Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lupe Fiasco: Lasers (2011)


(Atlantic)

!!!!! AVOID !!!!!

One expects the damage-control compromise required by Lupe Fiasco’s painfully protracted third release -- and the many concessions made to get Atlantic to put it out -- to be depressing, so the first few tracks on Lasers come as a bit of a relief: he survives “Letting Go” and the suspiciously catchy “Till I Get There” with his dignity largely intact, his flow still hard-hitting and intelligent.

But then all hell breaks loose: MDMA and Trey Songz invade with already-dated club R&B that’s ill-fitting for Lupe. It gets worse yet, with the brain-melting rap rock of “Break the Chain,” the pandering incongruity of John Legend’s “Never Forget You,” and the total WTF that is the Modest Mouse-sampling “The Show Goes On.” It’s all rather disturbing, and with the artist’s radicalism intact (sometimes comically so), it’s hard to imagine he doesn’t see the irony, suggested by media comments that he “loves and hates” the record and that he contemplated suicide during the battles over it.

Occasionally his wit shines through (there's even a Leonard Cohen reference), but this music is completely unworthy of such a talent -- and it's a pity to hear the mediocre leveling-off of a performer who could potentially be as good as Kanye if allowed. In the end, Lasers plays out less as a downturn for Lupe than as an accidentally searing indictment of the corporate record industry.

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