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Native Sun News: Lupe Fiasco speaks to Pine Ridge in new single

The following story was written and reported by David Arredondo, Native Sun News Summer Journalism Intern. All content © Native Sun News.

PINE RIDGE, SOUTH DAKOTA –– “First off, say peace to Pine Ridge/Shame at all the damage that the white man wine did.”

This is the opening line of Wasalu “Lupe Fiasco” Jaco’s first single off his upcoming fourth studio album. The aptly titled single, “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free),” was released on May 21 and is the Atlantic Records artist’s take on what he sees as wrong with America – past and present.

Since his debut in 2006, the rapper whose stage name is Lupe Fiasco has included his stance on social, political, religious and other worldly issues in his lyrics. This time he points out the historical and contemporary injustices done to the Oglala Lakota Nation.

Fiasco, an African American, mentions in his song the 5 million cans of beer sold annually at the Pine Ridge Reservation border town of Whiteclay, Neb. According to the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission’s website, there were over 400,000 gallons of alcohol consumed – roughly 4.2 million 12-ounce cans of beer – during 2011 by Pine Ridge residents who had purchased the brew in Whiteclay, so he’s not far off. Fiasco also brings up the topic of Indian gaming in his lyrics.

“Down at the Lakota Sioux casino/A whole culture boiled down to giving you pokeno,” he raps in the second verse of “Around My Way.” Pokeno is a card game that is a combination of bingo and poker. These lyrics are drawn from the many rich Native American cultures that are now seemingly reduced, in stereotypical fashion by the American public, to only working in casinos.

The Chicago-based MC even raps about “taking Columbus Day up off the calendar.” This declaration rings loudly for South Dakotans as Columbus Day is celebrated as Native American Day in the state due to the precedent-setting efforts of Native Sun News founder Tim Giago. The longtime Oglala Lakota newspaper editor, publisher and founder eloquently persuaded Gov. George S. Mickelson to introduce legislation to change the name of the holiday in 1989 to honor the original peoples of the land that became America.

Fiasco’s lyrics are quite different from his contemporary’s – rapper Big Sean used the cliché and stereotypical topic of “chief like an Indian, talking in clouds” in a recent song. Rather than referencing Native Americans to boast about one’s status as his fellow rappers might, Fiasco shows awareness by bringing up issues that his audience may not be particularly aware of.

Other non-Indian referencing topics in “Around My Way” include hedonism, media influence and planned obsolescence. The song, which samples the 1992 hip-hop classic “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” by Pete Rock and CL Smooth, has reached the No. 76 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

Fiasco’s album, “Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1,” is scheduled to be released Sept. 25. The song, “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free),” is currently available online via iTunes.

(Contact David Arredondo at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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