Finally! It felt like a lifetime but Lupe Fiasco's Lasers album finally dropped. Out of respect for Lupe, I waited until the official album release and not download the leaked copy of the album since he's had problems with leaking and piracy in the past, i didn't want to be a part of the problem (well, his problem at least).
I also heard that people were giving it negative reviews and I understood that Lasers had to live up to huge expectations. I've heard the album from start to finish 3 times now and I must say that it does live up to those expectations and exceeds them but I can definitely understand why some people were less than impressed.
It's extremely unfortunate considering how this whole process drained him completely and all of the hard work he had to put forth just to keep the album from never seeing the light of day. He even had to make compromises with the record label and it shows at certain points in the album.
The Album: The album really differs from his last albums. There are no intros, traditional storytelling or talking about nerdy stuff but rather more about his personal struggles, and moving forward. I think that's what turned people off from it.
Letting Go: Lupe really gets a chance to talk about what he went through during the making of the album and its entire grueling process. He felt like his life and his soul was being sucked out of him and even contemplated suicide. He stated in an interview: "The idea of suicide was real. The danger came as I started to catch myself rationalizing it. For six, seven months I was questioning my faith and thinking about how would this affect my mom, my family. I only got out of it by talking freely to a few people about it. They let me take myself out of circulation for awhile. It was a secret set of friends. A couple people in particular who let me stow away and allowed me to but cut off from the universe for a while."It really sets the tone for the rest of the album. The listener is able to get a glimpse of what he had to go through. I feel fortunate and thankful as a fan that the album did finally make its release and with all that in mind it makes it a whole lot easier to understand the rest of the album.
Words I Never Said: One of the few tracks on the album that Lupe said that he was allowed to make where he was able to say and do whatever he wanted without any meddling by the label. It's a very bold song where talks about what's wrong with the world/society. He can't understand the justification of using tax payer money on meaningless wars and believes in peace. People can tell him that peace is impossible but it's still something he'll always believe in. People just tend to go with the flow and become fearful if they stray from the norm.
Til I Get There: The album changes drastically in terms of sound from track 2 to track 3. After a serious song like 'Words I Never Said', 'Til I Get There' sounds a little more lighthearted talking about his ordeal with his label which almost seems comical at times with the way that they failed to get on the same page but I also think he speaks about artists and the labels in the industry in general. They're prescribed all these things in order to become 'successful' as an artist but it's all the same formula that Lupe isn't interested in following. Many artists have the mentality of 'When I Get There" and don't really care about the path as long as they get that hit on the radio and radio success is the definition of artist success according to labels, at least according to Lupe.
I Don't Wanna Care Right Now: At a quick glance this song might sound like it would be about being apathetic but in fact it's more about his triumph. He's accomplished a lot and it's more about him not wanting to hear it from his haters or even the record label. He really is on a different level.
Out Of My Head (Feat. Trey Songz): Most artists these days need big names to collaborate with as selling points for albums. I'm sure he loved working with Trey Songz but it doesn't seem at all necessary for Lupe to have other big names on his tracks, not because of ego or anything but because he is able to carry the songs on his own. But in any case, the song does sound a little bit more like a compromise with the label in terms of its commercial sound and having a big name artist but it still has a much deeper meaning. Again on the surface it seems like another song about some girl but he talks about his relationship with his supporters, fans and even the label. It's very well done.
The Show Goes On: Definitely the most commercial song on the album and seemed fitting right after the announcement that Lasers was actually going to be released. It's a great song with a very radio-friendly beat with strings. (I always thought strings and hip-hop always went well together). But the song is pretty straightforward, and it has a positive message but as a part of the compromise with the label, he was told to dumb it down.
Beautiful Lasers: After an upbeat, uplifting song like 'The Show Goes On', Lupe gets back on the topic of contemplating suicide. It seems like he's getting back to the ups and downs he talked about in 'Til I Get There'. Also seems symbolic of the way he was living life, part of him was excited and motivated by his fans and he's back to feeling good and the next moment, he's reminded of his situation with his label. It's difficult to really understand why he would feel like that but that's what the music industry can do to a person. Lupe said that doing this song was actually therapeutic. Another solid track.
Coming Up: I had to do a little bit of research on this one since he says, 'Yea your brother on the road and he never home' and apparently, he's talking to/about his sisters. Recalling what he said about contemplating suicide and how it would affect his family, it's interesting to see him bounce from Beautiful Lasers to Coming Up where he declares a supportive role, in a way, seeing him regain his strength and will to live.
State Run Radio: Lupe totally nails it with this one about what's wrong with the music industry. 'Different is never good, good is only what we pick, You ain't got a hit, unless it sound like these did, Not too smart, you will be a superstar, And if you dumb us up maybe you could be number one.' That's the price to pay to be a part of the mainstream. He suggests taking the less traveled route, 'Build your own station, become your own DJs''. That's pretty much what Lupe did. I remember hearing that B.o.B's hit song 'Nothin' on you' was originally supposed to be for Lupe but he turned it down because radio just isn't for him, he would have to conform.
Break the Chain: An underrated track on the album. Lupe doesn't necessarily talk about his past much in this album but he can relate to what's going on back where he came from 'Where we grew up like a green thumb'. In order to make a chance, one will need to break the chain. Despite being surrounded by all of the negative things, seek out the positive in the way that he did as evident through one of his quotes: "I grew up in the hood around prostitutes, drug dealers, killers and gangbangers, but I also grew up juxtaposed. On the doorknob outside of our apartment, there was blood from some guy who got shot; but inside there was National Geographic magazines and encyclopedias and a little library bookshelf situation. And we didn't have cable, so we didn't have the luxury of having our brains washed by MTV. We watched public television -- cooking shows and stuff like that." On top of all that, Sway includes a solid verse with a number of witty lines. He's not caught up in all the negativity, he's doing his own thing.
All Black Everything: To quote someone I saw post, "Jay-z made it a hot line, Lupe made it a hot song". And that's exactly what happened. The song does feel sort of 'dreamy' and Lupe does a great job of painting a picture of an ideal world where all races live in harmony while displaying his vast knowledge of not only black history but history in general. He uses a number of examples that sound absurd such as 'Somalia is a great place to relax in" and "Black woman voted head of Ku Klux Klan" and especially "Bill O'Reilly who read from the Qur'an'. Also in his ideal world "All Black Everything" would have been inspired by a white rapper named Jay-Z.
Never Forget You: A great way to end the album. Lupe always looks towards the future and takes pride in being ahead of the curve but is reminded that he will never forget the good and bad things that have happened. He doesn't want to relive them, it's there as a reminder. He lost his father during the making of The Cool and mentioned that he did have a chance to properly mourn with all that was going on. It's great to see him pay tribute to his late father in this song and once again, great way to end the album.
It's really impressive that Lupe was able to hold it together after all this time. History has shown that the music industry is ruthless and brutal. I can't help but think about Vanilla Ice telling his story about how he was presented with all this money and a recording deal as long as he 'sold his soul' to them. He obliged and regrets his decision forever. As a result, he's now just a bitter and angry guy. And that's just one example.
It's difficult to pass up having that kind of fame and money but it's not always what will bring happiness. Lupe sticks to what he believes and it makes his path exponentially more difficult. I would say it's worth it. His label believes his music is garbage but his millions of fans worldwide think otherwise. For the most part, his fans are informed, educated and able to think for themselves and think critically. Not many other artists are able to say that about their fan base. For example, he could have easily started that rally himself but it was his fans decided to hold a protest to help convince the record label that they were making a mistake by holding off on Lasers.
And it was great that he acknowledged what they did:
Lupe really gives the fans an incredible album that is worth listening to over and over again and helps reminds that going through the motions and conforming might be for some, but it's not for everyone.
The amazing thing to me is that this album isn't even 100% Lupe since he had to do some compromising, yet it's still outstanding and better than almost all of the stuff that comes out these days. That's the level that he's on.
This album is off the charts of the grading scale for me so on a scale of 1-5, I give it one hundred mother loving stars.