The story of Lasers is a long one. Originally slated for release in 2009 as the first of his final, three-part collection called LupE.N.D., the album was put on hold because of his Atlantic Records contract, which stated that an early retirement was not in the cards. Fiasco’s next plan was to release The Great American Rap Album later in 2009, but was again derailed – until he finally settled on a simple title for his third major label release – Lasers.
As things seemed to begin to fall into place, and the hype about Lasers began to grow, everyone seemed pleased and ready for another body of work from Lupe Fiasco – except Atlantic Records. The album was again delayed, and rumors began to circulate, claiming that the music industry titans were worried about Fiasco’s revolutionary attitude, and that they wanted a commercially viable album filled with big name features to sell to the world.
Fast forward to 2011 – Lasers has now been delayed over a year, an online petition for it’s release had gained over 30,000 signatures, and a rally had been held outside the Atlantic Records headquarters in New York City (which Fiasco attended himself) – but Lasers finally had what everyone wanted – a release date.
The album, released on March 8th, follows Fiasco’s two previous critically-acclaimed LP’s, 2006’s Food & Liquor and 2007’s The Cool, in dramatic fashion, but it doesn’t disappoint, even after the years of waiting. Despite it’s short length in comparison to his previous works (12 tracks, compared to 19 on each of his first two albums), the album provides an electrified look into the Fiasco that the world has known for some time, crossed with some pissed-off ambition and sincere displeasure with the current state of the world.
Fiasco, born Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, has spoke out about his displeasure with the process involved in creating the album, even calling it “depressing and lightly-suicidal”, but who could blame him? Even from a fan’s viewpoint, the entire Lasers fiasco (for lack of a better word) has been a hard-to-follow headache. And from a creative perspective, one could only imagine trying to stay focused on creating a career defining record with all of the interference from Atlantic.
The commercial injection from his label shows in the album, with songs like ‘Out Of My Head’ – an R&B radio smash with vocals from Mr. Commercially-Viable, Trey Songz (that’s what he calls himself, right?), and ‘I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now’, a club anthem with a Neptunes-like sound and auto-tuned vocals from frequently featured vocalist MDMA.
But then there is the other half of the album – a compassionate, revolutionary, and emotional testimony about Fiasco’s displeasure with the world, during which he attacks a long list of problems, from failing American school systems to governmental corruption, with angst and precision.
This message is best displayed in ‘Words I Never Said’ where Fiasco unloads a ton of built up anger and opinion, which he clearly regrets keeping quiet for so long. Singer/songwriter/phenomenon Skylar Grey provides elegant vocals for the hook, which softens the edge of the harsh lyrics, which attack corrupt news network, crooked banking, misinterpretation of the Koran, and most notably, the general overtone of nonsense that clouds our society (“we scared of almost everything, afraid to even tell the truth, so scared of what you’ll think of me I’m scared of even telling you”).
Further highlights include ‘Letting Go’, another thought-provoker (“amplify the revolution, sanitize the lunacy”) blessed with elegantly-electronic production and graceful vocals, and ‘Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways)’, which shares the heavy elegance of the rest of the album, while also giving fans a look into the personal effect that all of the craziness has had on Fiasco himself (“all you see is all my feats, all I see is all my flaws, all I hear is all my demons, even through your applause”).
All in all, the most anticipated hip-hop release of 2011 turned out as a success – despite the setbacks. And even if it wasn’t the purest form of Lupe, he still shows his true colors through all of the electrified production and pop-culture vocals. His style and sound are un-disguisable during the low parts, and brilliantly perfect during the highlights.
Dear Atlantic Records – don’t let Lupe retire – but we could do without the four year wait next time. And to Lupe – thanks for sticking with it.
Written by Andrew Judson Heindel