March 9, 2011

Test Spin: Lupe Fiasco

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Since its first conception in 2008, then entitled LupE.N.D., Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco’s third album has been on a tumultuous path; one fraught with hype and frequent delays. Lupe had initially planned for LupE.N.D. to usher in his early retirement from the rap game, a plan that his record label, Atlantic Records, was quick to oppose. The end result, more than two years later, is L.A.S.E.R.S. — an inconsistent album that reflects Fiasco’s unique talent and dedication to elevating hip-hop, but also his struggles over creative direction with Atlantic. L.A.S.E.R.S. is very much the confused lovechild borne of this strained union.

The moments when Fiasco is able to produce without constraint are the finest on the album. On songs such as “Words I Never Said,” “Beautiful Lasers (2 ways)” and the eerie alternate reality spun by “All Black Everything,” Fiasco’s smart blend of impassioned hip-hop activism and rapid-fire execution still charms the listener, demonstrating that the rapper we have come to know and love hasn’t lost his intelligent swagger.

Too often though, L.A.S.E.R.S. ends up feeling more like a compromise than a cohesive album, with several tracks proving to be unmemorable filler. Many of the songs feature hit-making artists and syrupy auto-tuned melodies run rampant. Overwhelmed by the sheer amount of collaborations, Fiasco at times seems like a guest on his own album. The worst example of this is “Out of My Head” featuring Trey Songz. Plagued by the too frequent repetition of Songz’s irritating hook, the song comes across as cheap and is worth skipping over.

“The Show Goes On,” easily the catchiest song on the album, demonstrates Fiasco’s ability to still create hits without sacrificing his opinion. Laying down uplifting verses over a sample from Modest Mouse’s 2004 hit “Float On,” Fiasco is inventive and engaging in his approach. Ultimately, L.A.S.E.R.S. is not able to showcase across the board what Fiasco has to offer, but thanks to its moments of inspiration when Lupe’s talent runs wild, it is still worth a listen to. —Sarah Angell

Original Author: Sarah Angell