CD review: LASERS

Last year, I excoriated B.O.B. for releasing one of the most blatant attempts at pandering to the mainstream with “The Adventures of Bobby Ray.” Well, now I have to apologize, because Lupe Fiasco, of all people, has usurped B.O.B. with “LASERS,” a record that has gone through three years worth of drama and produced one likeable, honest song.

Lupe has been furiously backtracking in the week leading up to the album’s release as some of his ardent fans come to the realization that one of the dopest MCs in the game has delivered one of the all-time stinkers, claiming label politics, beat dissatisfaction and anything else under to sun to cover up the fact that the record sucks.

I have no doubt that Atlantic had their hand in mucking up the record, because that’s what labels do – try to create product that will make the most money. But in the end, it’s the artist that puts his name on the record, raps the verses and promotes the disc – so at some point, Lupe must have believed in the music enough to let it be released. (Ironically, Atlantic wanted to keep the album on the shelf under some loyal fans staged a protest at the label’s offices. Doubly ironic, the record is set to open No. 1 on this week’s Billboard chart)

And this is not an indictment of conscious rap or whatever you want to call it. Rap has a long history of artists who have used the platform to effectively speak on a variety of societal issues, and done it without sacrificing lyrics or musicality.

Lupe sacrifices everything here.

This is the softest album I think I’ve ever heard. PM Dawn is laughing about how weak this effort is. There once was a time that rap choruses consisted of: scratched-in breaks from other songs, chants from the group or a vocal hook from an R&B singer of note.

In today’s rap landscape, more and more artists are turning to reedy-voiced singers with no hiphop background to warble whiny, punchless hooks that sound more appropriate blaring over the Hot Topic speaker system than booming out of a car stereo system. No offense to Skylar Gray, but does she look like the voice of hiphop to you? Yet she’s been popping up all over the place, and here she’s the embodiment of the neutered rap on display here.

With “LASERS” – which is a ridiculous acronym that I’m not going to bother explaining – Lupe aimed to create some sort of inspirational set of songs, but instead it comes off forced, filled with the kind of simple platitudes and “anthemic” music that undermines him at every step.

Take “The Show Goes On,” which samples Modest Mouse and is one of the songs that Lupe was allegedly forced to record by the studio due to its commercial promise. It’s a trite song, filled with lazy, uninspired raps from Fiasco that don’t hide his lack of enthusiasm for the song.

I guess he hated most of the other tracks as well, because he rarely comes with the lyrical intensity or creativity for which he is known. And don’t get me started on the music, which has been stripped down of nearly all elements one might consider analogous to rap and replaced with generic pop beats or, in the execrable “Break The Chain,” some weird techno blend.

And pairing Lupe Fiasco with Trey Songz? Who thought that was a good idea? I’m all for out-of-the-box collaborations, but that one’s just wrong.

Honestly, the only decent song here is “All Black Everything,” a revisionist racial fantasy spun with the kind of brio that’s sorely missing from the rest of the CD. If Lupe had even three or four songs of this quality, people would have simply registered “LASERS” as a mild disappointment. As it stands now, Lupe is going to have to make a helluva effort to erase this fiasco from memory.

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~ by Elliott on March 10, 2011.

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