How great of a lyricist is Lupe? I know that these blog posts have to be essay-like but I wanted to take some time to address this. He is brilliant; if you dissect the lyrics you are left absolutely dumb-founded. He manages to use the wildest word-play yet keeps it comprehensible and most importantly, meaningful. He has the reputation for being an outstanding lyricist, both socially-conscious enough to appeal to the "underground" crowd, and mainstream enough to appeal to those wishing for a track to bump to. However, as of late many consider him to be too sophisticated. Many cant understand his lyrics and it is different from what they are used to. This song is a response to these critics: those that believe he must simplify his lyrics to appeal to the mainstream. Will he? You better believe he won't dumb it down.
To analyze the lyrics and show how Lupe is combating these critics I will close read a section of verse 1:
"I'm fearless, now hear this, I'm earless
And I'm peerless, which means I'm eyeless
Which means I'm tearless which means my iris
Resides where my ears is, which means I'm blinded"
-Lupe Fiasco, "Dumb it Down"
He first says that he is fearless. Fearless of the media and of possible outrage against some of his lyrics. Whether or not what he says is controversial does not matter to him. Then he demands attention and for people to listen to his lyrics, but says that he is "earless"-- again, it doesn't matter what people say about his lyrics as long as it means what he wants it to mean. He is deaf to the negative criticisms of him by the media. He then uses a double entendre: "I'm peerless". It could be saying that he does not "peer", which is similar to the verb "to see" OR that he has no peers (no one else is on his level lyrically). Him saying that he cannot "peer" is elucidated later when he says "I'm eyeless" which plays into an interesting word-play which all accumulates into him being "blinded" by the music he listens to. Also, he says that he is "tearless" which also can have dual meaning: he doesn't have eyes so he cannot cry and he is so superior to other rappers no one can "tear" him or achieve anything close to him in terms of lyricism. "[His] iris resides where [his ears is]", which I interpreted like this: basically, the mainstream music he sees everyday isn't worth his listening. The lyrics these rappers spit don't matter to him or to anything. All he needs to do is see these rappers and the way they boast about their wealth and the materialistic culture that has become hip-hop today and from that he can come to the conclusion that they don't even come close to him lyrically. To summarize, he says he doesn't have the "ears" for both these critics and the mainstream rappers. He doesn't have eyes because instead of listening to the music, he hears by seeing (he doesn't need to listen to the lyrics because he already understands how irrelevant they are).
Using these senses and creating a witty wordplay also is itself a brilliant attack on the critics who want him to dumb down his music to sell more money. By elevating and complicating his lyrics further to respond to them, he has created the perfect response. To him, the people that appreciate his lyrics and take the time to understand them will buy his album. That is all that matters to him.