Lupe Fiasco is polished. You wouldn’t know it or care perhaps. That’s Lupe. His music so sweet and enticing, yet he’s the forgotten one. We don’t think about him. And in today’s Hip-Hop world, if your last album came out in 2007, it makes perfect sense that you’ve been replaced by something less appealing, but current.
Lasers. An album completed almost entirely in 2008-9ish. Atlantic let it sit. And sit. A few teases, then it sat again. Then fans protested. Then it begrudgingly came out. With so much reluctance, hesitation, and variants thereof, we might assume that all this trouble means this album isn’t worth it. But what we are given is so tightly defined as “enjoyable”. A sinister yet rewarding blend of alternative, techno, pop, and rap that it has a shocking conclusion; we’ve been listening to a lot of garbage in 2011, and this may be the real first taste of something. Unfortunately, it often sounds more from the recording booth, then from the heart. In previous albums, Lupe is commonplace with his personal life. He alludes to the dark moments, high times, and an endearing lifestyle as a rebellious youngster. By the time, he puts the foundation down in I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now, it’s apparent that he’s just dictated the theme.
There’s a flagrant display of detachment in Lasers. Nothing seems to get too personal, everything seems light, and the skateboarding MC who dazzled in Food and Liquor is slightly scatterbrained here. He’s never used gimmicks or nuances to explain his maturation. He’s not blatantly trying to pull away from The Cool or Food and Liquor. He just seems absent and loose. At least, it’s not forced. He’s freshly on count. LF won’t waste your time. His syllables bounce into otherworldly bridges. When he feels it, he’s untouchable. There’s an urgency in Lasers that’s positive. Not that he’s rushing or phoning it in, rather, he’s being direct and practical. This is…by a longshot, his shortest album to date. No cluttering of numerous tracks, no moments where the tracks dip in enthusiasm and become boring. It ends just as quickly as it starts. LF’s tempo is smooth. It’s upbeat, relaxed, and confident. And by the time he throws the chorus to someone who can sing, it honestly sounds flawless. That’s why we like it. That recording trick makes all the songs sound complete, like Lupe was carrying this album from beginning to end. But since he began this quest so long ago, he’s certainly a different artist and person now. That makes us wonder how much Lasers means to him today.
But it’s really not his. It’s the album for music execs. It’s fluffy content pieced together with soulful hooks by John Legend, Trey Songz, and MDMA. Sure, it sounds great, but we wonder how he really feels. After all the struggle with this, is LF really happy with the final product? Is this what he wanted?
Once his next two albums come out, we’ll know the answer. But don’t discredit him. I don’t question his character nor his heart. If there wasn’t all this BTS drama, it truly sounds like he’s having a lot of fun. It’s fun (purely for amusement) to listen to. But when Atlantic has been so callous with its holding over this “product,” it’s hard to know if Lupe ever really owned this album. If he did, the studio cut those parts out. There’s just too many moments where the context is so soft, the lines so typical and trite. Sure, LF’s flow is fantastic, so it sounds good anyway. But where is all his depth? His poise? His intensity? It’s hidden behind fruity loops, rock/rap infusions, and auto-tuned choruses. It’s chain restaurant hip hop. If LF wasn’t so talented, it would sound much more ordinary. His talent saves it, and makes it intruging. But at times, it sounds like a posthumous release; so pieced and clipped. And sure, Fiasco finished his performance, but it’s still lacking. Considering LF has a damaged relationship with Atlantic now, then it is technically a posthumous album.
There’s so much potential here. At the hands of a higher power, Lasers sounds congruent. If this is what Lupe Fiasco wanted, then it would be a gem. But since he’s admitted his love and hate for this process, you wonder if it’s the final cut he wanted. As he works on two more albums as of now, is he trying to move forward from this? That’s sad. There just isn’t enough substance here. It’s a fly-by album. It won’t win awards or turn heads. It won’t change Hip-Hop. But it will be great for the short term and very welcomed into our ears. It’s just a shame he had to go through the pain. He doesn’t have anything to be embarrassed about.
Standout Tracks: “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now”, “Out Of My Head”, “Coming Up”
1. Letting Go ft. Sarah Green
2. Words I Never Said ft. Skylar Grey
3. Till I Get There
4. I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now ft. MDMA
5. Out of My Head ft. Trey Songz
6. The Show Goes On
7. Beautiful Lasers (Two Ways) ft. MDMA
8. Coming Up ft. MDMA
9. State Run Radio ft. Matt Mahaffey
10. Break the Chain ft. Eric Turner & Sway
11. All Black Everything
12. Never Forget You ft. John Legend