Lupe Fiasco: What Happened?

By Alvin Blanco

Lupe Fiasco’s promising recording career has stalled.

Lately the Chicago MC has been absent from the charts but has received publicity for music that he hasn’t released. While label politics can doom a project—ask Saigon—a rapper of Lupe’s caliber, boasting two critically acclaimed albums under his belt, shouldn’t let label drama squander his art or vocation.

Lupe’s third album, Lasers, was supposed to be released in the fourth quarter of 2009. But the only new music the Chi-town rapper delivered in late 2009 was the Enemy of the State mixtape. Besides teasing audiences with new tunes at his live shows, the amount of music he has released since has been spotty at best.

“Lupe needs to accept the climate and nature of today’s rap game and start releasing music…. for free!” says writer/blogger Mikey Fresh (MissInfo.tv, VIBE.com). “Churning out one mixtape in a two year time span is just not going to cut it anymore. Granted Enemy of the State was an impressive body of work, but the kids were looking for more music a month later.”

Fresh also makes sure to mention that Lupe Fiasco passing “Nothin’ On You” to his labelmate B.o.B, which in turned helped his B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray debut reach no. 1 on the charts, was not the best of looks.

“The man needs to stop turning away hit records,” contends Mikey Fresh. “Put the ego and pride to the side for a minute and if a “Nothin’ On You” presents itself again, then spit something Lupe. Maybe Atlantic will start treating him like a real artist when he starts acting and recording like one.”

Lupe did at least appear on B.o.B’s album on the track “Past My Shades.” He is also on the Janelle Monae “Tightrope Remix” with B.o.B. as well. Ultimately, more standout guest appearances can only help his cause.

“Features, features, features,” is how John Kennedy, Music Editor of VIBE Magazine & VIBE.com suggests Lupe get back on track.

“Dropping a mixtape or EP is really only going to appease the lyric heads and Lupe stans at this point,” he continued. “What’s really going to get his new album rolling on a bigger level is building a buzz via other artists. We all know he can still rap circles around 95 percent of the rap game, but aligning himself with some of the newer MCs could help get his name ringing again. A track with Jazmine Sullivan—something in the vein of his ‘Daydreamin’ record with Jill Scott—or a super lyrical J. Cole collabo, [it] could be an event that not even a NahRight ban could stop.”

As for the NahRight tiff, the site’s founder, Eskay, has contended there never was such a ban. But Lupe Fiasco engaging in a war of words with blogs is more time that could be better spent in say, the studio. Or at least better utilizing the resources of the Internets.

“I really feel all Lupe needs to do is release an album and he’s going to be right back in the mix,” says Chuck Creekmur, co-founder of AllHipHop.com. “He’s already got rabid followers, credibility with the underground, but he’s got tension with the label. It may appear to some that he needs a hit record, but I think this is a different era in hip-hop. If anything, Lupe could probably become a bit more versed in how social networks effect his bottom line, if he already hasn’t. At the end of the day, he’s got all the qualities for a comeback if folks work together, because a segment of rap fans are screaming for balance.”

With barely any new music flowing and Lasers sitting on the shelf (Lupe contends its been finished since 2009), his fans took to the Internets to petition Atlantic Records to release the project. The petition now has about 30,000 signatures. After the petition, which Lupe supported, got some media attention, Lupe released a “BMF (Building Minds Faster)” freestyle to appease fans, though it was lightly received in general. A protest rally is set for October 15 (dubbed “Fiasco Friday“) outside of Atlantic Records’ offices.

But regardless of the hoopla and back room politics, Wasalu Jaco fans wants more music.

“At some point, Lupe Fiasco is going to have to take his career into his own hands, or at least as much of it as he possibly can,” says journalist/blogger Jozen Cummings (VIBE, The Wall Street Journal, UntilIGet Married.com). “So the label is controlling the album’s destiny. Nothing new. Until the album is released, Lupe needs to be in the studio hopping on as many remixes as he can; doing as many guest appearances as he can; dropping as many freestyles as he can. Flood the market, and watch the demand increase with the supply. Eventually, the label will respond by doing what they rightfully should have done a long time ago, release the album.”

Though Lasers is currently in flux, Fiasco does have his indie-rock flavored Japanese Cartoon side project in the works. But there hasn’t been much music released on that front either. Unfortunately even Lupe may have resigned to the fact that Lasers will not see a release date. A “Go To Sleep” single that was released in August is supposed to be from Lupe’s next album, but many hope Lupe’s using this time away to reorganize his career. Honestly, we just want to hear the Chi-town native rap and he shouldn’t need Atlantic Records for that, right?

What do you think happened to Lupe Fiasco’s Lasers album? Miss him? Got advice for him?