Lupe Fiasco: Lasers  

Atlantic

The good news: Lupe Fiasco is still a terrific MC after three years in label limbo. The bad news: His frame of reference on his latest release doesn't extend very far beyond Linkin Park, Evanescence, and Flo Rida. Lupe's previous albums, 2006's Food & Liquor and 2007's The Cool, were challenging and emotionally wringing. Too often on new album Lasers, though, he settles for tracks that feel calculated, self-conscious and totally unfit for his voice. Maudlin inspirational ballads ("The Show Goes On") suck; emo-goth songs that pander to the Hot Topic crowd ("Letting Go") are worse. Lupe has much to say, and he's impressively one of the first rappers to vocalize criticism of President Obama with eloquence, but the 29-year-old seems desperate to balance his lyrical savvy with his commercial instincts, resulting in flustered, incoherent material like "State Run Radio." This bumbling rapper isn't the same person who shook up the industry upon his debut five years ago, but that guy is welcome back anytime. (2 out of 5 stars)

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