Review Summary: Lasers is a pretty good album just as undeserving of its largely negative reaction as The Cool and Food & Liquor were of their overwhelmingly positive acclaim.
For those of you rap followers who have been living under a proverbial rock for the past several months, Lupe’s been embroiled in a nasty spat with his label, Atlantic Records, for quite some time now. Coverage of the dispute has been ubiquitous and there seemed to be a new interview complaint related to, or update of, the fiasco plastered in the headlines of hip-hop news sites every other day or so. The incident was capped off when hordes of Lupe’s daft fans took a futile stab at commissioning a petition to the record company to release his oft-delayed third album, Lasers
. When making my daily rounds a few weeks back on HipHopDX, I noticed a commenter had made an interesting observation – which, if you’re familiar with the site, is a rarity – that went something along the lines of, “[Lupe wants to be signed to a major label and make major label money, but he doesn’t want to make major label music. He’s a little b*tch.]” But I never really much understood the quarrel; it’s not as if the relationship rooted in syncretism. In fact, I think the embattled rapper and the corporate juggernaut – which serves as home to the likes of T.I., Wiz Khalifa, B.o.B., and Diddy – are almost a match made in heaven: Lupe’s a f*ckin’ a**hole and the label heads at Atlantic Records are f*ckin’ a**holes. They’re perfect for one another. And despite the fact that Lupe “[both loves and hates]” this record and the probability that Atlantic Records would have liked to see a lot more aesthetic compromise/‘soul selling’, Lasers
is a pretty good album that’s just as undeserving of its largely negative reaction as his first two albums (2006’s Food & Liquor
and 2007’s The Cool
) were of their overwhelmingly positive acclaim.
For the record, I’ve never really like Luped, and I hate his fans. Before Lasers
, I thought him to be just another good-but-nothing-special rapper (serial no. 15726) who was only the greatest rapper alive to his prick fans and pseudo-‘in-the-know’ types who repped ‘real hip-hop,’ which is kind of redundant because the two were often one in the same, and while I still maintain that, Lasers
is a thoroughly enjoyable. Ignore his fan’s cries of “Foul!
” and needless scapegoating of the label, as well as Lupe’s own dissuasions, and know this – the production here is the best he’s ever had. Food & Liquor
and The Cool
were both beleaguered by crummy beat work, and the poppy direction here is more than welcome. Save for the atmospherics of “Letting Go,” the harrowing electronic grind and orchestral strings of “Words I Never Said” and the melancholic “Never Forget You,” Laser
’s vibe is happy-go-lucky. Okay, yea, “Out of My Head” featuring Trey Songz is a terrible track. And it’s too bad that “Beautiful Lasers (2Ways),” an otherwise good track, is ruined by over-the-top amounts of vocoder. And if anything should be learned from “State Run Radio,” it’s that Lupe should stay the hell away from rock-influenced beats. But the rest of the production is fairly stellar and the guest vocals are effective more often than not. Groovy piano numbers (“Coming Up” and “Till I Get There”) punctuate flashy synth-shows (“Break the Chain” and “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now”) and the production stays infectious for most of the record.
But don’t let the pop influences and the gold-selling status of uplifting single “The Show Goes On” deter you; this is by no means a sell-out. In fact, Lupe’s gotten better. For the most part, he abstains from the verbosity of the over-complicated metaphors, mundane punchlines, and compulsive narcissism that beleaguered his first two releases, all the while retaining the same basic message. Lasers
’ ethos is a political one – and if the international shoutouts of “The Show Goes On” indicate anything, a global one at that – but Lupe is surprisingly not as jaded as he is optimistic. That’s not to say he’s pulling any punches, though, and he goes after Barack Obama, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh all within a single stanza (“Limbaugh is a racist/Glenn Beck is a racist/Gaza Strip’s gettin’ bombed, Obama didn’t say sh*t.
”) “Coming Up” passes on words of encouragement to the struggling female youth and “State Run Radio” is a more biting, paranoid version of Chamillionaire’s “Evening News.”
On “All Black Everything” we find another sort of oddity. Here, Lupe’s actually having fun, mixing consciousness with absurd satire and pop culture references. He says he both loves and hates this album, but that just translates to a passion that was absent on his other two releases, where there was little personality to be found and a pervasive nonchalance teeming with arrogance that dampened any sick line he had. Maybe that’s what makes Lasers
so fun. Lupe put his heart into this one, and satisfied or not, that was just the extra kick (or, if you prefer, push) he needed.