Lupe Fiasco

Lasers

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Food & Liquor peaked in the Top Ten and collected three Grammy nominations. The Cool, released the next calendar year, reached gold-sales status and earned four Grammy nominations. Despite the achievements and momentum, Lupe Fiasco -- a reluctant industry cog from the beginning -- encountered several snags and had to make substantial artistic compromises prior to having Atlantic allow the long-delayed release of his third album. Nothing on Lasers symbolizes this particular conflict between art and commerce like “The Show Goes On.” Lupe disassociated himself from the song and claimed he was told how to rap on it -- an edgeless, sanitized imitation of Kanye West's “All of the Lights” that, curiously enough, includes the line “They treat you like a slave, put chains all on your soul.” It became one of his biggest hits. Lasers offers more substance when the reins are loosened. On “Words I Never Said,” Lupe confronts fear-fueled alienation and, more pointedly, both sides of the political spectrum, following “Limbaugh is a racist/Glenn Beck is a racist” with “Gaza Strip was gettin’ bombed/Obama didn’t say shit.” “All Black Everything” is a sobering pro-black fantasy in which Lupe provides an alternate/“what if?” version of history: “And we ain’t get exploited/White man ain’t fear it, so he did not destroy it.” For all the concessions one can imagine Lupe making, it’s unquestionably the lumbering, overwrought choruses -- something that plagued The Cool as well. Here, they are at their most glaring on “Break the Chain” and “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now,” two high-gloss, Europop-flavored productions that weigh down the album and dull the impact of the rhymes. If there is one MC whose rhymes should not be dulled for the sake of chasing pop trends, it’s Lupe Fiasco.

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