The story behind Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers is dramatic. The release was bogged down with multiple delays, cat fights in Lupe’s inner circle, petitions and protests. But Mr. Fiasco fought the good fight and finally managed to pry a release date from the jaws of the evil Atlantic empire.
Attention heaped on top of an already troubled project engenders a great deal of interest as well as oodles of expectations. Why would an artist fight so ardently for mediocre music? As we saw with Saigon’s beleaguered debut, sometimes the story is so great, it must be told. Hence, fans and doubters alike excitedly awaited the source of all the fuss.
The wait is over. Lasers is scheduled to hit streets the second week of March and unfortunately for Mr. Fiasco, it’s a rambling LP that touches on an odd variety of subjects with no particular focus. Fiasco targets Fox’s finest with a scathing diatribe on racism and misinformation on Islam. He reflects on voting, dishonest government practices, depression, drug use, fizzling relationships, swagged out party time, the war on terrorism, suicidal thoughts and self-help tactics. Some of these topics even find themselves on the same songs. It’s an anomalous collection for someone who has already shown he has a talent for tightly woven themes.
The production is also a source of concern at times, as some of the tracks drag along their paths to uninspired finish. Interesting aspects surface in songs like “All Black Everything” with its swirling strings and “Coming Up” featuring MDMA with its lively piano and top of the 80’s disco kitsch. If “Out of My Head” hosted a few more live instruments, it would sound like an early 80’s Michael Jackson b-side. This might actually be the best song on the album. “Never Forget You” works very well in a shoot for the moon after school special kind of way. Its placement behind songs that speak of disdain for Israel and a possible 9/11 conspiracy is peculiar, but the song is beautiful nonetheless. The rest of the album, however, is weighed down with too many similar-in-spirit foundations that don’t emote melancholy as much as they sound like music to sleep by.
The opening one-two punch of “Letting Go” and “Words I Never Said” set a glum tone, dripping with regret and bland synth lines. The fragile female voices (Sarah Green and Skylar Grey respectively) on both hooks sound like someone was trying to retrieve that lightening B.o.B.’s “Airplanes” caught in a bottle, but to no avail. The bouncy piano on “Til I Get There” has worked on other songs, but Lupe smears dull lyrics and a tedious hook over the top sending the song into a snoozy tailspin. “Beautiful Lasers (2Ways),” Lupe’s ode to despair has a wailing static synth line on the hook that is so overwhelming; it sounds like the song is going to be carried away by storm winds. This song could have been something interesting, but the lack of motion in the track renders it flat. The paint by numbers dance tune, “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now” featuring MDMA is bad enough to question why it even made the album.
Lasers is a tangled mess of issues, but respect and props should be given to Mr. Fiasco for his attempt at tackling significant topics. The album is not an aesthetic win, but his desire to rap about more than his pockets and the hoe in his back seat should be commended. Even so, his desire to impart knowledge on his audience will surely be lost, since Lasers is far from an enjoyable of a listening experience. Hopefully, next time around, Mr. Fiasco will be able to marry style and substance. Lasers doesn’t come close.
2.5 out of 5
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