On May 20, the United States Soccer Federation named Lupe Fiasco as its music director, bringing the hip-hop artist into the fold ahead of its "Send-Off Series" for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. On Friday, Lupe appeared in Times Square in New York during USA’s Fan Appreciation Day and will hold a music set in Chicago at the United States Soccer Fan Fest prior to USA’s World Cup group match against Ghana on June 16.
FOXSoccer.com sat down with the talented musician in New York to chat about his new role with the United States Soccer Federation and past experiences about the beautiful game:
Leander Schaerlaeckens: What made you want to get involved?
Lupe Fiasco: "How it came about is my single ‘Mission,’ which is out right now, was going around to different brands and different companies, playing the song for them. One of those companies was US Soccer. And this guy right there [new US Soccer art director Futura] had come aboard with US Soccer to do special edition jerseys and different kinds of art. So when I had a meeting with US Soccer, it was like, ‘Hey, you wanna be music director?’ I was like, ‘[Expletive] yeah!" [Laughs.] It was very natural."
Lupe Fiasco: "I did a Spotify playlist, anything that needs to be curated for the team, some in-stadium music stuff and then we’re going to perform at a few games. I felt it was a good way to kind of bridge hip-hop and soccer in the US, specifically."
LS: Are you going to be in charge of locker room music?
Lupe Fiasco: "No, I think that’s individual to each player, which is cool because players kind of curate their own Spotify playlist. So I don’t want to get too authoritative about, ‘You have to listen to 50 Cent.’ It’s more so for US Soccer and the organization overall, just kind of curating."
LS: Where did your interest in soccer come from?
Lupe Fiasco: "I used to play it a little bit when I was like 13, 14. Always around World Cups I’d try to watch. I’d have to watch Univision and Telemundo to see the games I wanted to see. So I didn’t understand anything about the game because I couldn’t understand the commentator."
LS: You’re a legit fan if you turn on the Spanish channel when you don’t speak Spanish.
Lupe Fiasco: "Yeah, I’d be up at 3 in the morning watching whoever play whomever. I had a general interest in the sport and seeing it grow in the States — just another avenue for kids where I come from [to be in a safe environment]."
LS: You mentioned building a bridge between hip-hop and soccer. Is that valuable in helping to bring soccer further into the mainstream?
Lupe Fiasco: "I think every sport has a cultural piece to it. If you just come at it with: here’s some highlight reels and some great goals and like these players and here’s a nice jersey, that’s only going to get you so far if you can’t transform it into culture, if you can’t have it into the street wear culture and the music culture and the cool thing that’s running. If you can attach it to people who can act as ambassadors and present it to people who don’t know what it is, they can explain that you can play anywhere with anything."
LS: That’s the beauty of soccer, isn’t it? It’s low barriers to entry. All you need is a ball. And if you don’t have one, you can make one out of something.
Lupe Fiasco: "My goal was two cones. In the projects, in my front yard. My soccer career ended when my cousin used my soccer ball as a basketball and it rolled into the street and under a bus. That was the end of my soccer game. You can’t play soccer with a basketball."