Jay-Z has touched the lives of a lucky few in the music industry -- those within whom he's seen some artistic gift. That select list includes the rapper Lupe Fiasco, who Jay once called a "genius writer." Seven years ago, the hip-hop mogul helped Fiasco ink a deal with Atlantic Records, and then executive-produced Fiasco's debut album, "Food & Liquor." Since then, Fiasco has gone on to release two Billboard-topping singles, "Superstar" and "The Show Goes On."
But even with Jay-Z's support, Fiasco doesn't see the need to rush over to the Barclays Center this season to watch the Brooklyn Nets. That's because the Chicago native is a huge Bulls fan -- and he's still cringing at the fact that his Cubs just can't win. But even with his hometown interests, you're much more likely to run into Fiasco at a Formula 1 race track, where he enjoys his No. 1 sports passion.
While in New York promoting "Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1" and the release of the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone, Lupe Fiasco talked to Playbook about the Bulls, F1 and his childhood sports idol.
I know Jay-Z helped you sign with Atlantic Records back in 2005. What do you think about him taking Brooklyn by storm as minority owner of the Nets?
On the sports side, what you think the Nets are going to do? You think playoffs? Listen, I'm all about the Chicago Bulls. I'm not even going to get into my legacy left by that team. I was there when we were winning championships, literally up the street from where I was living on [West] Madison [Street], like six blocks away from Chicago Stadium.
What was your favorite Bulls moment growing up?
Remember when Jordan ran up and jumped up and swung his arm [after hitting the series-winning shot in the 1989 Eastern Conference first round]? I was seven years old.
Did you grow up idolizing MJ?
I actually grew up idolizing Ronaldo from Brazil in the World Cup when it was in the US in ’94. Ronaldo was always the illest soccer player of all time. He's not, though -- but for me at that age, he was.
How often do you keep tabs on the Bulls these days?
I'm a race car guy. I'm not a ball guy. I'm more of a technical dude. I got to see Lewis Hamilton race Formula 1, and that was a big deal for me, being in the pit. That was in Spa, Belgium, where unfortunately he got taken out in the first corner [of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix on Sept. 2].
How did you become a race car guy?
I had a secret passion when I was like 13. I wanted to race a BMW for some reason. I wanted to race like the 5 Series or something like that. I always wanted to race. Even now, I buy race cars. I have a little collection of things that I like. I kind of swap them out to keep it going.
Have you done any racing yourself?
I've driven in an IndyCar with Mario Andretti. It was a two-seater, like a fighter jet, and I was sitting behind him. We went around and took a couple laps in Vegas. So I have been in the car at 198 miles an hour with an open top.
Were you scared out of your mind going that fast?
Nah, you don't have time to be scared because the g-forces are so crazy. You just know that if you mess up, you're dead. That's the one thing that's in your mind. You're like, "You know what? If I mess up, I'm dead." You can't drive scared, so you have to drive crazy.
Did that experience fuel any musical inspiration?
Nah, that killed my racing experience. I jumped out of the car and I was like, "Yo, you crazy. You have to be crazy to do this." [Andretti] was like, "Yeah, I'm crazy."
Switching gears -- no pun intended -- do you have a sports possession that means a lot to you?
Mike Singletary wore my father's samurai armor. There was a poster with the ’85 Bears and they had these special-edition posters. So they had shot this themed portrait of Mike Singletary with the samurai armor, like he was a samurai. It was my father's armor. He did martial arts. That actual poster is in a sports memorabilia shop in LA, and I told the guy and he's like, "Man, you wanna buy it?" I was like, "Nah, just leave it in the store, man. I think it's better for people to see it." My father [Gregory] passed away [in 2007], but he had the poster.
You mentioned the Bulls and Bears. Which Chicago team would make you happiest if it won a championship?
The Cubs, man. Jesus, man, they should just pay somebody off. The Cubs have gotta win.
Have you ever thrown out the first pitch or sang the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley?
Nah. The White Sox have invited me out, but the Cubs haven't. That's probably why they're not gonna win.
I thought that was because of Steve Bartman.
I wasn't mad at that, man. They really did that dude a disservice, but it speaks to the passion of baseball in Chicago, that culture. They should've cut that dude some slack. I saw the whole documentary, but we're gonna lose anyway.
So are we going to see you at the Barclays Center this season?
Well, if I get invited.
You can't get Jay to hook you up?
Listen, man. I don't care about the Nets. It's about the Chicago Bulls. It's called Chicago. [Pause.] Bulls.