A few years ago, Lupe Fiasco seemed destined to be rap’s next superstar. His first two albums, 2006’s Food & Liquor and 2007’s The Cool, were successes among pop radio listeners and conscious rap purists alike, with songs that were as lyrically intellectual as they were danceable. What was most exciting about Lupe was that he appealed to all kinds of music fans without sacrificing artistic integrity. But, due to much-publicized feuding with his record label, Atlantic, that’s exactly what he was forced to give up on his long-awaited latest effort.
Lasers is a clichéd, mechanical album that’s barely tolerable when Lupe isn’t rapping. Most songs are detached, near-paradoxical messes, littered with auto-tune and cluttered, electronic-oriented beats. One such example is “Words I Never Said,” which virtually sounds like a duplication of a song I already can’t stand, Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie,” except the chorus here is provided by Skylar Grey instead of Rihanna.
But the album isn’t entirely terrible. Both “Till I Get There” and “All Black Everything” would’ve fit in just fine on either of Lupe’s first two albums, the former with less busy production than most of the tracks on Lasers, the latter with thought-provoking lyrics that ask what the world would be like if, say, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote the U.S. Constitution, or if Bill O’Reilly were a Muslim. When it comes down to it, though, the good moments on this album are few and far between, and don’t quite stand up to the best highlights on Food & Liquor and The Cool.
It’s quite a shame to see an artist as stellar as Lupe being overshadowed by all of the excess production that crowds Lasers. Overall, this album sounds like what it really is: greedy, tasteless, major label executives getting their way.