Lupe Fiasco - 'Lasers'(1st and 15th/Atlantic)
Back in 2006, Lupe Fiasco was being hailed as hip-hop’s savior. The lyrically dexterous, devout Muslim Chi-town native released, Lupe’s Food and Liquor, a stellar debut with a co-sign from big homie, Jay-Z. By the time his second album, the thematically complex The Cool, dropped the following year he was still recognized as a game changer.
Now in 2011, after a series of false starts – from a supposed triple disc final album music industry exit, LupEND, to a strong but not amazing mixtape, Enemy of the State, to the several times pushed back Lasers, the question remains: who’s really checking for Lupe? In hip-hop dog years, half a decade is a long time. Can Lasers save him from falling off?
Well, not if you’re looking for anything resembling his first two efforts. The dominant electro-pop sound is the first thing you notice about Lasers, which will hit diehard fans like a slap in the face. A much needed reminder of how good he sounds over a solid beat comes in the form of producer Needlez’s old-school styled, “Till I Get There.”
If nothing else, he retains his provocatively smart, non-preachy style on “Words I Never Said,” with “Jihad is not a holy war/where’s that in the worship/Murdering is not Islam/and you are not observant.” Lyrics like that almost make the hollow production forgivable, that is, until you get to the auto-tuned hook of “Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways).”If you get past that and listen on, the reward is the winner: “All Black Everything.” It’s a worthwhile track by an unknown producer, Wizzo Buchanan. Sure, the title suggests Kanye West behind the boards with a Jay-Z guest verse, though the lyrics are wonderfully imaginative: slavery never happened, W.E.B. DuBois penned the U.S. Constitution and Martin Luther King eulogized a Malcolm X who lived into old age. This is the peak.
Overall, the greatest indicator of Atlantic myopia on this project is the forced, John Legend-assisted, Black Eyed Peas-esque closer, “Never Forget You.” On the whole, the album is like a diluted version of labelmate B.o.B.’s debut, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, sans the musicianship, yet still designed to pander to radio. It doesn’t work; Lasers sounds woefully incomplete. This brief collection of songs flickers like a neon sign just bright enough to let you know Fiasco is still in business. Hopefully, the fans who protested further delay of its release won’t let his light die.
True devotees of the MC will see Lasers for what is it: a hurry up and wait, label-manipulated mess. They should stay connected by grabbing the better tracks and celebrating where Lupe Fiasco is right now: free of the burden of saving hip-hop but still armed with enduring creativity that saves him from total disaster.Top Tracks
- “Letting Go”
- “Till I Get There”
- “The Show Goes On”
- “Coming Up”
- “All Black Everything”