It was only a month ago that Lupe Fiasco was poised for a comeback. Now, on the heels of his latest release Lasers (out today), it seems the conflicted Chicago rapper is back in the dumps. The album has received less than stellar reviews from critics, many insisting he’s lost his cool. Turns out, the trials and tribulations of the music game may have indeed pushed Lupe to his limit. Aside from his very public battle with his label, Atlantic Records, it seems his beef runs even deeper than pushed back release dates and title changes.
To add a belated insult to injury, the label rejected one of his early demos for the album, “Nothing On You”, with one exec calling it “wack”. It must have stung to watch B.o.B. and Bruno Mars perform the track, nominated for “Record of The Year” at last month’s GRAMMY Awards. Lupe told New York Magazine, the situation was almost too much to bare. “It was less about the bruised ego but more the audacity of it,” he said. “I was super-depressed, lightly suicidal, at moments medium suicidal—and if not suicidal, willing to just walk away from it all completely.”
Thankfully, the emcee made it through his suicidal thoughts and seems to be reluctantly resolved to going with the flow. With two albums left on his Atlantic contract, Lupe seems to have surrendered to the business of ‘the business.’ He told the Chicago Sun Times that despite being happy with the final product, it didn’t make up for drama it caused. “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.”
Critics aren’t being so understanding, with some saying Lupe has lost his swagger, calling the album “confusing, conflicting, and contradictory.” Of course, I beg to differ. Not onlybecause I am a Lupe fan, but because the contradictory nature of his lyrics speak to the dichotomy in all of us. It’s a line we straddle every day, wearing different hats at different times, but yet, when an artist presents himself as anything but cookie-cutter, it’s a problem? He goes hard at the right- wing conservatives in the same song that he criticized President Obama as well as the terrorists responsible for 9/11. Is that really such a stretch?
What’s more troubling to me is how talented artists, once excited and enthusiastic about living out their dreams, can be beaten down so hard in this industry, that suicide seems like a viable option. It wasn’t long ago we all watched the public unraveling of Britney Spears, once America’s sweetheart, being hauled off to UCLA for suicide watch. Fantasia Barrino attempted to take her life last year after mounting a major comeback campaign. Dr. Dre’s battle with confidence is evident from the new material being released from his ten-year-in-the-making album, Detox. Kanye’s bouts of mental instability could easily be attributed to the pressure of this game. While some chalk this up to the antics of moody, brooding artists, it’s much more likely that the turmoil of the music business is enough to drive even the brightest stars to the edges of sanity.
Lupe’s release isn’t the only one we’ve been waiting for, but it looks like we won’t hold our breath. J. Cole has yet to announce an official release date for his debut album, which was originally slated for a February drop date. His single “In The Morning” features Drake and is making quite the impact in radio and video circuits, but it’s yet to be seen what this highly- anticipated album will deliver. His mentor and label head, Jay-Z, is also dragging his feet with his own release with pal Kanye West, Watch The Throne. Kanye initially promised to have the record out in February, but no singles have been released since January’s “H.A.M.” Lil Wayne has finally delivered his “6 Foot 7 Foot” single and video, setting fans’ tongues wagging for his promised, full-length release later this year. With the way things are going, we expect a few delays from at least one of Weezy’s slated projects, which include a collaboration album with Baby, Like Father, Like Son 2, a solo project, and a full-length album with Drake.