UPDATED 7:52 p.m.: With Atlantic's one-sentence statement ...
Lupe Fiasco's "Lasers" album finally will be released to the public this Tuesday. It's been a long time coming -- his last record was "The Cool" in 2007 -- but it's not at all the album the Chicago rapper wanted to make. His valiant attempts to buck up and promote it are downbeat and disheartening.
When I first chatted with Fiasco during some down time last week in New York City, I congratulated him on the album's first single, "The Show Goes On," which had just gone gold (selling 500,000 singles). He huffed, his whole attitude was "whatever" as he responded: "It's their record. My words, their music. They forced this song to be a No. 1 single, and that's what they got. I can't take any credit for it."
He's referring to Atlantic Records, the once historic label (founded by Ahmet Ertegun) now a subsidiary of the Warner Music Group. According to Fiasco, various players at Atlantic thwarted his artistic mission on this, his third album for the label -- a process that dragged on for three years and ended only when several hundred fans scheduled a protest last October in downtown Chicago and outside the label's New York City offices.
Ahead of the protests, Fiasco tweeted, "Victory!" and Atlantic suddenly announced a March 8 release date for the album. Fans gathered anyway, and eventually were greeted by a Warner exec brandishing a boom box. He played the song "The Show Must Go On," and the fans applauded.
Now here comes "Lasers," at long last. Songs include "Letting Go" and "I Don't Wanna Care Right Now." On "Words I Never Said," his sharp tongue attacks both sides, from right-wing commentators to President Obama. The music is lively, flexible, full of cool synthesizers. It doesn't sound like a compromise.
But Fiasco said he's just happy, if you can call it that, to see the record out there -- mostly because it means he's two albums closer to the end of his contract with Atlantic.
"'Lasers' is a great album. I'm actually happy with the record. I feel I got to say what I wanted even with --" He pauses, maybe frustrated, maybe choosing his words diplomatically. "It doesn't make up for what it took to get through it. It's still being argued and debated upon. ... The climate of this record was very weird, in some instances surreal. I became very abstract. I had to create this commercial art that appeases the corporate side. I had to acquiesce to certain forces. Hopefully within that I snuck in some things I actually wanted to say any way I can."