Lupe Fiasco- Lasers (1.5/4)
Although Lasers is cited as a Lupe Fiasco album, the studio big shots at Atlantic Records had just as much a hand in this album as the young rapper. Beneath the radio-friendly auto-tuned exterior of Lasers, there is probably a good album somewhere. After all, many of the leaked songs from as far back as 2009 were amazing. As in, some of the best work of Lupe’s career. “Shining Down,” “I’m Beamin’,” and “Go to Sleep,” are all masterful. Unfortunately, none of those three tracks made it onto the album. According to an interview with Lupe himself, those songs were cut at the label’s request, and replaced with songs that Lupe had no part in writing.
However, song selection isn’t the only hand Atlantic had in Lasers. Missing from Lasers is any uniqueness or signs of the real Lupe Fiasco, the man who wowed hip-hop fans with Food & Liquor and The Cool. Lupe’s usual producers and guests have been replaced with more mainstream counterparts, including auto-tuned singers, club producers, and guests that clearly had their parts laying around somewhere prior to the recording of Lasers. Needless to say, the production is annoying, and it rarely fits with Lupe’s rhyming. “Beautiful Lasers,” for example, is one of the most heartfelt and personal songs Fiasco has written, as its lyrics deal with depression stemming from the saga of releasing Lasers. The song would probably be masterful if placed with either a dark and ominous beat or a trademark Lupe sound. It has neither, and instead is produced like a club song, complete with an annoying beat and a heavily auto-tuned chorus. This type of neglect is found throughout the album, although some of the blame needs to be handed to Lupe himself.
More than half of the tracks have lazily thrown together lyrics that may impress mainstream rap listeners who aren’t used to intelligent wordplay, but anyone who is familiar with Lu’s work should be able to see past that. Just about everything here has been said before and said better by Lupe himself. “Words I Never Said” is a dated, watered-down version of “American Terrorist” from The Cool, and many of the tracks don’t even live up to that. “The Show Goes On” sounds like a generic radio single that Lupe tried to make his own, but without taking away the radio-friendly element. It doesn’t work, mostly because when you start with crap it’s hard to make something listenable out of it. Once the unbearably awful “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now” rears its ugly head, it becomes apparent that Lasers is not just awful in comparison to other Lupe albums. It’s a truly awful album period, and the lack of Lupe himself is a major reason for this. “Never Forget You” sounds like a John Legend song, and “Out of My Head” sounds like a Trey Songz track.
Only one song on Lasers sounds like an actual Lupe Fiasco creation, and it’s no coincidence that that song is far and away the best on the album. “All Black Everything,” a powerful track about racism through history is simply outstanding. Lu’s wordplay is at its best, his flow is excellent, and the beat actually fits.
Fans have been pushing for the release of Lasers for years now, protesting and petitioning for the album to see the light of day. Throughout all of this, something happened and the album that fans desperately wanted has been replaced with something that resembles more of the album Atlantic wanted. Honestly, the whole saga has been sickening, and reading interviews about the ordeal has been painful, both as a critic and a fan of Lupe Fiasco. Even ignoring the process, the album that has been released is awful. There’s no getting around it. Lasers is a terrible album that has no business being in Lupe’s discography, and I would discourage even the most hardcore of Lupe fans from buying it.