Despite what you might have heard, Lasers doesn’t suck in its entirety. It really doesn’t.
But it’s not really that great either.
There are multiple issues that have been consistently plaguing this project from the get-go and unfortunately they are reflected within the music and the album itself. When the oft-delayed Lasers found its way to the internet about a week before its official release, the initial feedback I was reading wasn’t positive. Perplexing, since the only reason the album was released was due to overwhelming demand from his fan base (via the Internets) after his label delayed the project for a year. Even more confusing is that the album moved 200,000 copies in its first week, regardless of the negative rabble-rousing.
After having a chance to dig into the back history of Lasers and some time to sit with the project and dig into each individual song, I really started to understand the complaints. And most of them are valid. You can start with the obvious influence that his label had in changing this project from an album that Lupe was comfortable with to something that is marketable to the average hip-hop newbie. They seem hell-bent on having Lupe play up the “Hipster Hop™” angle, apparent from the guest appearances on the album (why is MDMA on every other song? No offense) down to the important songs the label purposely left off (when you left off “I’m Beaming”, you lost at music). It looks like the label got their way.
Then there’s Lupe himself and his lyrical content. I’ll be frank: if you are a longtime fan of Lupe, then you’ve already been spoiled, and there might be little on here as far as that classic delivery or content that we’re used to. This isn’t the same verbose and lyrically complex Lupe Fiasco of 2005 mixtape fame. It’s not even Food And Liquor Lupe. And as a result… people are a bit disappointed; myself included. In the past, Lupe has spent an entire song describing how “they” want him to “Dumb It Down” then proceeds to deliver verses and records that aren’t up to par with previous works, which seem worded to make it a bit easier for the masses to understand. Throw that against beats that normally would not qualify as “hip-hop” music and what you have is a bunch of mad fanboys out there.
Despite these failures, the album still has some moments of glory. “The Show Goes On” is a flawless example of this indie | hipster meets hip-hop meld that’s becoming more prevalent, and is the preferred (forced?) single from the reformatted, label-cleared album. I’m actually quite fond of this song and the Modest Mouse original it came from, “Float On”. “All Black Everything” is the only track where Lupe seems to be in old form; with those historically vivid, politically fundamental punch lines that we all know and love (“Everybody’s rappin like crack never happened”). From there, most of the songs were a bit too entrenched in hipster-sounding music, or the lyrical content was such that I just… couldn’t care. (“State Run Radio”…WTF. I just don’t know. And I really tried.)
In a perfect world, Lupe would have had more control over Lasers. Important singles and their videos would have been pressed and marketed correctly, and it actually would have sounded like hip-hop music. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world. Or album. For the outsider who has never listened to Lupe before, or for those who are new to hip-hop… this might be a great starter album for you. But for those who already know the history of Lupe Fiasco and his high lyrical standards, or those who are keen on hip-hop, you might just want to pass. For now, I’ll be over here, patiently waiting for Lupe’s return to complex, thought-provoking rhymes. I’m sure it won’t take long.