Sure enough, this album is worth buying. It's Lupe, after all! From the singles that were released, 'The Show Goes On' and 'Words I Never Said', I was expecting something quite edgy and moody from Lupe, however when I listened to 'Lasers' this was far from what I expected. If you're a Lupe fan, you probably know the history towards the eventual release of 'Lasers' - Atlantic Records was going to prevent him from releasing this, but after all the fan support the record label had no option but allow it to be made.
Consequently, the album is ultimately a quite radical direction from Lupe, possibly because of the intervening of the company forcing him to make his music 'appeal to the crowd' (in other words, become more mainstream). An example is arguably the worst track on the LP, 'State Run Radio', which sounds nothing like Lupe would have made and, while the production is stellar on this track and the rest of the album, has too much of a dance-pop feel. The chorus is embarrassing for an artist that once maintained mainstream popularity whilst staying true to its roots, and 'Lasers' has an abundance of them.
Another track that divides my opinion is 'Break the Chain'. The production is stark and dark, and Eric Turner turns a repetitive chorus into something that is quite haunting to listen to. But again, this has a different sound to anything Lupe has done before. You wouldn't find this kind of track on his previous classics, such as The Cool and Food and Liquor.
Despite this, there are many positives that save this album, and it is probably one of the strongest rap albums being released this year. One of my favourite tracks, 'All Black Everything', has the same signature sound and feel of the Old Lupe, with a wonderfully opulent Kanye West-type of production. There are signs that he is not a completely different rapper. 'The Show Goes On' proves the level of production found on 'Lasers', a crowding-pleasing lead single that comes off as a bit too 'poppy' but really works. 'Words I Never Said' is wonderful, with up-and-coming Skylar Grey offering a introspective but powerful hook that combines perfectly with Alex Da Kid's sound of hard drum beats and hallow-sounding production. 'Letting Go' sounds like it could have been on The Cool, despite the extremely annoying chorus undermining its production. 'Till I Get There' is great and reminds me of the Old Lupe and his early days. 'I Don't Wanna Go Right Now' continues to illustrate the album's direction towards dance themes and production. It works in this case, despite sounding extremely commercial and mainstream, only if it is because it has one of the best choruses on the album. Personally, I don't like 'Beautiful Lasers' - it is overproduced and the autotune chorus doesn't do it for me. It sounds too electronica for me as well (We gotta get back to hip hop, Lupe!). 'Coming Up!' has a good beat, but again, the sound itself is a little tame and is just too pop-sounding. The same can be said for 'Never Forget You'. While I really like John Legend, even he can't save the annoying chorus and sickly-sweet production and pop vibe.
It's funny how the last two songs, 'I'm Beaming' and 'Shining Down', are actually some of the best songs on the album. The songs were produced a while back when the future of 'Lasers' was uncertain, but they sound exactly like Lupe's previous work. The sound is classic Lupe. 'I'm Beaming' is futuristic and has a great hook, and despite being dance-inspired it doesn't sound like Lupe had to change his music style. 'Shining Down' features the excellent Matthew Santos, who contributes to an emotional and unforgettable chorus. It has a great build up and beat that should have been the blueprint to how 'Lasers' should have sounded like.
However, 'Lasers' should be applauded for even getting released considering how long it took for negotiations to be made, and despite the hold-ups and delays it has turned out not a complete disaster. It doesn't live up to the hype unfortunately, and is no doubt Lupe's worst album (I think the high expectations of others and myself should have had its long production delays and fights taken into account). But this is overall a very good, surprisingly pleasant rap album that will be far superior than anything most rap artists will come out with anytime soon.