The B Side: Lupe Fiasco's LASERS
Now here’s the B-Side to Lupe Fiasco’s LASERS. Despite showing his range as a songwriter and the much appreciated newfound insight into the life (or in this case, plight) of Wasulu Jaco, creatively, artistically, lyrically, stylistically LASERS is an immense step down for Cornell Westside.
We “Lupe Extremists” (as my roommate Ray dubs us) heard the “Switch”’s and the “Dumb It Down”’s and the “Theme Music To A Drive By”’s and all the ridiculous lyrical quadrants and otherworldly narratives Fiasco can venture into without breaking a sweat.
We’ve listened in awe as Carrera Lu continuously snatched industry beats from legends like Jay-Z and Nas and Eminem and matched if not surpassed their original versions on his magnificently classic, seemingly light years ago mixtape series.
We’ve watched him drill super deep into whatever topic and run extended metaphors for entire songs and drop simplistically complex similes like “Can’t see me like B.I.G. on CMT” and “You can be as hard as sign language with no fingers” often and effortlessly and marveled at his imagination and innovation.
We’ve bragged to our homies and jumped into “Greatest of All Time” debates exclaiming that the lyrical genius from Chicago’s West Side is nicer and more talented and more capable of steamrolling any other #GOAT candidate in their own style, in their home cypher despite only having “two out.” No exceptions. No one’s exempt. No matter what “Kick Push” seemed like it was about.
We remained loyal during the tumultuous three year gap between The Cool and LASERS and endured the endless array of head-scratching headlines where an increasingly enigmatic sounding Lupe railed against leaks and labels and fans, targeting us, telling us “to stop whining” when we railed against him for not releasing mixtape, Friend Of The People on Christmas Day 2009 as promised.
We ignored all of the warning signs of a frustrated Fiasco and his Pop-leaning plans after hearing less-than inspired, vaguely Hip-Hop tracks like “I’m Beamin’” and “Love Letter To The Beat” and questioned why this artist who arose so triumphantly through the mixtape ranks suddenly felt like he didn’t need to feed his loyal fan base a slew of new raps -- even while he was in the midst of his Japanese Cartoon foray.
We never questioned the integrity of a righteous man with God-given talent to move people through his music yet hoarded those God-given gifts from the people who used his music as motivation -- threatening legal action against those that shared stolen property out of sheer excitement that there was something new from Lu. We never questioned the integrity of the artist who once said, “And baby-girl what does it matter where your purse [is] from” while charging $4,000 for leather "Malcolm" motorcycle jackets and $200+ for chino pants with his “Trilly and Truly” retail tag on them.
We blocked out the weird message board rants that led to “Fiasco-gate” and the “Rhymefest Political Debate” as if they never happened. We justified his incessant sensitivity and penchant for warring with blogs and print publications over seemingly insignificant distractions.
We agreed with his MTV tiffs because we don't believe in MTV anyway.
We pretended that “Enemy Of The State” wasn’t as lazy as it sounds, and instead championed it as one of the Top mixtapes of 2009, regardless that he tellingly stated that he “did it in two days.”
We protested and pined and prayed for LASERS and won, moving the machine to negotiate, willing the potentially shelved-indefinitely LP from our most important artist to reality, taking a cue from his integrity-laden content that inspired us so viscerally. We came to his rescue.
We anticipated March 8th like it was December 25th, prepared ourselves for another lyrical onslaught after hearing “SLR” and quietly felt vindicated when Lupe literally called himself a “One man Slaughter House / A two album Jay-Z / A one n**** Wu-Tang / A young and hungry Mos Def / A conscious rapping Lil‘ Wayne,” and yet none of those artists said anything publicly to dispute his claim.
We thought we were “bi-winning” like Charlie Sheen.
And when LASERS finally hit shelves; when we finally hit play on the oft-delayed third album from Carrera Lu-Emperor and when it sounded like Lupe on cruise control; as if he crafted it overnight, in his sleep, while heavily sedated on whatever en vogue Corporate-pushed pharmaceuticals of choice...we felt betrayed.
We rushed to pan LASERS and intricately dissected it’s suspect-ness because we’re conditioned to intricately dissect anything Lu releases. We questioned everything we ever thought we knew about him and tossed darts at his label. We quickly looked ahead to Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album, pushed LASERS aside as if it didn't exist, deeming it his worst album yet.
And we're not wrong. We are absolutely correct in that assertion. This is his worst album yet for Fiasco fanatics. This is his easiest to digest LP. This is his most dumbed down offering. This won’t take four-thousand-and-eighty listens to truly grasp the weight of his similes and metaphors and allegories and creative forays. This isn’t as beautifully convoluted or loaded with convoluted rhyme schemes that always seem to flow beautifully. This doesn’t require digging into the mind’s untapped crevices to truly decipher.
This is as straight forward as a laser beam, meeting those initially perplexed by Lu’s simple complexity smack in the middle, easily mixing with what club DJs are actually spinning.
LASERS isn’t for us Lupe Extremists -- no matter how much unrelenting support we provided while he immersed himself in the murk of reluctant superstardom.
Arguably, it never was.
This one’s for the masses: a higher quality collection of Pop tunes maintaining the underlying principles we revered, packaged for the schmillions of not-yet-believers.
And as fans, what more can really hope for from our major-label shackled artists but massive success while somehow remaining true to the foundation that wooed us from the beginning?
Well...another revolutionary mixtape series would be nice.
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