Albums that touch on paranoia and prophecy are common practice in certain genres. Artists and their particular record labels squabble and fight like schoolchildren trying to gain an edge in a sandbox. For the better part of the late 2000s, Lupe Fiasco has been mired in numerous star crossed moments. From the anointing as a hip-hop savior in the same vein as Nas a decade before him to having his debut album leaked onto the internet a full six months before it was scheduled to drop, everything has played onto Wasulu Jaco’s adopted stage name: a fiasco.

Much like Nas, Fiasco will be always held towards his standout debut and follow up in terms of consistency. Which is essentially why his third studio effort Lasers fails to deliver in more ways than one.

No album should come with the disclaimer that “label politics forced the artist to create the album with the approach of another day, another dollar”. Yet Fiasco’s squabbles with Atlantic Records cast the sort of slight paranoia that listeners will consider during their time spent with Lasers. Was Atlantic Records behind this line, this chorus, this arrangement or was this Fiasco’s? The passion and fiery creativity Fiasco established on numerous freestyles and his previous releases is sorely lacking on Lasers to the point where Lupe’s disowned almost everything about it.

Disowning a glossy show tune like “The Show Goes On” may not be one of the wisest moves Fiasco’s made. The Modest Mouse sample is catchy and carefree, one of the few non threatening tracks sonically on the album. Its one of the few “happy” songs on the record while another feature track, “Never Forget You” featuring John Legend isn’t terrible by Lupe standards but fares in the type of fashion that clearly runs with Lupe’s dissatisfaction with the album. In other words, a clear quarter of the content on Lasers can believed to be forced and pre made without Fiasco’s heart involved.

The agenda of Atlantic Records may have been to give Lupe the commercial appeal that B.o.B came in and stole without blinking in 2009-10. Lupe’s agenda came complete with a manifesto that doesn’t even get touch and brought out on Lasers. The few times Fiasco truly shines in his own skin without compromise would be on three particular songs:  the album’s opener “Letting Go”, “Words I Never Said” & “All Black Everything”. Here Fiasco fixates himself on top of the down tempo production and delivers on his already robust stylings of being the angry, opinionated, worldly man from Chicago who never wanted to be a cog in the machine too stubborn to be broken.

Yet he was compromised throughout Lasers. Groan inducing slights at the Z100’s of the world on “State Run Radio” and the even sloppier “I Don’t Wanna Care Right Now” which for four minutes pits Lupe against his own delivery and sub-par metaphors disguised as brilliance leave listeners wondering what could have gone on in the recording sessions to create such an uneven project.

In the end, putting together an album on his own accord is what Fiasco yearns for every time out. The one time he has fans fighting for a release, the results become uneven and puzzling. Here’s hoping Fiasco’s next release,  Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album is derived of the same paranoia that hangs over much of his latest effort. Maybe hip-hop will give Fiasco the “Nastradamus” pass they gave Nasir before he triumphed on Stillmatic.

FINAL SCORE: 5.5