04:00PM ET March 14th, 2011
Contributor: DeAndre Rozan
A Rocky Williform Company
It's impossible to ignore the controversial history behind Lupe Fiasco's long-awaited third album, Lasers. Battles--or perhaps wars--with his Atlantic Records label led to the project being shelved for literally years, forcing desperate fans to threaten to protest the label offices. Lupe and Atlantic finally met somewhere in the middle, but the compromised seemed uneasy--even before Lupe went on what seemed like a smear campaign against his own album.
The result of all of that drama is an album that falls short of the artist's previous, critically-acclaimed standards and an album that never seems quite comfortable posing as the pop-rap blockbuster Atlantic no doubt hoped it would be.
The album's hit single "The Show Goes On," has been the source of much consternation from Lupe; who dismisses the track as a commercial concession. The Kane Beatz-produced track samples Modest Mouse 2004 smash "Float On," and Lupe himself 'samples' a famous quote from Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten: "You ever get the feeling you were being cheated?" in a not-so-subtle dig at the track's insincere and label-mandated origins. "Words I Never Said" finds the rapper in typically pensive mode, rapping about the current state of the nation and the world. He also remains vocal in his criticisms of the current administration; "“Gaza Strip was gettin’ bombed/Obama didn’t say sh*t.”
The album suffers the most from ill-advised dashes of Dirty Money-esque Europop. "I Don't Wanna Care Right Now," sounds particularly uninspired and phoned-in, as well as the lumbering “Break the Chain.”
The brightest spot on the album is the Utopian and witty "All Black Everything," where the Chicago-born emcee raps about an idealized planet where "Somalia's a great place to relax in..." "The Rat Pack are a group of cool Black men..." and "We ain’t get exploited...White man ain’t fear it, so he did not destroy it.”
Lasers is not the creative failure Lupe Fiasco seems to think it is, but it stands as an album that epitomizes the creative struggle for control that an ambitious, idiosyncratic artist must endure when he tethers his career to the modern major music label. It isn't a bad album, and for several others, could be considered a respectably better-than-average release, but for Fiasco, it can best be described as the first bump in what is still a very young career.