After a slew of label disputes and other calamities, Lupe Fiasco‘s Lasers is finally out. With reports of the incredibly talented and intelligent Chicago-born rapper feeling less than enthralled about the release, I went into it with more than a little hesitation.
Lasers is, for the most part, a capitulation record. As the long-awaited follow-up to 2007′s The Cool, this recording is what happens when an artist has a love/hate relationship with the songs and the process of making them.
In several interviews with various media outlets, Fiasco has talked about the process of recording the album being rather hellish. “One thing I try to stress about the project is I love and hate this album,” the rapper told Complex in February. “I’ll listen to it and I’ll like some of the songs. But when I think about what it actually took to get the record together…I hate this album.”
Indeed, much of making Lasers was about creating something for the masses and of satisfying that corporate angle of the music industry we all love so much. It is music for the people. And it isn’t.
What we end up with is an album that feels divided. It’s impossible to discount Lupe Fiasco’s skill on the mic. His delivery is on point, without question, and he glides smoothly over clipped beats and synth-infused backdrops.
But structurally Lasers is awash in blandness and guest spots. At times, Fiasco feels like a visitor on his own album. At other times, he tries to poke through the production haze with a nod or two to some more important issues. Mostly, though, it just doesn’t sound like a Lupe Fiasco record.
“State Run Radio” is an example of what Fiasco can do when he has the keys to the car, but even it feels apprehensive with its cardboard chorus and limp hooks.
It’s “Words I Never Said” that stands as the brightest beam of these Lasers. Stellar vocals by Skylar Grey, who is fucking sublime on Dr. Dre’s new single, guide the track into a chunky beat. Fiasco blasts it, talking all kinds of suitable smack about easy and hard targets. Glenn Beck, Obama, bankers, and fundamentalists take all sorts of righteous heat before the rapper turns the weapon on himself.
Unfortunately, flimsy tunes like “Till I Get There” and the Auto-Tuned “Beautiful Lasers” are sluggish examples of “chart-friendly” pabulum. These sorts of moments, bromidic and limp, populate the record with thick malaise. They don’t belong and Lupe seems to know it.
Lasers is, I suppose, a necessary recording for Lupe Fiasco. Props are due him for smuggling in some rather sophisticated stuff among the clumsy rubble of cash-friendly crap, but this really isn’t a very good album. Download “Words I Never Said” and skip the rest.