Lupe Fiasco, LASERS, Album Review

Decades from now, when Hip-Hop historians gather around whatever new age camp fire or telekinetic chat room in existence to discuss the anthology of Lupe Fiasco, LASERS may be his most polarizing offering. Considering the tumultuous journey this album and this artist endured-slash-self-inflicted to merely secure a release date -- one where Fiasco Fanatics painfully e-witnessed their FNF Army General slide from “critically acclaimed” to “continuously delayed”-status, literally navigated the legal system to hold a New York City sanctioned protest for it’s release outside of Atlantic Records, essentially rescuing LASERS from the vast fissure of LPs-Never-To-Be-Seen -- from backstory to Best Buy, at this point certainly (and futuristically speaking, hopefully) this project is an absolute outlier.

Albums one and two, Food & Liquor and The Cool, live in Lupe’s imagination, where third-person narratives and mind-numbing extended metaphors roam like vicious lyrical Tyrannosaurs. A place where project buildings become walking robots and "The Streets is a demon in a dress." Album three, LASERS, lives in Wasulu Jaco’s frustrated reality. A place where an arguably self-sabotaging reluctant superstar finally succumbs to the pimp-hand of Corporate America, sacrificing his self-imposed exile and artistic freedom in exchange for the possibility of an independent future. On LASERS, for the first time fans finally catch a prolonged glimpse of the person behind the Fiasco.

“As the old me, I predicted all my recent plights. / Exhausted tryna fall asleep. / Lost inside my recent fights,” Cornell Westside kicks on “Letting Go” (featuring Sarah Green), an onslaught of personal introspection laid over The Future’s melancholy keys and injected high hats. On “Till I Get There,” Lupe’s loose sing-songy extended metaphor paradoxically compares the pains of fame to metal illness:

“Doctor, Doctor please, / The fame ain’t painless enough. / That’s cause you ain’t famous enough. / You got a little game but your name ain’t rangin‘ enough. / He said take two of these, / [And] put some change in my cup. / I said I wasn’t poor. He gave me some more. / Prescribed me a publicist and pointed to the door. / Out. / Ouch. / I’m telling you this all from a therapist’s couch.”

Lupe drops so many “I’s” ( many for him) in that snippet alone that it’s difficult to disbelieve he’s speaking literally. After reveling in a catalog loaded with third-person wizardry, it’s odd to think of Fiasco opening himself personally. That same openness shows up again on “Words I Never Said” when he digs into the President, dropping “Gaza Strip was getting bombed, / Obama didn’t say shit. / That’s why I ain’t vote for him. / Next one either,” with a snotty petulance as if vindicated over the backlash from his shallow criticism of the then 2008 Democratic candidate. The whole song is snotty and petulant, really, like he’s faux raging against the machine. Somehow that’s a good thing. Of all the lyrical talent’s Lupe effortlessly holsters right up on his shoulders, his ability to tackle complex issues simplistically if need be (and given his frequent accusations that Atlantic Records told him to dumb down his lyrics in order to get LASERS released, apparently simplicity was paramount) is arguably his most impressive. “Words I Never Said,” is not only an awesome song, but a testament to Lu’s conviction to speaking his beliefs -- even when shackled by the establishment he willingly signed into. It’s “American Terrorist” (from F&L)...only more personal and more petulant, with Skylar Grey and Alex Da Kid crooning and grooving where Matthew Santos and Prolyfic once crooned and grooved.


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