Music Preview: Lasers by Lupe Fiasco
One minute, Lupe Fiasco was a guest artist performing a verse on Kanye West mega-hit Touch The Sky, the next he was a hugely successful solo artist, armed with a fervent following and plenty of critical appreciation. A lot can change in a year. And even more can change in six.
When Fiasco’s 2006 début Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor landed, it was quickly earmarked as the work of an artist to watch. Featuring compulsive beats and a refreshingly profanity-free flow, it drew comparisons to West’s first two albums; although Lupe showed some of that same natural talent for making ebullient, infectious hip-hop, most notably on catchy lead single Kick, Push, he was by no means the finished article. Call it inexperience, call it exuberance, but either way there was scope for improvement despite some impressive first steps.
However, what Food & Liquor did do was open the door for what proved to be a wonderful second record. With Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool, he achieved what very few people thought possible – making a hip-hop concept album. Chronicling the ups and inevitable downs of a ghetto rap star, it featured some incredibly potent, politically motivated hooks which took the vitriol from Kanye West’s Diamonds From Sierra Leone to a new level. Much like Kanye, Lupe showed a far more mature edge on his second album’s rhymes, satirising the standard rap clichés he so abhors and actively disparaging against the ‘gangsta’ mantras perpetuated by many rap artists: the result of this lifestyle, we learn on The Die, is usually premature death.
This is why Fiasco’s upcoming record Lasers is so exciting to consider. If the enigmatic – and admittedly quite pretentious –official site is anything to go by, then the scope of this album will extend to a global scale. If, as the site suggests, the third of Fiasco’s records is going to send a message to the world, then he’s got some work on his hands: but don’t bet against the man. The majority of music aficionados never would have thought a rap concept album chastising gun violence would work – much less go over in the marketplace – but Lupe pulled that off. And with Lasers, he might even take it a step further.
Fiasco’s third album has long been a conundrum: from the initial rumours that it would be his last, to the gossip that it would never see the light of day, to everything in between. Originally slated for an early 2010 release, it’s been pushed back several times by Atlantic Records despite having been completed for some months: there have been so many delays that a huge internet petition was set up to lobby for Lasers‘ release, and a protest was launched outside Atlantic’s head office in New York. Finally, now, there is a concrete release date of March 8th. Fiasco fanatics are sure to be delighted, but while the world waits to see what hip-hop’s latest superstar conjures up, only one song has been leaked: a single entitled I’m Beamin. It’s an intriguing, typically original song and video, and gives a tantalising taste of an album everyone’s waited so long to hear.
Lupe Fiasco’s gone from a slick guest verse to a globally anticipated third album since 2005. A lot’s happened for the Chicago rapper in six years, and if Lasers delivers, a lot more could be about to change.
Luke Grundy is a fervent assimilator of media living amid the bright lights of London, England. If he’s not watching films or listening to music, he’s probably asleep, eating or dead. An aspiring writer, journalist and musician, he is the creator of movie/music blog Odessa & Tucson and lives for epistemology.