On familiar grounds

LUPE FIASCO is a Grammy-winning rapper, martial arts expert, eSports enthusiast (he is a Streetfighter Gaming champ), founder of two clothing lines (Righteous Kung-Fu, and Trilly & Truly), designer (for Reebok sneakers), as well as philanthropist.

Now he can add docu-series star to the list with Beat N Path, which premieres on KIX HD (Astro channel 729) tonight at 9pm.

In the series, Lupe (born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco) drops everything to go on a cross-cultural journey throughout China, where he chases his dual passions for music and martial arts. He will be practising with kung fu masters, as well as checking out China’s hip-hop scene.

The 36-year-old has been training in martial arts since he was three. His father (a karate master) operated several martial arts training facilities in Chicago.

During a tele-conference interview, Lupe said of his docu-series: “For me as an American, in our minds, China is the opposite of America. For some people, it can be unsettling but for people like me, it is like an adventure. It is like this undiscovered kind of place.”

The name of the show, Beat N Path, is a combination of rhythm (beat) and journey (path). Since both music and martial arts are things he is familiar with, this journey is not really ‘off the beaten path’ and, hence, the catchy title.

“For me, due to the language barrier, I try to connect with things that we have in common.

“For me, the thing I feel we have in common mostly everywhere is music, especially hip hop. All rappers kind of speak the same language, so I immediately felt I could connect on the music side.

“[We] started talking about our similar situations, our similar wants and needs. So even though I could not totally understand the language, I could understand the context just through the music.”

On the martial arts side, Lupe explained: “I did martial arts my whole life. I started with karate, and from karate I branched out into all these different forms. Eventually I landed on Chinese wushu.

“My father ... was always telling his students that if they ever got the chance to go to the place where the martial arts they are learning originated from, they should take it. “

Lupe added this trip was partly him fulfilling his late father’s wishes.

He also said that practising martial arts was something he did every day when he was going to school. He only slowed down with martial arts when he discovered a love for rap.

Aside from karate, Lupe has learned many other forms of martial arts. Kung fu was something that he took up after being fascinated by the moves that he saw in films, while wushu was something he took up only recently.

He described his kung fu training as being like a scene from a movie, where he had to “audition” in front of the masters, and was told that he has no strength.

However, these sessions felt familiar to what he learned before in Chicago, down to the same pains he experienced during training when he was much younger.

The show also allowed Lupe to meet people in the fashion, F&B, and other fields.

He said: “One night in Shanghai I met a bunch of MCs. One was an expat from Detroit, and one was a homegrown local rapper who was doing well from himself.

“I asked them if they talked about social issues, or things that are considered political in the US, or if their music is constricted.”

While the artistes admit to some restrictions, “at the same time they have the freedom to talk about their daily lives. In that they have the ability to tell the real Chinese story whether that may be in the street whether it is in the city or the countryside.”

Lupe added: “It may not be super-political, but some of the social conditions do get addressed and that helps lead to change. At the end of the day the government is still for the people, and they still have to listen to what the people want and what their needs are.”

After this adventure in China, Lupe is keen to continue his adventures in other Asian countries such as Japan and Thailand.