Rapper Lupe Fiasco held court on the Diag yesterday, answering questions about politics, hip hop and homophobia.

Julie Rowe
Rapper Lupe Fiasco drew a crowd to the Diag yesterday. He rapped a few verses and took questions from the crowd. (PETER SCHOTTENFELS/Daily)

“I make really good hip-hop music, Grammy-nominated hip-hop music, GQ-Man-of-the-Year hip-hop music,” Fiasco said by way of introduction. “The opportunity-to-speak-to-y’all-in-the-Diag hip-hop music.”

Fiasco spit a few verses – old and new material, with the crowd joining in occasionally – but told the 400-or-so gathered that he wasn’t allowed to perform.

Students, many of whom saw the event advertised on Facebook.com and through e-mails, were able to get over the initial disappointment.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said LSA sophomore Britney Rashleigh. “It’s just good to see him, a celebrity in Ann Arbor – an African-American celebrity in Ann Arbor – and for everyone to come out.”

At one point, a fan insisted on freestyling for Fiasco. Fiasco let the guy rap, though he joked, “You trying to take my shine, son.”

But he then used him as an example. He said he wanted to listen to the wannabe rapper, saying that before current fame and fortune, Fiasco was just like him.

The event was sponsored by Atlantic Records’s Urban College Network and the Michigan Chapter of Hip Hop Congress. The hip-hop star promoted his upcoming album The Cool.

Fiasco, whose real name is Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, took questions from the audience for about half an hour.

The questions were often pointed – not surprising for an outspoken artist known for the political content of his lyrics.

A fan who proclaimed himself to be “an openly gay man who loves hip hop” asked the rapper where he fell in the spectrum of hip-hop artists who have expressed contrasting views on homosexuality and the gay community.

He pledged support for gays, among other groups, because he said he supports anyone who faces discrimination.

Another asked who Fiasco was going to vote for in the 2008 presidential election.

Fiasco said he doesn’t believe in voting, but he wants Hillary Clinton to win.

“I’m tired of men, ya’ll,” he said to cheers, “I think that a woman in charge of the most powerful nation in the world is going to empower so many women.”

LSA senior Meagan Mirtenbaum, co-president of a student group promoting Arab-Jewish harmony, Bridge the Gap, asked Fiasco to perform and speak at a planned event next spring alongside Orthodox Jewish rapper Matisyahu.

“I think that was actually pretty ballsy to ask him to come perform with Matisyahu,” said Business School junior Sasha Compere, a member of Encore, a University student dance group that performed at the event.

Mirtenbaum said she only found out on Sunday night that Fiasco was going to be speaking on the Diag but the group has been planning a way to hold a Matisyahu/Lupe Fiasco concert since early summer as part of a year of cross-community activities.

Fiasco eventually directed Mirtenbaum’s invitation to his assistants, but not without his own questions first.

He joked about a price tag when she first asked him the question, then asked her about her nationality.

“I’m Jewish,” Mirtenbaum said.

“How much money we talking?” Fiasco replied.

There were a few seconds of awkward laughter.

“Thanks for playing out the stereotypes,” Mirtenbaum said.

Mirtenbaum said she wasn’t offended by the jokes, but she said if Fiasco did accept the invite conditions of what would be “appropriate” fodder for humor would have to be clarified.

“I think he was making jokes the entire time so I didn’t take it offensively,” she said.

Jennifer Yin, a Business School senior and a college representative for Fiasco’s record label, arranged the event.

“He’s real, he’s not going to hide anything in. He’s not going to pretend like he’s not going to offend anyone,” she said. “I think he handled the questions very well. I think he’s very respectful. That’s who he is – that’s the type of person he is.”

– Daily News Editor Gabe Nelson contributed to this report.

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