[Album Review] Lupe Fiasco - Lasers
After the initial announcement of Lupe Fiasco's Lasers back in June of 2009, the road to release has been rocky, and that is a massive understatement. The album, originally titled LupE.N.D., was supposed to be Lupe's swan song, a way for him to bow out of the industry on a high note. Atlantic Records, Lupe's record label, had a different idea in mind, though, and his contract with them made it impossible for him to carry through with his plans. As Lasersbegan to take shape and finally came to completion, Atlantic wasn't impressed and was holding back the release of the album for its lack of mainstream hits. In response to this, a massive fan petition took place, sparking a ton of controversy for the record label. Fans, and Lupe, finally got what they wanted when Atlantic caved and announced a release date. So here we are, the final product is in our hands. Does it live up to Lupe's expectations, or is it dragged down by the heavy hand of Atlantic Records?
Just to get this out of the way, let's talk Atlantic's influence on the album. Lupe has been on record saying that "The Show Goes On" and "Never Forget You" were forced upon him by Atlantic, saying "There’s nothing really to tell about ['The Show Goes On'], to be honest. I didn’t have nothing to do with that record. That was the label’s record... And then there’s ‘Never Forget You’ [featuring John Legend]—which is another record I had nothing to do with—which became another bargaining chip..." It's clear Lupe that went along with the will of the record label simply to put the album out there in order to give the rest of his songs a chance to reach the public.
Looking past the forceful influence of the record label, though, you can hear the bitter passion in Lupe's voice. "State Run Radio," for example, takes a direct stab at the mainstream bullshit that plagues radio stations, which constantly overshadow good, independent music. The song displays Lupe's most unique ability, which is to take a meaningful message and turn into good music. With this in mind, "Words I Never Said" is where Lupe pulls out the big guns. Bringing into question the attacks on 9/11 and the War on Terror, war overseas, President Obama, politicians, celebrities, mainstream media, and society in general, all of his opinions are brought to the mic, with absolutely no holds barred. Other tracks, like "Till I Get There" and "Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways)," bring Lupe's true emotions to the surface as quick-spitting, expertly-delivered rhymes, showing how he has accepted himself as a flawed person who, despite everything that has happened, remains entirely positive. "All Black Everything," in particular, taps into the style that made Lupe's Food & Liquor so amazing, taking classic sounds and samples, mixing it with a clean hip-hop sound, and rapping the truth.
Where the album starts to go downhill though is in tracks like "Break The Chain," where Euro-trance beats and a poppy chorus makes the slick rhyming of Lupe and British rapper Sway seem out of place from the rest of the album. "Out Of My Head" is another one that takes the focus away from Lupe's amazing rapping abilities and is more like the kind of songs that would be remixed and played in a club. And that's the main issue with much of this album. Many of the songs are heavy with Lupe's vocodered voice, excessive synthesizer, and an overall style that takes them further from classic Lupe hip-hop and closer to the mainstream, poppy, crap that he disses in "State Run Radio." Overall it makes the album feel disjointed, in its style, its pacing, and overall message. And that's just it, the album feels like it's coming from too many directions, from too many different people. Clearly, Atlantic's influence can be felt throughout the album, and clearly Lupe is taking a stand against that in many of his tracks. But, what we are left with is an album that sounds more like a feud in our ears, rather than the consistent, passionate, straight-from-the-fucking-heart-and-soul kind of albums that we've seen from Lupe in the past.