When doing press rounds for his official debut Food & Liquor Lupe often likened it to his favorite Nas album It Was Written whose structure he wanted to mirror. If Lupe was still mirroring Nas albums and doing that in chronological order that would mean we’d have a Nastradamus on our hands. Not exactly the album Nas fans fondly remember. Sadly the analogy seems to stick to at least the similarly lukewarm reception of Lupe’s third outing.
There’s little need to recap the long and tiresome story of this album’s release. Many of us were rooting for Wasalu during his label woes, like we were when the Thornton brothers went through a similar ordeal with Hell Hath No Fury. They eventually emerged victorious with a new school classic firmly in their clutch, but Lupe seems to be grasping at straws with his Lasers.
Who is the intended audience for this? The opening track has solid rapping but is bogged down by an emo-chorus poured over a beat that would’ve probably sounded stale when it was still cool to try to emulate Yeezy’s Graduation production style. At the end of the very first verse of the album he mentions that his “inspiration’s burned out, motivation slowed down.” Right. While Lupe certainly has decent concepts on some songs, most of them are rendered unlistenable by the glitzy electro-pop mess they are layered over. As if it wasn’t bad enough that these beats sound like something from an Enrique Iglesias single, virtually all of the hooks feature cornball singers who sound like they are actually recording a reference track for Enrique Iglesias. Lupe might actually have something to say, but how are we to notice when he sounds like he’s trapped rapping in an episode of The Hills?
The two moments when the albums busts free from it’s self-imposed restraints are immediately the two highlights and remind us of the Lupe Fiasco we wanted to hear. ‘Till I Get There‘ employs some basic piano keys and a smart verse about the perilous influence fame can have on (mental) health. Conservative approach? Maybe, but it works. The best track on the album is “All Black Everything.” Drums that actually knock, a dope orchestral sample, a hook mercifully delivered by Lupe himself and strong lyrics in which Lupe describes a dream of a world without distorted race relations while deftly avoiding cheap sentimentality.
Sadly, we get way too much tunes like “State Run Radio,” a lamentation on fabricated hype and a call to the people to take control of their own media. Ironically, the track would sonically fit right in with the radio station described in the song, nobody would bat an eye if it was played back to back with those soulless pop chants distracting the masses. All in all, this GIF featuring Damon Dash pretty much sums up my feelings about Lasers: