The past three years have certainly been tumultuous and gloomy for Chicago native Lupe Fiasco. Indeed, just last year hundreds of Lupe fans rallied outside of Atlantic Records offices in New York and Chicago demanding the record label to release his album. It can be argued that the protesters’ march made an impression on record label big wigs, for fans certainly received what they asked for. Well, somewhat. Lupe postponed what would have been his final release, Lu.pE.N.D., due to contractual terms. But with so much controversy surrounding the overdue Lasers album, is this really the promised album fans have been waiting for?
After listening to the intro, “Letting Go” featuring Sarah Green, one may begin to have second thoughts. The track suffers from lackluster production, a weak chorus, and annoying rap filtered verses which fail to serve any purpose. However, Lupe comes strongly with the powerful, rock tinged single “Words I Never Said.” At its very core, “Words I Never Said” finds Lupe confronting everything from terrorism to news media hypocrisy. Although Lupe digresses from time to time into tangents, the message is focused and hard hitting.
The album soon takes a downward spiral with tracks “When I Get There,” ”I Don’t Want to Care Right Now, and “Out of My Head.” “When I Get There” is more lackadaisical than laidback. And despite its positive message, it’s transparently forceful. And by the hook, it feels as if Lupe wasn’t feeling it either. In “I Don’t Want to Care Right Now,” fans will find Lupe going left (but not in a good way). The track is an awful reminder of what fellow Chicagoer, Common, attempted on his album Universal Mind Control. In comparison to the latter two, “Out of My Head” featuring Trey Songz isn’t half bad. At best it’s a watered down version of “Paris, Tokyo.” And at worst, well, it’s just that.
The next track, “Beautiful Lasers” featuring MDMA, finds Lupe conflicting with suicidal thoughts. Here, Lupe airs his frustration and makes several allusions to his relationship with Atlantic Records. Indeed, Lupe makes no attempt to pull back punches with lines like, “Sometimes, living in a world like this/It’s pretty hard not to go insane/Not pretty if you don’t comply/ Pretty easy if you don’t complain.” At the end of the song, however, Lupe offers a glimmer of hope by suggesting that love is the only reason he continues to subsist artistically.
Arguably one of the worst songs off Lasers, “State Run Radio” suffers due to its repetitive gut wrenching chorus and poor production. Moreover, the song is overly structured. As with “When I Get There,” the song misses not because of its content, but because of its overt forcefulness. Nonetheless, Lupe reveals that he hasn’t completely exhausted his ingenuity. Throw Lupe’s throwback “Could’ve Been,” Nas‘ “If I Ruled the World,” and Game’s “Dream” in a blender, and conceptually you’ll receive the most creative song on the album. It’s a utopian fantasy where “Hip Hop doesn’t have a section called conscience,” and where rappers are “rappin’ like crack never happened.” Unfortunately, “All Black Everything” not only has the listener imagining what the world could’ve been, but what the album should’ve been had he had more songs like this on the album.
For the fans who were expecting a completely erroneous, watered down album, you were half right. It’s clear that Lupe was trying to produce an album that was both revolutionary and progressive. His frustration, which stems from his lack of artistic control, is painfully obvious on the album. And after giving it a listen, one can easily discern which songs Lupe felt the most and which songs he created out of apathy. Because of that, I strongly believe this was an album that Lupe wasn’t looking forward to release. I just hope for his sake, and for the sake of his fans, that his next releases will transcend further than the infrared scanner at the cash register.