Lupe Fiasco - LASERS Release Date: March 8, 2011
Record Label: Atlantic Records
“But when I think about what it took to actually get the record together and everything that I went through on this record—which is something I can’t separate—I hate this album.”
Wait – what? You mean to tell me that one of the better mainstream rappers of the past five years hates his new album? When you retrace the steps and the processes it took for this album to come out, everything tends to make sense. First, we had L.U.P.End, which was scrapped as fast as it was announced. Shortly thereafter, we had The Great American Rap Album, which was eventually canned for LASERS, which had enough of its own problems. From label woes of not having a commercially viable single to the underwhelming responses to the new material to the endless slew of studio leaks, Lupe’s relationship with LASERS was rocky. I mean, this record was initially planned for a 2008 release and we’re getting it in March of 2011 as the “earliest possibility.”
So after a good share of LASERS protests, petitions and pandemonium, this album’s finally getting a proper release. And no one blames Lupe Fiasco for “hating” a good amount of this album. It’s a much publicized fact that songs like “The Show Goes On,” “Never Forget You” and that song with Trey Songz (let’s be honest here) was the work of nagging Atlantic Records executives. And despite the fact that all three of these songs are in fact some of the album’s best moments, one has to wonder what was left on the cutting room floor.
After listening to the album, it’s almost too easy to pinpoint which songs the label didn’t want on the record. “Words I Never Said” has some of the most abrasive Lupe lyrics to date, as he openly calls out the head honcho of the United States government and why he didn’t vote for President Obama in 2008, and why he won’t in 2012. These aren’t the only searing actions taken by the emcee on LASERS. “Till I Get There” fantastically channels A Tribe Called Quest and dismisses his label woes and sticks the proverbial nose up, while “All Black Everything” ponders on a world that blurs the lines between white and black America, a poignant number about the imaginings of a country without a history of segregation and racism.
On the very exact flip side, songs like “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now” and “Break the Chain” both sound like songs that can provide the backdrop to last week’s Jersey Shore episode. (For the record, that’s not a good thing.) Lazy Tiesto-like techno and horrible studio effects drive these songs into becoming a huge practical joke on Lupe’s fanbase by Atlantic Records.
Lupe Fiasco managed to highlights an odd bunch of producers on his third studio LP. Forgoing work with Soundtrakk, who has provided some of Food and Liquor and The Cool’s collective excellence, Lupe settled in on work from King David, The Audibles and up and comer Alex Da Kid, all of whom the rapper has never worked with, which is not necessarily a good thing in these cases. In others, as with Needlz and Kane Beatz, the rapper found himself sitting on true gems. His features are a bit different as well. Frequent collaborator Matthew Santos seems to be replaced by MDMA (formerly Pooh Bear), who takes the reigns as the hook man on three separate tracks.
To be frank, LASERS is a good album. It’s not the album it could’ve been, and for obvious reasons. And even then, most of those reasons seem irrelevant after you take into consideration the bitterness, awkwardness and discomfort that go into listening to an album that the artist isn’t exactly proud of. As fans, do we support this album and buy it? Do we become turned off to the idea that the artist isn’t exactly backing this release 100%? Or do we nod, smile and just wait for Food & Liquor II?
Regardless, who else wants to hear the real LASERS?
RIYL: Record Labels compromising a perfectly fine artist's musical output, Modest Mouse, Rappin' ass Lupe www.myspace.com/lupefiasco