Review Summary: LASERS 2.0
Disastrous efforts have rarely been a trait of Lupe Fiasco, considering his delivery of high quality, conscious rap projects. Whether it was capturing the state of America on his heavily political "Food & Liquor II", or giving ambient depictions of Chicago and its grim surroundings into digital format with the colorful "Tetsuo & Youth", he's always been consistent. Not to mention his balance of evocative, social lyricism equaled with eviscerating, cool production. However, that consistency has come to an screeching halt. Thank the backlash he received over a lyric that nearly resulted in canceling his independent debut, the uniquely titled DROGAS Light, for what unfolds next. During a freestyle, he delivered the controversial line, "Artist getting robbed for their publishing, by dirty Jewish execs that think his alms from the covenant", a line that got interpreted as anti-Semitic. An unfortunate reaction indeed. Even more unfortunate is how he allowed that sh*tstorm to culminate in possibly the worst rap album of the year, something so extremely dreadful like the sellout disaster that was LASERS, this might as well be its demonic offspring.
The first of three albums representing the "DROGAS" trilogy; this installment goes horribly wrong with the radio filler that ruined LASERS, along with trap that see Lupe copy everyone. The first half starts off with a bunch of high-volume infusions that scream the obvious: create as many trap anthems as you can, stripped of the man we know and love. Its not that the production is all bad, but the overly-basic tone is a far cry from the man who dropped a masterpiece in 2015. The downfall starts with the intro "Dopamine Lit", a adrenaline-pumped experience littered in a hook of annoying "DROGAS, DROGAS" that set the tone. It continues with songs like the generic trap anthem "Promise"; muddled in soulless strings and a performance so unlike Lupe, it's unfathomable he went from lyrical maestro to "this". It culminates with the rock/trap-built "Made In The USA", a hype track with a simple storytelling over the state of modern-day America. It's not close to as complex as the firestorm that was "Mural" or thereof, with direct lines like "My cocaine come from Arizona/my Detroit whip run quick like Forrest" alluding to the subject easily, and copying the signature Atlanta flow where he's channeling his inner Gucci. You expect us to get turnt to America's demise? The idea of such a concept is laughable. Even the highlight of this poor start, the "Deliver"-esque "NGL" which delivers a soulful performance by Ty Dolla $ign, is marred by repetitive lyricism that Lupe forces down your throat with uninspiring energy. Quite the downfall.
Exiting the phase of trap-rap infusion, you're suddenly transported back to a reboot of the tasteless, pop filler that destroyed LASERS. It starts off with a refresher in "Tranquillo", carrying Lupe's biggest features in awhile with Rick Ross and BIG K.R.I.T. Laid under wintery, misty synths and a throwback to Lupe's insane lyrical ability, this is easily the best song of the album. His cool, collective verse is a prayer of improving one's self, beamed with bars like "I will pursue felicity, find value in simplicity/Altruism and empathy will be the first thing extended to my enemy". Ironic, as that "wisdom" fizzles out by faltering under the kind of manufactured, radio-esque fodder that stripped LASERS of quality and variety. Songs like the indie-pop bungle "It's Not Design" reinforce the narrative; conjuring funk-laden keys and glitzy guitar that feels like a Maroon 5 ripoff, alongside god-awful lyricism by Lupe and some unknown named Selim, complete with a morbid hook on top. Not to mention the dreadful Charlie Puth ripoff "Pick Up The Phone", retrofitted with bittersweet, carefree strings that are the fixings of a garbage love-rap ballad in the making.
When the artist himself hates his own studio effort, its a testament to how much of a botched mess this is. There's a YouTube video of Lupe last year previewing it at a concert in Alabama, and during a brief intermission, he stated to a fan in the crowd quote, "DROGAS Light is for the dumb people". You're setting us up for a bad product Lupe, how is that exciting for anyone? If you know that your own album is a pile of microwaved, radio dogsh*t, why even bother releasing it? Why release something clearly not for the fans who adore you, but cater to the radio-hungry masses? Why criticize the mainstream, when you just delivered a 14-track snooze-fest which is just a LASERS reboot? Shame on you for your hypocrisy, Lupe. DROGAS Light is basically LASERS 2.0, in all the wrong ways possible. There's promise however, with the final two albums in the trilogy with DROGAS and SKULLS said to be far superior to this contender for worst rap album of the year. We can only pray for such.