Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo And Youth (Album Review)

lupe fiasco

To say ‘Lasers’ was a disappointing album in modern Hip-Hop would be an understatement. It’s probably one of the most disappointing albums to ever grace Hip-Hop – an album filled with the most horrible production and pop hooks coming from someone who was once hailed as the ‘saviour of Hip-Hop’. It did however offer us an insight into the turbulent relationship Lupe Fiasco has had with his record label ‘Atlantic’ in that it sounded like a man who had a lot to say yet the system were on his back thinking of bigger and better ways to market the album. This is the last album that Lupe will be releasing on Atlantic and he seems like he wants to redeem his name well and truly on his way out.

Even on Lupe’s finest albums he’s always been critical on them before they’ve even been released like on his first ‘Food And Liquor’ album which is regarded by many to be fantastic. Yet, on this album he’s straight up saying that the album is a ‘masterpiece’ as one of the best things he’s ever done. It’s hard not to see where he’s coming from as this album certainly is extremely ambitious; the album consists of 16 tracks, three of which are nine minutes long and most of the others are over five minutes.

There’s also a theme of the changing seasons that run throughout this album and online there has already been so many in-depth discussions about the concept of this album and the way in which you should listen to the album. It’s easy to see why the fans are going nuts because this is easily Lupe’s most lyrically on point and interesting albums since his sophomore album ‘The Cool’. Not just that but because of the length of the album there are points where Lupe’s spitting harder than ever before like on the second track on the album ‘Mural’ which is a nine minute hookless track just featuring him and no one else. Much like the rest of this album, this song demands repeat listens because the amount of metaphors and rhymes in the middle of lines are just amazing. The way that Lupe delivers his lines is much like a poet in that he’ll think of a way to make them sound as gorgeous as humanly possibly like ‘Sanskrit dance on the page of the dead book’, it’s simple yet sounds beautiful. Some might say that this is typical of Lupe since he’s seen as a more pretentious figure in Hip-Hop but there’s absolutely no denying his technical ability on here.

The themes on this album don’t follow a written out narrative per-say even if they do have a theme following the seasons. Each song can be taken on its own and it would still be just as powerful than it would in the context of the album. Lupe doesn’t rely on a storyline or narrative to tell a story, he can do it all in one song and explore a whole nature of things in the entirety of the album based around the central theme. The central theme of this album does appear to be youth and focuses on different parts of Lupe’s life growing up whether that be living in a neighbourhood that’s so rough to live in that the pizza man won’t deliver round there any more (‘Deliver’) or going through his brother’s porn stash (‘Mural’). He still focuses on current issues within these songs though like the track ‘Body Of Work’ which cleverly takes the story of a woman who smuggles drugs by putting them inside her and uses it as a way to comment on Hip-Hop and the female relationship inside the genre.

Elsewhere on the album his ambition becomes even more present with songs like ‘Chopper’ which has a load of guest verses and is over 8 minutes long. The song wasn’t intended to be this long but all of the guests were accidentally told to write 32 bar verses instead of the intended 16 and they stuck with it, it surprisingly works very well and is one of the harder tracks on the album. The most ambitious song on the album is the song ‘Prisoner 1 & 2’ in which Lupe takes on the persona of both a real prisoner and an actual prison guard explaining how they’re both prisoners in their own right. It makes lots of valid points throughout and really questions what it means to be ‘free’ at all when he points out that the prison guard only gets to go home for a few hours a day and how the prison guard is jealous every time someone is released from prison.

Within these songs’ literal meanings there’s so much to dive into; for instance, on the topic of the song ‘Deliver’ Lupe tweeted saying to look at the line ‘Pizza man don’t come here no more’ and look at it like ‘Piece of man don’t come here no more’ – this is one example in an album filled with hundreds of them. everything on this album is personal to him which is why it makes it so much more fun to try to figure out, he’s not patronising anyone on this album or preaching to anyone in particular, it’s strictly personal. This isn’t an album filled with one-dimensional songs, lyrically these songs are cinematic pieces worth diving into to find your own meaning because there is so much there.

Even the instrumentals seem to be strictly personal at times, there’s a banjo playing at the beginning of the track ‘Dots And Lines’ that doesn’t appear to add anything to it other than a bit of length but you get the impression that Lupe definitely had some personal reason to throw that in. Instrumentally is where his theme of the changing seasons come into play too with there definitely being a sonic change every time a season changes; it’s a clever move and breaks up the album extremely well. It also comes as a slightly detrimental move as some of the more upbeat songs that are more pop orientated brings out the worst in Lupe like the song ‘Blur My Hands’ which features a more radio-friendly hook and some slightly generic guitar lines, it also feels out-of-place coming straight off the back of ‘Mural’. Still none of these songs are bad, they just don’t stand up as well as others instrumentally as some are some are a bit run of the mill, especially when paired up with Lupe’s brilliant lyrics they just don’t work.

Other than that the harder beats with and the fantastic production does normally stand out and is such a breath of fresh air to hear Lupe doing what he does best again – rap. If Lupe goes off independently to make more records like this then that’s an exciting prospect, as this feels like a new revitalised Lupe who will put in all the effort to make it feel like ‘Lasers’ never happened. It’s already beginning to work.

8/10

Best Tracks: Mural, Prisoner 1 & 2, Chopper, Body Of Work

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