As of right now there are only five more days for Lupe Fiasco to (kick) push back his record’s release date. Between him and Rhymefest, Chicago’s pretty much got the lock on delayed hip-hop gratification. Both of them managed to squander more heat than most rappers will ever earn, and in Lupe’s case it seems like that’s directly proportional to his inability to deal with the Internet. Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor was set to drop back in June, which would’ve given the album the chance to ride the buzz generated by his verse on Kanye’s “Touch the Sky” and his own single “Kick Push.” But then the Internet fucked up his whole game. The album got leaked in an unfinished state, Lupe freaked, and while he was back in the booth reworking the record for a fresh drop his market was soaking up file-shared and bootlegged copies of the original. His hype meter was ticking down.
For a lesson in how Lupe should’ve handled that, look at OK Go. On August 30 of last year they released Oh No, the follow-up to an expensive, underperforming major label debut. It was released with the kind of underwhelming label push that usually leads to band members getting day jobs and the label getting a tax writeoff at the end of the year. But exactly a year later it was halfway up Billboard‘s Hot 200 album chart. What changed? OK Go let the Internet do for them what a major label publicity campaign couldn’t. They made their own no-budget video, one with the kind of hooky concept–ironic but still well-executed choreography–that imparts internet stickiness. They then released it on YouTube, where people could e-mail and blog about it, rather than on MTV, where they’d be subject to the whims of the channel’s programming department.
The band’s lead singer, Damian Kulash, then came out in the New York Times op-ed section as an anti-DRM, pro-file-sharing pundit, and the band was an online sensation. They’d redefined themselves as a cult act, rather than an also-ran. The brilliant treadmill-themed video they posted earlier this summer hit YouTube in the way that Michael Jackson videos used to impact MTV. It got them a spot on the VMAs, and right now their record’s selling better than it ever has. It’s also number two on the digital sales charts now, competing against Bob Dylan rather than the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, because they let the Internet do the work for them.
Meanwhile, Lupe’s record isn’t on the charts because it’s not out, at least not officially. It takes all of a few seconds of searching to download a copy of the album that will be released next Tuesday–maybe.