WHEN Lupe Fiasco first emerged, he carved a reputation as the rapper it was OK to admire, with his sharp-eyed take on the world and a willingness to bare his soul.

At the time, it made him stand out, but his musical rivals were clearly watching. Now Lupe, who apparently walked along a tortured creative path to this third album, merely sounds like one of the crowd. The rants at Barack Obama and dodgy bankers are there, but all too often they are lost in slick production and a suffocating club-friendly, electro-pop coating.

It’s only when he sounds as if he is being true to himself on Words I Never Said and All Black Everything, full of well-aimed fire and frustration, that his talent shines through. Lupe seems to have sacrificed part of what set him apart in pursuit of commercial acceptance, and that makes Lasers likeable but unmemorable.