WIRTB Review: @LupeFiasco – Lasers

As a Lupe fan, I feel that, for the most part, he can do no wrong musically. Just about everyone of his songs has a message (even the super poppy ones and the turn-up ones, as seen on DROGAS Light). On top of that, he’s managed to become and remain popular without doing a complete 180 on his subject matter. All in all, Lupe’s worst projects still tend to be better than some folks’ best work.

With that in mind, what about the album that is, possibly, the only real blemish on his track record, LasersLasers, released in March 2011, is an interesting project, especially with its backstory. However, it seems that people, regarding the album that garnered a 57/100 on Metacritic, tend to fall into two camps regarding Lasers.

Either listeners just liked Lupe doing a more “traditional” album versus a real concept project or they disliked it because its sound. That sound, while still Lupe enough, did feel a bit too contemporary and interchangeable with other songs from the time. So, in honor of the album’s upcoming sixth-year anniversary, I want to delve deeper into the album. All the while, I wish to ask and answer an always-popular question.

“Was it really that bad?”

I’d liken Lasers as being The Cool‘s DROGAS Light. That is in the same way that DROGAS Light is a lighter album than its predecessor, Tetsuo and Youth. The songs on the album are positive and are still Lupe songs. But, they’re also positively poppy. With features from artists such as Trey Songz (“Out Of My Head”) and Modest Mouse sped-up samples (“The Show Goes On”), Lasers is an album that’s about as pop as Lupe could’ve gotten without fully dumbing it down. 
While there are revolutionary tracks on the album, such as “All Black Everything,” the rest of the album just feels like Lupe went into the studio and said “hey guys. Let’s do a Lupe pop-rap album and see where it goes.” And for the most part? While it’s not his best work, by far, the project still works as an uplifting presence in the world. But, is it any good?

This was an album that said “hey, life may suck, but it gets better.” People weren’t used to “happy Lupe,” even if he was, behind the scenes, potentially suicidal over the pressure from his label for this release. And because “happy Lupe” took people off-guard, it’s quite possible that this album was doomed to be a blemish on Lupe’s record from the beginning. Why? Well, simply put, it’s not LupE.N.D. or like any Lupe album before it. 

Sure, there were tracks that dealt with dark themes, such as “Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways).” There were songs that promoted unity against the establishment, such as the excellent “State Run Radio,” “Words I Never Said,” and the aforementioned “All Black Everything.” However, most of what made people love Lupe in the first place (deep concepts, not dumbing down his message, etc.) wasn’t in full force on this album. Instead, what we got was, again, a “happier” Lupe on the surface.

Additionally, production on the album feels just like everything else out in 2010/2011, potentially because whoever was in charge of production wanted Lupe to get away from just Soundtrakk and ’em on the beat. Now, don’t get me wrong. The production is still top-notch and A+. But, “The Show Goes On,” for instance, has the same feelings as another Kane Beatz production, “Right Above It.” That’s not a knock on Kane, but nothing about it stood out really. Let’s talk good songs, like “State Run Radio.” The lyrics are on-point, but the production feels ripped off from RATM.

Overall, the album is not that bad. But, it’s not all that great, either. I’d listen to DROGAS Light in a heartbeat over Lasers, mainly because Lupe feels a lot more freed on DL than he ever did on Lasers. However, understanding some of the story behind it, I feel that Lupe put forth a valiant effort. And from its critical failures, we got stuff like F&L 2 and Tetsuo & Youth, albums that saw Lupe return to his roots, evolve them, and still remain true to everything. Therefore, to fully appreciate Lupe’s work and his discography, it’s still an album that deserves to be heard–even if it’s pretty poppy and pedestrian by Lupe’s standards.

Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com

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