Lupe Fiasco: Lasers

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Lupe Fiasco: <em>Lasers</em>

A confounding mix of confrontation and polish

For an album four years in the making, delayed by often-public struggles with Lupe Fiasco’s label, Lasers is surprisingly polished, poppy and contemporary. The gloss, though, hides a more turbulent heart.

Amidst textbook pop-hop vocal hooks on “Words I Never Said,” Fiasco drops 9-11 conspiracy theories, inflammatory comments on conservative pundits, Israel and even Obama, while “All Black Everything” imagines an alternate world where slavery never having happened somehow causes Ahmajinedad to win a Nobel Peace Prize (after Bill O’Reilly reads from the Koran). While these kinds of pronouncements were always part of the punk rock of Public Enemy, Fiasco casually throws this stuff out there, draped in musical arrangements that are as radio-friendly as any B.o.B. or Smeezingtons jam. “Break the Chain” is straight soft-techno and John Legend adds raw charisma to “Never Forget You,” while “The Show Goes On” cribs Modest Mouse for club consumption. So the political nails are hidden deeply enough in the candy that sometimes it’s hard to tell whether the juxtaposition is truly bracingly subversive or oddly self-defeating. Depending on your mood or disposition, maybe it’s neither, either or both. A musical Rorschach test if there ever was one.