So we have it, after much waiting since 2007’s The Cool, Lupe Fiasco finally manages to get Lasers to see the light of day. The question is of course, is was it worth the wait (around 2 years since it was announced under another name) and how does it sound.
Lupe is an interesting MC for the fact he is so versatile, easily flitting between being a political voice to making laid back easily listening music to the more pop orientated hits. He has created characters and concepts as well as some very strong thought inspiring music. He is both lyrical but with a penchant for witty wordplay and recognizable hooks. Therefore before you even listen to the album you have to be aware of this because it means you can quite easily be listening to anything and perhaps need to understand the nature of the problems associated with getting the album released from the beginning.
Whilst signed to Atlantic you’d think after his two previously successful albums, that he would get the golden ticket to do what he wanted… but apparently not… after much pushing and shoving he has finally got the album released.. but I fear that there was a lot of submitting to the labels wishes and with a couple of exceptions some of the more deep/politically themed tracks were removed in favour of some guaranteed chart success and potential singles… however you must judge this for yourself.
A quick glance over the production shows us relative unknowns for the majority but with Needlz (Pretty much all of G-unit at one time or another, Fab, Joe Budden and Lupe previously) and UK ‘Super’ Producer Alex da Kid (Love The Way You Lie…need I say more?). Still the sounds are crisp, upbeat, quite high tempo and make for a fairly energetic listening. The problem with this is you don’t get the mood as you had with The Cool, which die hard Lupe fans will dislike, but the majority of big hooks and nice melodic music buying public will lap up.
Feature wise standouts include ladies man Trey Songz and Skylar Grey (she wrote Love The Way You Lie before Rihanna took over the vocals, clearly going to be seeing a lot of her in the near future), whilst some rogue called MDMA who seems to be some kind of electronic style bloke is on a few tracks as well. John Legend makes an appearance on the last track of the album, and probably the most bootlegged. Also UK readers will be pleased to see Sway reunited with his US pal, whilst after a huge unexpected success with Tinie Tempah, Eric Turner has been utilized for a track.
The album itself, based on what I’ve discussed before is what I believe to be a mixture of what Lupe will be very happy with to call his own creation and what the label may well have forced onto him, especially the infectious Trey Songz’ Out Of My Head which if you don’t tap your feet you, you have issues. It just seems a bit too pop esque to be a totally artist controlled offering from Lupe Fiasco. I think overall this will impact a lot of peoples views on it as basically a ‘sellout’ album, especially if compared to other new releases such as Raekwon’s Shaolin vs Wu-Tang. However I think if you can get past the commercial nature of the album you do uncover some very strong lyrical presence that isn’t solely relying on the catchy hooks and upbeat production. You only need to look as far as the 2nd single, Words I Never Said ft Skylar that Lupe is on his political and religious tip. As always the flows are on point, the content strong and the album overall comes across well, if not as unique or conceptual as his previous offerings… a more manufactured sound for sure, but not at the expense of sloppy rapping like so many seem to suffer from.
Now comes the controversy, those of you who have followed my previous reviews will probably find a trend in that whilst I try to be unbiased I’m a sucker for a bit of a catchy tune from time to time, and this album is filled with them, honestly, it’s a great Summer album on a sunny day to have on in the car or in the background of a BBQ.
So first off I’m going to avoid talking about Out Of My Head because it’s exactly what you would expect… I think it’ll be a big hit when it’s inevitably released as a single.
Coming up ft MDMA – This is another of the happier upbeat tracks, but it’s a little less manufactured (IMO) and feels a bit more natural, with a quick sharp flow Lupe drenches the track in his words of wisdom. The hook is handled rather well by MDMA and it’s not too overbearing and dominating, though MDMA does seem to be competing a bit with Trey for the albums best crooner, someone should tell him he’s always going to come off 2nd best though.
Break The Chain ft Sway & Eric Turner – There’s a small possibility I’ve signaled this out due to being both English and a big Sway fan, but either way this track is great, and these two rappers have a good chemistry on tracks (Go listen to We Love You). The beat also is quite hard in contrast to the more chilled other ones. Eric Turner is some ex teacher who got incredible exposure thanks to Tinie Tempah but has a great voice and fits in excellently here. If there’s a criticism here then it’s that Sway’s voice can sometimes lack projection meaning the beat almost overpowers him in parts and some people may have to listen to his verse over a few times before taking it all in, as usual its strong.
Never Forget You ft John Legend – this track leaked a few months ago, much to Lupe’s annoyance, and I can understand why, a strong ready-made single but without impeding on the idea and theme of the track. It’s a great listen with Lupe once more riding the track without even needing to try. It’s partly inspirational partly thought provoking, but overall has a feel good impact.
Overall, I can totally understand if many of you don’t like this after listening, but personally I’m guilty of enjoying feel good music far too much, it both makes for easily repeatable listening and something I’d happily recommend to those who are only just delving in the realms of hip-hop. However even for the more ‘underground’ or ‘lyrical’ hiphop fan, don’t let the manufactured and poppy sounds let you think that Lupe is slacking in his content, it’s there, it’s consistent and it’s not lacking. As always, check it out, judge for yourself and leave some comments on what you think about this, just don’t go expecting a sequel to the excellent and underrated concept album The Cool, because you wont find it here.
Written by Daniel French
Twitter – @French84