Alex Wroblewski / Sun-Times
Lupe Fiasco performs at the first Aahh! Fest in 2014.
On Sunday Lupe Fiasco
tweeted the video for an unreleased track called "Harold's" he composed as a birthday gift for a friend, and, yes, it's all about the beloved fried chicken joint
. The lithe soul number barely crosses the two-minute mark, but that's more than enough time for Lupe to unload delectable descriptions of the restaurant's fried fowl, a "southern delight, supper color the white."
Lupe's tune adds a new chapter to the book of Harold's references in Chicago hip-hop. You can trace the history back to Common's 1992 debut, Can I Borrow a Dollar?
, which includes a couple tracks produced by the team of the Twilite Tone
and No I.D. under the name "2pc DRK" (yep, that's a Harold's order). More recently, Chance the Rapper gave his favorite Harold's location a shout-out on "First Mixtape Based Freestyle," a track on
the collaborative mixtape he cut with Bay Area iconoclast Lil B, Free (Based Freestyles Mixtape)
. And who can forget Chance's birthday cake from last year
, which was decorated with the Harold's logo and icing resembling fried chicken, fries, and mild sauce?
Lupe makes a persuasive case for Harold's supremacy, which, as he aptly describes it, "Makes KFC taste like Mississippi river rat."
A song called "Harold's" was on the potential track list for Drogas Light
, Lupe's sixth full-length album and first since leaving Atlantic Records. Maybe it wouldn't have sagged quite as bad with this "Harold's" in the middle.
One thing did stick in my craw about that track, though: Lupe's a west-side native, which means his allegiance should be to the lesser-known but fiercely loved chicken chain Uncle Remus.
Confused, I posted my question about why the west-sider would make a song about a south-side institution on Twitter yesterday. Lupe responded rather quickly: "Uncle Remus fry they chicken in lard. #NoPorkOnTheFork."
That makes more sense, considering Lupe is Muslim and pork ain't halal. I tried to reach Lupe for more insights about the track, but couldn't get him on the phone.
Undeterred, I decided to call up a few Harold's locations to see if any managers had listened to Lupe's track. I got in touch with Norm Lewis, who runs the West Loop joint. "Yeah, I heard it," he tells me. "That’s my store that's in the video." In fact, the video, which Lupe ripped from YouTube, opens with a shot of the restaurant's sign and its address before rolling through tantalizing B-roll footage of Lewis's employees frying chicken and squeezing mild sauce on a combo order. Lewis had no idea footage of his restaurant would wind up in a Lupe Fiasco video, though he had noticed a cameraman pop by the restaurant months ago. "Yeah, I seen the guy in the kitchen [filming] and everything," Lewis says. "But I didn’t know he was doing the video for Lupe Fiasco."
The video arrived at a great time for Lewis. In September, the West Loop location moved to 1505 W. Madison, roughly a mile west of the previous location at the corner of Washington and Halsted. Lewis has already noticed an effect. "Business picked up a little bit this week," he says. Mostly, he seems happy the video shows what his restaurant does best, reflecting the very thing Lupe raps about in the song. "It was real nice," he says. "It shows how we cook everything fresh. It’s shows how we handle the customers."