Release Date: Mar 8, 2011
Record label: Atlantic
"Me and my different drummer/He play the timpanis," Lupe Fiasco raps on his third disc. Dude's not kidding. Few rappers this side of his fellow Chicagoan Kanye West bring left-field bombast like the man born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco. His last disc, 2007's The Cool, was a 70-minute quasi-concept album about the search for sociopolitical realness in a fallen gangsta world that still managed to give him a hit (the anti-stardom "Superstar").
Lupe’s much-delayed set is as militant as the picket signs that fans used to force its release months ago. Murky rock cut ”State Run Radio” ridicules the repetitive nature of the airwaves, while the haunting ”All Black Everything” creates a fantasy world where negative isms don’t even exist. But within the harsh truths lie love and joy — heard on the spacey Trey Songz-assisted ”Out of My Head.” Simply put, Lasers beams.
Lupe Fiasco's third album finally gets a release after two years in major-label limbo, which came to a head last summer when fans started a petition and protested outside Atlantic's headquarters. Oddly, Lasers is Fiasco's most commercial-sounding album - but think of it as club music with a conscience. The Chicago wordsmith wraps his skilful flow and incendiary rhymes about politics, social strife and race relations around feel-good club beats and massive, singalong choruses.
There’s a well-documented history of delays throughout hip-hop’s history, but there may be no other tale more interesting than Lupe Fiasco‘s Lasers. Announced initially in June 2009, the LP was held back by Fiasco’s label, Atlantic, for a perceived lack of hits. Finally, after fans held protests across the world, Atlantic crumbled and announced the album would at last debut.
A confounding mix of confrontation and polish For an album four years in the making, delayed by often-public struggles with Lupe Fiasco’s label, Lasers is surprisingly polished, poppy and contemporary. The gloss, though, hides a more turbulent heart. Amidst textbook pop-hop vocal hooks on “Words I Never Said,” Fiasco drops 9-11 conspiracy theories, inflammatory comments on conservative pundits, Israel and even Obama, while “All Black Everything” imagines an alternate world where slavery never having happened somehow causes Ahmajinedad to win a Nobel Peace Prize (after Bill O’Reilly reads from the Koran).
Lupe Fiasco :: LasersAtlantic RecordsAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' PadaniaI know you, dear Reader. You think I'm SO predictable. You assume that, following all the recent shenanigans of Lupe Fiasco's travails against the notoriously enslaving Atlantic Records, the protests, petitions, media meltdown and pro-Lupe interviews, that this review will be a carbon copy of what I wrote in the Big Boi "Sir Lucious Left Foot" one last year...
Food & Liquor peaked in the Top Ten and collected three Grammy nominations. The Cool, released the next calendar year, reached gold-sales status and earned four Grammy nominations. Despite the achievements and momentum, Lupe Fiasco -- a reluctant industry cog from the beginning -- encountered several snags and had to make substantial artistic compromises prior to having Atlantic allow the long-delayed release of his third album.
For Lupe Fiasco, commercial success is never the trajectory’s endpoint. His recent, taut battle with Atlantic over quieting his lyrical profundity and incorporating more watered-down gangsta-pop mimicry has created a troubled atmosphere for the Chicago rapper. Three years of fighting for one’s freedom to create, while your label is more concerned with garnering the most capital, can bring consequences.
Lasers, the concentrated beams of light to which we owe the most enjoyable portions of Daft Punk shows and the Star Wars movies, are bright, precise, and futuristic. At its best, Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers is like that too. In moments of dazzling clarity, Lupe spits hip-hop prophecy, but too much of Lasers is given over to self-serious jeremiads on race, rap, and politics, or pop-rap pandering that would be easier to forgive if tracks like “State Run Radio” didn’t heap derision on the very markets that Lupe’s trying to break into.
Amid all the controversy preceding the release of Lupe Fiasco’s third studio album – the disheartening yet inevitable record leaks, his labels dogmatic approach in changing the album’s sound, a fan-staged petition and subsequent protest outside of Atlantic’s offices – the headlines for Lasers sadly became less about an artist whose music inspired a growing youth culture and more about whether his message could cover a financial bottom line. In the aftermath, what fans receive from Lupe is a product that he himself is unable to fully support. In retrospect, what made Food & Liquor and The Cool so appealing was not only Lupe’s impressive lyrical prowess but also his ability to poignantly describe any topic at hand with pinpoint precision.
To force his third album’s release, [a]Lupe Fiasco[/a] picketed the US office of his own personal Beelzebub, Atlantic Records. The label kept his creation hostage until he added a few hits to further line their pockets. That’s Lupe’s take, anyway.The truth is they put this damp flannel to their ears and heard a lot of corny rhymes about virtuous living set to mass-produced R&B synth sounds.
Lupe Fiasco established his selling point as a contrast to the crunk sensibilities of mid-00s hip-hop: a nerdy backpacker throwback unafraid to be vulnerable and smart. Six years on, soft-serve feelings have become the genre's commercial default, with the likes of Drake and B.o.B seeming to compete to see who can be the drippiest. But instead of retaining his distinctiveness, as mainstream rap has become more like Lupe, so he's begun to sound more like everyone else on Lasers: synthy choruses that Taio Cruz would reject as too generically Auto-Tuned, trite empowerment anthems as subtle as a Katy Perry hit.
One of the few things more depressing than actually listening to Lupe Fiasco's new album, Lasers, is imagining the monumentally emasculating studio sessions it took to make it. It's easy for label heads to see the commercial success of arena-rap like "Empire State of Mind" and "Love the Way You Lie"-- or crossover debuts such as Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday and B. o.
Review Summary: A soulless, automated, corporate recordLasers is a steaming pile of shit that should have never seen the light of day - but not because it is musically terrible. On the contrary, the rapping is solid (if not completely thoughtful) and the production sounds like what one would expect from pop-rap in 2011. Besides the fact that Lupe himself hates this record, the main problem here is a glaring, almost mechanical detachment between between music and musician; on any given track, Lupe's performance sounds like a complete afterthought.
It seems like my theme this week is reviewing long overdue, classically delayed hip-hop releases. First, there was Saigon’s The Greatest Story Never Told, an album that took four years to release despite big names like Just Blaze and Jay-Z involved. Despite the massive gestation period, Saigon’s album proved to be a release worth waiting for, and disproved the notion that a delayed rap album is delayed for a reason.
Chicago rapper’s delayed third album features several inspired moments. Johnny Sharp 2011 It’s been four years since Lupe Fiasco’s startling second outing, The Cool, confirmed the Chicago rapper as an important new maverick figure in hip hop. Since then, wrangles over creative direction with his label Atlantic (bizarrely, they wanted hits – as opposed to most major labels who are just begging for a King of Limbs from every artist) have delayed and derailed his plans for the follow-up.
Lupe Fiasco’s third album, “Lasers,” came out on Tuesday, but on Monday night it wasn’t certain that he’d be in the mood to celebrate at his album-release concert at Webster Hall. It’s been four years since his last album, “Lupe Fiasco’s the Cool,” and both he and his fans were getting restless. In October a scrum of supporters converged on the New York offices of Atlantic Records to demand the release of “Lasers.” That attention helped shake the album loose, although in a handful of recent interviews Lupe Fiasco has made the process sound onerous.