RATING: 2.5 / 5
To kick off the review, I feel it’s essential to reinforce the background to this album. It’s almost frustrating to write about, as a dedicated Hip Hop fan and devoted purist, but let’s recap. Lupe Fiasco is a game changing, on some n’other level-type artist that wasn’t being appreciated, valued or shown even an ounce of respect by his label, Atlantic Records (who manage the likes of Flo Rida, T.I. and Trey Songz. Get the picture?) The list of issues is as painful as it is lengthy – Atlantic tried to direct the album’s theme (or what is now, a lack of), Atlantic claimed Lasers was lacking legitimate hits, Atlantic rejected Lupe’s plea to leave the label, Atlantic rejected Lupe’s request to just release the album and get it out of the way and Atlantic threatened to cancel the project all together. Now that the name has settled in your mind, go send them hate mail or something.
It’s a sad situation to find myself writing this, but Lupe Fiasco’s hugely-anticipated, widely-publicised, ‘enter the new decade claiming the Hip Hop crown as his own’-album is a real disappointment. I don’t blame the rapper. Since Food & Liquor, he has been dope. He still is. I just sympathise with the situation he found himself trapped in; aside from the exact moment Soulja Boy first discovered a mic, a major pop label shutting down a talented rapper is the biggest kick in the balls Hip Hop can handle. As we’re introduced to the opening track on Lasers, Letting Go, we are also painted an accurate picture, for the most part, of what to expect from the rest of the album: a wasteland of uninspired electro-pop beats struggling to keep Lupe Fiasco interested.
Fortunately, the rapper’s talent will always shine through regardless of how lousy the beats are. Lupe employs the pen and paper as his single creative outlet on Lasers, as the commotion ran its course behind the scenes in the executive offices. His lyrics are on point for the whole album. He establishes himself for the first time on the album on the lead single, Words I Never Said, with “I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullshit/Just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets/How much money does it take to really make a full clip”/9/11 building 7 did they really pull it?” A bold and fearless proclamation in the true Lupe Fiasco fashion which we’ve grown fondly accustomed to since joints like American Terrorist. One of the few gems on Lasers.
In spite of the momentum built from Words I Never Said and ‘Till I Get There (a insightfully personal track that would have been welcome on Food & Liquor), reality finds it way into your headphones once again, crushing your eager aspirations for the album and making itself at home for the next half a dozen tracks. Number 4, I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now, is worthy of a mention. After barely making it ’til the chorus, I felt obligated to look up the word “detest” in a thesaurus. These 4 minutes and 16 seconds truly sum up everything I despise about the pop/club sound. MDMA offers a helping hand with wheeling Lasers off to the morgue, auto-tuning his way through the chorus with “I can see the morning creeping upon us/Like the world’s in my hands right now/I’m feeling so rebellious from all of the envy/Crowding around me”. A neat package of bullshit lyrics and a bland disco beat. The funniest part is, the degrading tragedy of finding a song of this calibre on a Lupe Fiasco album will, no doubt, be lost on the kids who will fall in love with this song.
You probably have to wait until the 11th joint on the Lasers tracklist to rekindle your affection for Lupe. All Black Everything sees a welcome interruption to the electro mess left before it, with an irresistible strings and drum-heavy beat, courtesy of the unfamiliar production name, The Buchanans. Turn the crap off, and Lupe’s talent switches itself on, as his socially forward messages are carried over from Words I Never Said. As the title may suggest, the Chicago spitta discusses key cultural references, adding an afro-centric twist on the tales – “Somalia is a great place to relax in/Fred Astaire was the first to do a backspin/The Rat Pack was a cool group of black men/That inspired five white guys called The Jacksons.” All Black Everything is a song that would have, simply, enhanced The Cool, but establishes itself as the standout on Lasers. Dopest joint on the album.
Never Forget You, featuring John Legend, is the conclusive song, capping off the primarily hampering journey from start to finish. Reading the names Lupe Fiasco and John Legend conjoined by “featuring”, a little bit of hope grew inside of me. But as is the insistent pattern of the album, it failed to deliver. Lupe sounds at his most detached on this final track, asserting almost minimal effort with spitting the rhymes. With the song playing in the background, you can almost picture the rapper in the studio, head down and disheartened from the trials imposed onto him by his executive label. While fans fought and protested for the album’s release, it’s a shame to realise they wasted their marching talents and chanting expertise on an album that only serves to please a corporate label. I say we save our energy for the “get Lupe off Atlantic and on G.O.O.D Music” protest. Coming soon to a label headquarters office near you.
[R!] = Re-run!
Name = To the bin
Letting Go feat. Sarah Green
02 Words I Never Said feat. Skylar Grey [R!]
03 ‘Till I Get There [R!]
I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now feat. MDMA
Out Of My Head feat. Trey Songz
06 The Show Goes On
Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways) feat. MDMA
Coming Up feat. MDMA
State Run Radio feat. Matt Mahaffey
Break the Chain feat. Eric Turner & Sway
11 All Black Everything [R!]
Never Forget You feat. John Legend