The march toward the release of Lupe Fiasco’s L.A.S.E.R.S. has been unique. The Chicago rapper initially started talking about it as his retirement album way back in 2008 (just after the release of his second album The Cool; it was called LupE.N.D. then), but the album got delayed due to other projects and label woes. And now that Lasers is finally hitting stores, Fiasco is lukewarm about the whole experience. “A lot of the songs that are on the album, I’m kinda neutral to,” he told Complex. But what do the critics think?
Most of the people reviewing the album seem as ambivalent about it as Fiasco himself. “There’s plenty of anger on Lasers, but he is far too nuanced an artist to resort to preaching to the choir,” wrote the Los Angeles Times’ Todd Martens. “It’s a moderate disappointment that Lasers feels more like a compromise than a cohesive album … Thankfully, the constraint-less Fiasco manages to appear multiple times on Lasers, be it the rock-infused attack on corporate cool in ’State Run Radio,’ the heartbreak of ’Beautiful Lasers’ and the alternate-reality vision and twisted operatic orchestrations of ’All Black Everything.'”
Entertainment Weekly’s Brad Wete was much more enthusiastic about the album, noting that Fiasco’s skills shine through the issues hanging over the album. “Lupe’s much-delayed set is as militant as the picket signs that fans used to force its release months ago,” the critic wrote. “Within the harsh truths lie love and joy — heard on the spacey Trey Songz-assisted ’Out of My Head.’ Simply put, Lasers beams.”
The Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot was lukewarm about the whole thing, and he is clearly frustrated with the album’s results. “[Fiasco] turns the corporate in-fighting over radio hits into a broader exploration of how those in power manipulate those who are not,” Kot explains. “But at times, the compromises necessary to get L.A.S.E.R.S. out of record-company limbo sap the music, with Fiasco sounding like a guest on his own album.”
Nobody completely wrote off L.A.S.E.R.S., though The Guardian’s Alex Macpherson was probably the most judgmental. “Instead of retaining his distinctiveness, as mainstream rap has become more like Lupe, so he’s begun to sound more like everyone else on Lasers: synthy choruses that Taio Cruz would reject as too generically Auto-Tuned, trite empowerment anthems as subtle as a Katy Perry hit,” he wrote. “It’s occasionally likable, sometimes excruciating and rarely special.”
The prevailing opinion seems to be best summed up by Spin magazine. “Lasers works best when the grabby hooks, electro beats, and conscious rap rants are all turned down a notch,” wrote critic Brandon Soderberg. “’Words I Never Said’ is like B.o.B’s ’Airplanes’ or Eminem’s ’Love the Way You Lie’ with a dash of early-’90s Ice Cube and a whole bunch of Evanescence angst. Armed with that wonky combination, Fiasco smuggles 9/11 conspiracies and a fairly sophisticated take on the Middle East into a pop-rap anthem. Compared to Lasers’ other confrontational crossover songs, ’Words’ is an effective attempt at culture-jamming the Billboard charts.”
What do you think of Lupe Fiasco’s new album? Let us know in the comments!