Lupe Fiasco’s career has been a rather interesting one, filled with ups and downs. After being thrust into the spotlight by a high profile feature on Kanye West’s song “Touch the Sky” in 2005, Lupe went on to release two great albums, Food & Liquor in 2006 and The Cool in 2007. After a nearly four gap and major feuding with his label, Atlantic, Lupe released his third album, Lasers, which was a major disappointment to fans and critics alike, mostly due to it’s horrible pop-rap production and an over-abundance of poorly written, R&B flavored hooks. His 2012 follow-up, Food & Liquor 2, was even worse, with a bloated tracklist and terrible production.
Tetsuo & Youth is Lupe’s first full length project since F&L 2, and is in many ways a great comeback for the talented emcee. It’s an ambitious, lengthy project that is reminiscent of his first two releases in that it is a sort of concept album. The first track following the opening instrumental, “Mural”, is one of the best tracks the rapper has released ever. It’s a near nine minute song, featuring a great, boom-bap beat with a catchy piano loop and a very old school feel. What makes the track great is Lupe himself, who raps relentlessly over the entire track, with no hook. His lyrics are incredibly poetic and require multiple listens to fully grasp the theme of the track.
However, the second track, “Blur My Hands”, falls into the same old problems that plagued his last two album, mainly stemming from it’s unoriginal song structure and blandly sung hook by Guy Sebastian. Lupe’s verses are solid, as usual, but the track feels a tad uninspired. Unfortunately, these same problems pop up throughout the album, and while they only downgrade it slightly, it’s a rather annoying problem on an otherwise great project.
“Prisoner 1 & 2” is another amazing track, telling two stories, one from the perspective of a jailed criminal and one from the perspective of a parole officer, both displaying the problems with the American prison system. It’s an insightful track, and one that is truly thought-provoking. It also displays a major change that Lupe has made since his last album. His lyrics are far less preachy, but rather focus on telling interesting stories that allow the listener to pull out the lessons from the tracks rather than have it explained to them. The same goes for the track “Deliver”, which describes a neighborhood that is so dangerous that the narrator cannot get pizza delivered to his house. While it may sound a tad ridiculous at first listen, it actually becomes a poignant picture of the violence plaguing inner-city neighborhoods.
Tetsuo and Youth is without a doubt Lupe’s finest work since The Cool, but is not quite on the same level of his first two albums. It’s brought down significantly by it’s over-stuffed 78 minute run time and a handful of rather boring tracks. In spite of this, it’s great to hear such an ambitious and solid work from such a great rapper, one that finally sees the emcee being able to rap over solid production and letting his intricate wordplay shine. After nearly eight years, it seems that Lupe is finally back on the right track that he began his career on.
Standout Tracks: “Mural”, “Prisoner 1 & 2”, “They.Resurrect.Over.New”