Saturday, March 12

Time for a CD Review: Lupe Fiasco's "Lasers"

With the release of Lasers earlier this week, Lupe Fiasco hopes to finally put the drama with Atlantic Records behind him. According to Fiasco, there was quite the power struggle in the making of this album. It's the classic battle of MC versus record company--Fiasco wanted to flex his creative muscles, which he should certainly be allowed to do, as he's one of the most lyrically inventive rappers in history. Meanwhile, Atlantic Records wanted a more radio-friendly, accessible record. And the listener can definitely hear that on a few tracks. While this is still a very solid album, it's not up to par with Lupe's previous efforts, whether official record or mixtape. Let's take a look at each song individually, with a rating out of five.

"Letting Go" feat. Sarah Green- This is not the first time Miss Green has been on a Lupe Fiasco album; she made an appearance on "Real" off of Food & Liquor. I think this song is actually a little bit better than that one, and it's a good starter song for the album. Lupe gets into a little auto-tune at the end of the song, which is most likely one of the compromises he had to make to get this CD released. 4/5

"Words I Never Said" feat. Skylar Grey- Lupe simply kills it on this track. He sounds the more passionate here than anywhere else on the album, and is rapping about legitimate political issues. Grey, formerly known as Holly Brook (including an appearance on Fort Minor's "Where'd You Go?"), brings this song down a notch. The chorus just isn't as strong as the rest of the song. Fortunately, Lupe does work to save it from the cellar of the album. 4/5

"Till I Get There"- We posted this song a few days ago, and several listens later it's still my favorite song on the album. Note that many of the songs on here feature a guest, and then also note how all the ones that are just Lupe are among the best. Coincidence? Absolutely not--Lupe is far too talented, and when he's allowed his own chorus, well, look out. 5/5

"I Don't Wanna Care Right Now" feat. MDMA- This is the first of a trio of songs that feature MDMA. No, not ecstasy, the drug I'm sure the artist is named after, but rather a heavy dose of auto-tune and a techno-pop sound. Not all of the songs with MDMA are terrible, but this one is not very good. Even Lupe sounds fairly bored during his verses. This would fit right in at a club, but it's not Lupe's style, and it shows. 2.5/5

"Out of my Head" feat. Trey Songz- Trey Songz is mostly known for songs about women, songs about sex, and songs about sex with women. He is not known for his creativity or clever lyrics. That trend continues here, and it's even a bad song by Trey Songz standards. Lupe's verses suffer because of it, and after a dud in the last track as well, we need a really good song to follow. 2.5/5

"The Show Goes On"- Fortunately, this song is well-placed after a couple of subpar efforts. Sampling Modest Mouse's "Float On," Lupe (again, by himself, no guests on this one) delivers a very inspiring message while simultaneously getting a few jabs in at his record label. This may be his biggest hit to date, and ironically enough he didn't even want to record it--Atlantic told Lupe to record it and release it as the first single or the album would never come out. The end result is really fantastic, though, so even if it was painful to record, we're glad Lupe put this into the world. 5/5

"Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways)" feat. MDMA- Another song featuring the new favorite guest, MDMA's chorus is again annoying, but less so than their earlier showing. It also helps that the beat of the song isn't quite as cheesy and poppy, but this could still be an outtake from Kanye West's "808s and Heartbreak." 4/5

"Coming Up" feat. MDMA- Yet another track that has an auto-tune chorus, and it's definitely one of the more upbeat songs as far as production goes. It's nothing terribly special, but it's far from the worst song on the CD. Although I think we could again use another strong song after these two lesser ones. 4/5

"State Run Radio" feat. Matt Mahaffey- This is another barb at Atlantic Records, complaining that only overproduced, specifically tailor-made for radio songs get recognized and into heavy rotation. The beat is a departure from the rest of the album; it's definitely more rock-oriented but it fits the song perfectly. Some people might not like this one because the chorus is repetitive, but that's sort of the point--it's a song parodying pop hits while being cliched and poppy itself. I feel a bit guilty myself for liking it so much, but it is very catchy. It's also got one of my favorite lines on the album: "The truth ain't getting on, like shampoo on an airplane." 5/5

"Break the Chain" feat. Eric Turner and Sway- This has been all over ESPN recently during highlight reels and Championship Week previews, so any sports fans have probably already heard it. Again, I don't think it's anything too special. Turner does a fair job in the hook, but Sway's verse seems out of place. 3.5/5

"All Black Everything"- Once again, Lupe is by himself on this track. And once again, it's really good. He imagines a world without racial context, and it seems like a pretty special place. This is a great example of why Lupe should have control over his albums. 5/5

"Never Forget You" feat. John Legend- The album ends with a positive outlook, Lupe recalls where he came from and where he is now. Hopefully in the future he'll be making more music, because this is a strong ending to an album that was hell to make, and I'm sure it was draining. John Legend does what he does best, a soaring, epic chorus. A great closer to the CD. 5/5

Overall, while this is Lupe Fiasco's worst CD, it's still better than just about all of the songs getting play on the radio today. That's saying something about his talent, that even if some of this album was made against his will, there are enough positive glimpses that he'll be back at the top of his game sooner rather than later.

Overall score: 4/5

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