Lupe Fiasco’s third studio album, Lasers, has been the most anticipated and most controversial album of Lupe’s career thus far. Lupe was so passionate about his latest project when he was getting ready to wrap up production. This passion quickly faded though, as his label Atlantic Records seemed to pull the plug on his record, with no solid release date or promotion in the works. Then his fans did the unthinkable; they came from all around the country, and in some cases from around the world, to protest the release of Lasers. With an on-line petition that received over 30,000 signatures, support across all major social networking sites, and the protest that included around 200 super-fans, Atlantic just couldn’t ignore the movement. Lupe puts it best; this is the people’s album. That couldn’t be truer. The response to Lasers as a music project may be sparking luke-warm reactions from some, but as a movement, there is no denying the success Lupe has achieved.

If you’re coming into Lasers expecting to hear more of what Lupe delivered on Food & Liquor and The Cool then you might be disappointed. His two previous albums are considered more traditional hip-hop, but at the same time changed the game in their own ways. Lupe employs some of the same creative tactics on Lasers that he has used in the past, but gives the album a pop sound and feel. At times the album sounds like a dance, pop or rap album. Then at times, just one song can sound like all three of those genres combined, which makes for a messy song, no matter how tight the lyrics are. The features are plentiful; Lupe brings back singer Sarah Green, who was featured on Lupe’s first two albums, and introduces new artists like MDMA, who is featured on three tracks off Lasers.  Lupe tends to rely on various singers to produce a catchy hook to go with his verses. He uses this same tactic again with a majority of Lasers, but it still works well and most of the hooks are well written and/or catchy. The hook/intro on “State Run Radio” has a great concept and is extremely well done by artist Matt Mahaffey: “You must be, a radio station/and who are we, we must be a number one song spinning all day long/and you put me, in daily rotation/your on the air, we know your scared, but we don’t care, we’ll play this here over again, and over again, and over again…” The song is about how at times radio stations seem to be run over by a sort of government or dictator that forces the same songs to be played over and over again, everyday, all day. Feels that way to me.

Lupe quickly started to release music from Lasers weeks before the official release. Then a song or two was premiered on radio stations, and then before we knew it the entire album was leaked. It quickly became pretty obvious that the songs Lupe had officially released were the best of the bunch. The albums first single, “The Show Goes On,” is still as powerful as ever and features some of the best production out of all the tracks on the album. “Words I Never Said” is up there too, lyrically and musically. Production from Alex da Kid and a great hook from Skylar Grey, paired with Lupe’s amazing lyrics, make for a high point on the album. (Read our extremely in-depth review of “Words I Never Said” here.) Then there is “All Black Everything” which is easily the best song on the album. The beats soft opera singing in the background will cause chills when listening and the high pitched instrumental throughout the entire song is just amazing, with wind chimes leading into each verse after the chorus. However, that’s just half the story. Lupe’s lyrics are impeccable, being both well written and well researched. The history behind these lyrics makes for a refreshing song: “Extra, extra on the news stands/black woman voted head of Ku Klux Klan/Malcolm Little dies as an old man/Martin Luther King read the eulogy for him/followed by Bill O’Reilly who read from the Quran/President Bush sends condolences from Iran/where FOX News reports live that Ahmadinejad wins the Mandela peace prize…”

There are some other great songs on Lasers, but nothing groundbreaking, which is what most people were hoping for with this album. If you’re not strictly looking for classic hip-hop/rap then there are some enjoyable songs to be had here. People will immediately be turned off by the dance club beat on “Break The Chain”, but the production is interesting and features the only verse on the album that isn’t Lupe’s. UK rapper Sway gets his time to shine on Lasers with this track and gives a respectable performance. “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now” could be a great fit for the next single. Lupe’s flow is nuts and the hook from MDMA is straight up addicting.

Lasers delivers, but not enough for some. The production is there, the lyrics, for the most part, are there, and the strong features are in place. What’s lacking is the innovation and element of surprise, something that Lupe Fiasco’s previous two studio albums were flooded with. Atlantic Records could have wanted Lupe to go in a more mainstream direction with his music instead of taking creative risks this time around, but who really knows. That is not what’s important. Lupe finally got Lasers released, with the help of his fans, so that the people could finally enjoy the music and craft their own opinions and thoughts on his latest work. Lupe is currently talking about the release of a new mixtape and Food & Liquor 2 possibly by years end. Those two projects will probably more than satisfy fans when they are released, but Lasers gives more than enough to hold the people off until then.