Originally Published in Time Out Sydney Magazine, Print & Online Editions, May 2011. Click Here to Read Online.
Lupe Fiasco – Lasers
After three long years Atlantic Records finally deemed Lupe Fiasco’s third album Lasers (an acronym for “Love Always Shines Everytime: Remember to Smile”) fit for shelves – or perhaps more accurately, fit for pop radio. Low expectations or not, Lasers delivers. Sure it has its predictable chunk of catchy, club-ready choruses laced with an overload of auto-tune, but the album does stays true to Lupe’s smart, charismatic style that got him discovered over six years ago. Some critics might be too proud to admit we all occasionally tap our toes to top-100 hits – but in any case, understanding the debacle with Atlantic Records and Lupe’s admirable fight, we have no problem taking Lasers with a grain of salt.
The haunting piano-infused opening track ‘Letting Go’ proves Lupe has no reservations about the album’s message. Rapping, “My self-portrait/Shows a man that the wealth tortured/Self absorbed with his own self/Forfeit a shelf full of awards” Lupe boldly touches on his struggle with the industry and tells his fans that instead of letting the experience cripple him, he chose to grow instead.
Fiasco shows resilience on the album’s third track, ‘Till I Get There’, which was added to the original track list and pokes fun at the drawn-out record release process. Lupe jokes by comparing his relativ8e lack of fame to an illness that could only be “cured” by a prescription of publicists and magazine shoots.
Three notable and catchy tracks, ‘I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now’, ‘Beautiful Lasers (Two Ways)’ and the hard-edged ‘Coming Up’ all feature young rapper MDMA who leaves his memorable mark on the album by adding depth to some of the top songs.
Lasers features an undeniable synergy that intertwines all twelve tracks, though only just avoiding falling into the “they all sound the same” trap. Moments of Lupe’s lyrical genius are sandwiched between dripping synth hooks as seen on ‘Out Of My Head’ featuring Trey Songz, which sounds like… well, Trey Songz. Enough said.
On ‘Words I Never Said’ Lupe pulls ahead in the battle with Atlantic as he integrates politically savvy lyrics with a melodic chorus featuring Skylar Grey. In true Lupe fashion, ‘All Black Everything’ makes another bold statement toward the end of the album. A classic drum-beat mixed with whimsical string chords set the background for lyrics that explore what the world would be like if slavery had never existed – a great idea that he could have taken further.
In short, haters need to cut Lupe some slack. He put up a damn good fight with the big-wigs at Atlantic, and it shows. Lasers is undoubtedly a hit and the commercial elements don’t detract from the fine-tuned lyrics and melodies. The verdict? Worth the wait.
Suzanna K. Lourie