Lupe Fiasco is probably the first new-age conscious rapper to actually gain any recognition for his work. With his latest album it’s easy to see why. Forever promoting positive vibes, Lupe Fiasco’s third album L.A.S.E.R.S stands for Love Always Shines Everytime, Remember Smile. Yet, despite the message within the album title, this time the Chicago native sounds moodier than ever.
In a time where a cheesy hook, a few lines of rap and a model-filled video can give you a huge hit, it’s refreshing to see Lupe trying to create real hip hop, rather than the generic substitute that’s more usually manufactured. It’s worth remembering that Lupe is from the generation of rappers such as Lil Wayne, Drake and Juelz Santana. This is the generation that talk about nothing but bling and booty, the generation of rappers that Nas claims killed hip hop.
Yet no one could ever accuse Lupe of killing hip hop. His style is ‘old skool’, like Krs-One or Common, with intelligent and thought-provoking lyrics. With L.A.S.E.R.S he takes esoterics to new level. In his previous albums Lupe sounds so chilled you could almost smell the reefer (even if he isn’t a smoker). Lupe does not do aggression, but this time some genuine angst is evident in certain tracks. The beats are heavier and darker, while the lyrics are more frank than ever. The first verse in Words I Never Said is epic, tearing through the American government and even telling us why he didn’t vote for Obama.
Other stand-out tracks include Beautiful Lasers, a sad love song about finding hope while he is in “the dark side”, aimed at God. Break The Chain has Lupe showing the calibre of his skills, rhyming over a trancey beat with a hypnotic chorus from Eric Turner and a verse from Sway. All Black Everything is a proper water cooler track (if there is such a thing), a brilliant take on what the world would be like if black people had never become slaves.
Lupe’s previous albums sounded like he was speaking to his best friend about everyday life. This one has the feel of a preacher driving some home truths through to his audience. There is more thought, more deliberation about this album. It doesn’t have that one killer single that Lupe generally brings out to satisfy the mainstream listeners, although ladies may love his collaboration with Trey Songz, Out Of My Head. There is nothing as chilled out as Kick – Push on Food And Liquor (his first album) which first brought him to public attention. There is also nothing as grandiose as his standout single from The Cool (his second album), Superstar.
Perhaps the constant government bashing may make it too political for some, but this album is about more than its politics. It is about Lupe trying to use his fame to highlight some social ills. It’s a rap album made for people who actually listen to music rather than just hear it. Hip hop nowadays is so gimmicky, but L.A.S.E.R.S does its best to burn through the gangsta bravado and the money talk.