Lasers [Album Review]
Producers: Kane Beatz, Alex da Kid, The Audibles, Needlz, King David, Miykal Snoddy, Ishi, The Buchanans, Jerry Duplessis, Syience.
Anarchy. The symbol that takes the presence of the letter ‘A’ in the title of Lupe Fiasco’s latest studio album. Instead of anarchy, this project incited a fan-crafted revolution, after the Chi-Town bred lyrical savant was wrongfully forced to sit in label purgatory because of a decision to exercise full creative control during the creation of Lasers. After the release of the overproduced single ‘The Show Goes On’ and the triumphant stadium sound that echoes on ‘Words I Never Said’, Fiasco finally delivers his third studio release, and though nowhere the caliber of his first two multi-layered records, an fun piece of music.
With as difficult a process as Lupe Fiasco suffered during recording for Lasers, the toll it took on him is extremely noticeable. From the onset of the album on ‘Letting Go’, Fiasco confesses how draining the creative process became (“As the old me I predicted all my recent plights/ Exhausted, trying to fall asleep, losses at my recent fights/ Burdens on my shoulders now, burnin’ all my motives down/ Inspiration drying up, motivation slowing down”). Formerly known as frequent collaborator Pooh Bear, MDMA offers an autotune-infused chorus three years late on the jewel of the album ‘Beautiful Lasers, 2Ways’, where Lupe offers a reflection of the suicidal thoughts that engulfed his mind state during his struggle with the label.
Despite Atlantic Records’ influence on the album’s sound, he was allowed the inclusion of part of his vision for Lasers. ‘State Run Radio’ visualizes a world where Fiasco acts as “The Voice” of government-controlled radio as he pens three verses, acknowledging the repetitive nature of records thrust upon the public. Fiasco proclaimed the concept ‘All Black Everything’ “one of his all-time favorites” and it fails to disappoint as the wordsmith envisions a world, devoid of racism and where slavery never occurred, where “the Rat Pack was a cool group of black men that inspired the five white guys called the Jacksons.”
Unfortunately, there’s a fair share of lowlights that encompass Fiasco’s most inconsistent effort to date. Fiasco misses the target with misplaced boxer-based rhymes on the dreary ‘Till I Get There’. A Sonic The Hedgehog-esque casino record, the up-tempo ‘I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now’ has Lupe’s double time flow on full display, veiling easily some of the most generic bars of his career:
“Got the game in the clutch like I am G
You ball, little boy but I N-B-A
With a hand full of world
You a boy band with a dance and a twirl
I’m a rockstar with a band so thorough
Big ass tour bus that’s jammed full of girls”
The features on the album are heavy on crooners with sing-songy choruses, the exception being Sway’s turn on ‘Break The Chain’, but Lasers sees more of Fiasco’s personal thoughts shine through instead of the sage perspective that graced his initial two classic works. He delivers a lackluster release (for his elevated standards) yet a triumph for mainstream radio. Much of the early criticism imposed on Lupe by those who previewed the early leak comes from an outlook that he did not lyrically exercise his frustrations on wax as few can do better than him. A retort: he couldn’t. He was specifically told “Don’t rap too deep on this record. You’re rapping too fast or too slow, or it’s too complex”. He mailed it in and delivered an Atlantic album by Lupe Fiasco, rather than a Lupe Fiasco album and stands another step away from Atlantic Records, but (more importantly) towards creative freedom.
3 spins (out of 5)