4 years is a long time. 4 years ago America had a white President, and no one knew what a “Snookie” was. In 2007 I was 60 lbs heavier, and I was a junior in college. I didn’t have a Facebook account. I didn’t have a twitter account. My online persona Sagramore had no blog to call home. However, what I did have was a fresh copy of Lupe Fiasco’s second studio album, The Cool.
I had discovered Fiasco the previous year while watching one of the MTV channels available in my dorm late at night. I was half asleep, and probably a little drunk, when Kick, Push came on the TV. It took half the song to realize I was watching a black guy rap about skateboarding, which I had previously thought impossible, unless it’s some kind of extremely well crafted metaphor. The tune was catchy as swine flu, and in an internet minute I had a freshly pirated copy of Lupe’s album Food & Liquor. I was hooked. The Instrumental converted me, and then Daydreamin’ ordained me into his order. Lupe quickly took a seat next to The Fugees and Common in my personal rap pantheon. His tracks were good, and his lyrics hit deep, but with a tadbit of satire and cynicism to keep them fresh and different. His flow was fast, too, with a little bit of young kid swagga (without the “er”).
Of course, I was counting down the days to his follow-up album, The Cool, which brings us back to where we started, 2007. The Cool was even better than Food & Liquor. Granted, it featured plenty of consumer friendly, accessible tunes like Superstar and Paris, Tokyo, which I believe were the two singles off the album. But those balanced out his deeper tracks, like Streets on Fire and Little Weapon. Hip Hop Saved MyLiife brings in some possible autobiographical elements, maybe a little bit of real fears, and Intruder Alert tackles a subject rarely present in commercial rap. By this point I was devout follower of Fiascoism. Unfortunately, I would have to wait 4 long years for his next album, Lasers (the cover actually says “LOSERS,” but the “O” is crossed out with an anarchy symbol-looking A).
It was worth the wait. Just short of tragically, Lasers doesn’t quite stand as tall as The Cool and Food & Liquor, but it is still objectively (subjectively might be more accurate) a great album. Let’s get the negative out of the way, so I can devote myself to fawning. Regrettably, Lupe found an Auto-tune machine somewhere…we can only hope it’s not the same one that led Kanye down the 808’s and Heartbreaks path. How many music careers will that damn machine feast upon? How many hip hop albums have fed the flames of its infernal furnace? Thankfully, the use of Auto-tune in the album is pretty limited; a few choruses here and there are the only victims. We’re not quite talking T-Pain levels yet. Also, one of the songs features John Legend, who is bland. I can’t think of any other word to describe him. I don’t know why he’s contractually obligated to appear in every hip hop album post-2008, but I don’t like it.
And now, onto the positives. The Show Goes On is the first single off the CD, and it’s solid. He samples a Modest Mouse track, and, as a general rule, Modest Mouse can only be improved upon form the original, so it works out. It’s got that sort of dance club Auto-tuney singing chorus that’s infected hip hop the past few years (where’s Usher dancing?), but the overall message is positive, and the hooks are catchy as hell. The frantic guitar lick suits Lupe’s style well. The real gem of the album is the second song, The Words I Never Said. That beat is f♥♥ king sick. The girl singing the intro tricks you into thinking it’ll be a slow song, but then the main track slams you like a sledgehammer, and it’s got this lilting video game music thing that is just awesome. I try not to listen to the lyrics because the song is maybe about a pseudo-militant black American uprising with Muslim leanings…so…not really my thing. He does call Limbaugh and Glenn beck racists though, which is a plus. The underlying message though is that actions > thoughts. The last verse in particular is great; if you don’t think that’s poetry, you need to go back to English class.
I laughed out loud through all of All Black Everything, which may not have been the author’s intent, and it was certainly in bad taste on my part…but the track has an old-schooly 50’s movie-ish day dreaming feel to it, which fits the song well. It’s about an alternate reality, but I don’t want to give anything away. Hint: it’s about race relations. Letting Go is another solid track, and one of his more introspective songs. Again, it’s got a great beat. Shining Down is slick, and brings back Matthew Santos, with whom Lupe teamed up for a few songs in The Cool. It’s a pretty main-streamy track, so it’s probably a good candidate for his next single. I want to learn that guitar lick. Beatiful Lasers is another very strong track though it’s a little heavily made up for my tastes.
As a whole Lasers is a great album, but unfortunately Fiasco lost a little something while chasing the main-stream mold of current hip hop. This album just doesn’t feel as genuine as his previous two. Thankfully, he didn’t fully jump off the edge to teaming up with Akon or Ke$ha or anything, but still, the whole CD just feels a bit…tainted. It’s like we’re listening to a diluted version of what we were meant to experience, through a glass, Auto-tuney. His lyrics are great as usual; the content hasn’t changed. He’s not laying a flow down about this sexy b♥♥♥ h in a club quite yet. Some of the songs really show off his quick, too. He’s a fast rapper when he wants to be. I know it may seem like I’m down on the album, but it may just be the unavoidable disappointment brewing over 4 years. Please don’t misunderstand; Lasers is great, and you should go out and buy it..with real money.