Nothing about "Lasers" speaks to the hip-hop prodigy Lupe Fiasco once was. Nothing about this album captivates like the fiercely original "Food and Liquor" did in 2006, when Fiasco skated onto the scene with politically blazing lyrics and a flow to match the fire.
Enough about what "Lasers" is not. What it is? An uninspired cacophony of annoyed rhetoric spliced with clawless hooks.
Say it ain't so, Lupe.
What's that? It ain't? It was your label?
The Chicago native publically groused that his label, Atlantic, chose the tracks on "Lasers" against his best judgment. If his artistic license was revoked by Atlantic, it makes sense: Since his sophomore release, "The Cool," Lupe has recorded several mixtapes, including one of the best in recent memory, "Enemy of the State." He laid down "Before There Were Lasers" and a stellar project with the Gorillaz too. This new album just doesn't fit.
Starting with "Letting Go" (featuring Sarah Green), "Lasers" is flat. A distorted, dark Fiasco rhymes over a looped piano and violin. OK. Then come chants reminiscent of Soulja Boy. Weird. Finally, the song irrevocably cuts into R&B. Huh? The whole song is disjointed, dooming the disc from the onset.
Fiasco tends to preach on his records, and you tend to listen; he's insightful, topical and can rhyme with the breath control of an iron lung.
On "Lasers" he complains. Probably because of his label problems, yes, but it's unbecoming. And he raps so lackadaisically, breath control isn't necessary.
"Words I Never Said" seems to be the silver lining of this album ' until the beat drops. It's ear-splitting and Atari-like, borrowed from the Noise movement. Skylar Gray wails Bloody Mary for a chorus as Fiasco offers conjecture on a War on Terror conspiracy, racist TV pundits and a president unsympathetic to Palestine. He's all over the map in this microcosm of the album.
Fiasco recounts a dream he had in the most interesting and clever track on the album, "All Black Everything." Slavery had never occurred, and the world was different. He raps, "Complexion's not a contest cause racism has no context / Hip-hop ain't got a section called conscious / Everybody rappin' like crack never happened / Crypts never occurred, no Bloods to attack them / Matter of fact, no hood to attack in."
He's best when he's angry 'not bitter, which he leans toward on "Lasers."
The bad news? This album. The good news? Lupe Fiasco will use this experience as a muse. He'll be back in the booth, artistic license intact.