Lupe Fiasco hit the scene as a stark contrast to the excess and crunk sensibilities of the mid 2000's that dominated hip-hop. His nerd cred was high and he kicked out some stellar records such as "Food & Liquor" and "The Cool". They were not perfect, by any means, but they were some of the best records to come out in their respective years.
He has a rubbery way with his words, a political voice and the ability to infuse some of that nerdiness into his lyrics like no one else can. I awaited the release of "Lasers" with bated breath, for I knew that this could be the definitive album of his career thus far. What we got, instead, was an album clearly marred by the hands of the studio. There are moments of brilliance that shine through the veneer like bright stars but they get washed away in tracks that are, for a lack of better words, lacking in substance.
That is not to say that the album isn't good because, overall, it actually is, but it doesn't feel necessarily like Lupe. Well, not all of it anyway. Perhaps the best track on the entire record "All Black Everything" manages to achieve what we all had hoped for. The alternative reality vision offered by the song infused with operatic orchestral pieces is brilliant. It's also quite hilarious in parts. MLK still with us? Bill O'Reilly reading from the Koran? Yes. This is what I want from this album as a whole but just didn't quite get that.
The instances of genius that do occur, "All Black Everything", "Beautiful Lasers", "State Run Radio" in particular, remind us just how amazing this guy can be. The rest, however, either feels more like filler tracks or rely so heavily on synth and overdone production values that somehow don't sound that great. It is an album of two faces, really, the one scarred by the heavy hands of the studio in charge and then the one bright, shining and optimistic that delivers a flow that few can match. "Words I Never Said", for example, has some good vocal work by Skylar Grey but just feels too over produced with a Trey Songz-sounding chorus. "I Don't Wanna Care Right Now" features MDMA and, frankly, just wasn't very good. The same can be said of "Letting Go" and "Break the Chain". That's my problem with the album. It has too much that either inspires me to skip ahead or just tolerate because there are genuinely good tracks ahead.
The album could have been better, yeah, but its still better than a lot of the absolute drivel I've heard so far this year. Its not the definitive entry into his catalogue that I was hoping for, but hopefully this will allow him to, on the next go of things, to be unfettered by the chains of the studio that so brought him down on this.