In light of Lupe Fiasco’s upcoming March 31 performance at Duke, Recess Editor Kevin Lincoln and Music Editor Ross Green discussed Lupe’s recent release, Lasers. To hear the full podcast of their conversation, go to dukechronicle.com/recess. The following talk has been edited for brevity and clarity.
KL: First up, I think we can both can agree on the fact that this is not a rap album.
RG: Yeah, not really. It’s hard to say how much of this is actually coming from Lupe himself and how much is coming from this being his major-label debut. Sonically, there’s very little resemblance to his past works, to The Cool, which a lot of critics considered one of the better albums of 2008 [ed. note: The Cool was released in 2007]. One of Lupe’s strengths that he’s been able to showcase in his career, up to now, is that he’s a rapper’s rapper. He loves the art form, he’s very clever—you will see a lot of wordplay, a lot of puns. What’s happened here, I gather, is that all of his idiosyncrasies, all of the unique wordplay that he brought has been toned down and neutered. As a result, this is an album that doesn’t really sound that much like Lupe—it just sounds bland.
KL: Right off the bat, you get this from the first track, “Letting Go,” which has this completely energy-devoid chorus by someone named Sarah Green, who I’m not familiar with. And it’s produced by King David, who produces a lot of other tracks on this album—and brings these disco strings that should be banned from music. The raps are clumsy, the rhyme schemes are really simple. The only thing Lupe ever bothers to rhyme is the last word of a line. He’s got these nonsensical rhymes—“The world is so cold/I’m glad I got these skis”—it all seems to be a vehicle for these pop songs, but they’re not even interesting pop songs. They’re eight bars of Lupe rapping, eight bars of chorus. That’s my overall impression of the album.
RG: It’s lazier, less engaging rapping than we’ve ever heard from him. One thing I’m interested to see is how he will tour behind this album, and to what extent he will rely on older material.
KL: The clearest archetype for this album is the B.O.B. record, Adventures of Bobby Ray. B.O.B. was this vaunted mixtape rapper, and a guy who was thought of as having pretty good chops, and then he delivered this album where he sings with Rivers Cuomo and does all these poppy things. I personally thought it was a disaster, but it did really well commercially—and the Lupe album has done really well commercially.
RG:I hate to say this, but what comes to mind is Lil Wayne’s Rebirth, which was an absolute career low-point for him, and it makes you wonder how much longer Lupe’s major-label engagement will last.
KL: There is just... no swag on this album, there is no confidence on Lasers—
RG: Kevin loves to use the word “swag.”
KL: I do like the word “swag.” But Lasers is not fun, which is weird for a pop album. It’s depressing. So, star rating, out of five, what would you give?
RG: We don’t do half-stars, so I’d give it a 2.
KL: I’d give it a one. One out of five.
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