never dreamed we'd be standing right beside him."
How they came to be standing right beside their onetime idol is something that depends on your perspective. In the longest possible view, it involves their own rising star in Dallas, where Team From Nowhere is starting to get some high profile gigs. -topic opened for Erykah Badu earlier this year at the Prophet Bar. He played with The Cannabinoids at Index Fest. There's something of Lupe's ethos in Team From Nowhere's style. "He has dope lyricism and meaning," says -topic of Lupe. "You just have to listen to it."
-topic is the crew's most talented MC; he's endlessly inventive, and onstage he has an almost goofy confidence. In pictures, he's always the one with the most exaggerated facial expression. He's an instinctual person, who finds missions in his gut and follows them. He walks around with a plush lion backpack. On his trip to Austin it filled with buttons and CDs and pens and a plastic knife/fork/spoon utensil made for camping.
So people are starting to notice -topic, at least in North Texas. One of those people helped get him backstage at this week's Lupe Fiasco show in Dallas on Wednesday. That was big, because even before all this in Austin, earning Lupe's respect had come to be one of -topic's missions. He'd tried once before, in 2008. It had not gone well.
The first time was when Lupe played at the House of Blues. -topic approached him after the show and asked if he'd do a quick cypher. Predictably, Lupe brushed him off. "I just rapped for two hours," -topic recalls him saying. "I don't have time for you."
Most people probably would have left it at that. Though to be fair, most people wouldn't have made such a bold request in the first place.
Marco Torres for Houston Press. Read his full review of Lupe's Thursday's show here.
It's been five years, and on Wednesday -topic still felt he had unfinished business. Lupe had just finished a bad set in Dallas - there were problems with his DJ and his crew. He lectured them tersely.. -topic stuck around. Lupe came out for exactly 30 photos, and -topic was 31st in line. Lupe started walking away with his bodyguards, still in a bad mood, and -topic felt that pull in his gut toward his mission. So he stepped alongside the group, and started rapping his song "Broke.Black.King.Rap" a capella and unprompted. Lupe kept walking.
But then something unexpected happened. Lupe Fiasco stopped, turned around, and listened. He asked -topic for a CD, and -topic had to tell him that he'd sold the last one earlier that day.
So -topic went home, that mission changed now but still burning in his chest. He'd been acknowledged by his idol, and his skills had also been respected, but -topic didn't see it that way, not after Lupe had walked off empty handed, without his copy of Time to Feed the Birds: Stories of Dead Kings.
Lupe, meanwhile, went to Houston where he had another bad show. More sound issues, more lectures, another quick photo session and Fun Fun Fun Fest less than 24 hours away. Up north in Dallas, -topic decided he'd find his way to Austin.