Tetsuo & Youth Review: Lupe’s Back
Lupe Fiasco has managed an up and down career since his 2007 release of Food & Liquor. With his last two releases, Lasers, and Food and Liquor 2, Lupe released what many considered subpar albums. With too many political opinions spread out across the album on F&L2, and the unnatural pop sound on Lasers, Lupe alienated even some of his most hardcore of fans. However, with his fifth studio album Tetsuo and Youth, Lupe managed to return to the former form of his first two album classics, Food & Liquor, and The Cool.
The album cover features a mural painted by Fiasco himself, and it features four sections aptly named after the four seasons.
Tetsuo & Youth Review
The intro track “Summer,” captures the season very well. With sounds of kids playing in a pool over a rather cheery violin composition, Lupe sets up one of his most lyrically profound song “Mural”. “Mural” is nine straight minutes of some of Lupe’s most crisp, fundamentally sound lyrics. With a lack of a hook, some might feel like the track could drag on, yet with “over the head lyrics” like, “Life is not a dictionary, it’s a thesaurus”, and “feeling like a missionary to a clitoris,” Lupe paints the picture of the start of this great album. On “Dots & Lines,” Lupe utilizes math, and science terms to subtly tell his story of trying to free himself from the contract he signed with Atlantic Records (hence the title of dotted line).
The next season section, “Fall”, portrays children playing in what sounds like leaves with raking sounds in the background. “Prisoner 1 & 2,” utilizes a classic sounding violin composition to speak on the everyday person in a personal and societal prison. Split by a spoken word interlude (done by Lupe’s sister Ayesha Jaco), the second half of the track, with it’s angry tone clearly capture the viewpoint of a disgruntled racist prison guard.
“Body of Work” enlists the help of singer Troi for the hook, to tell a story of a girl toting around drugs or “work” in her system à la “Lucy”. But what possibly overshadows even Lupe on this song is Terrace Martin’s saxophone composition at the end of the track. Perfectly played for two minutes, the sax piece resonates well with the audience and simultaneously mellows out the track and takes it to a new level. However, the high note that was left on “Body of Work” was taken down a couple notches on the two Nikki Jean features. Not to say that they were terrible, “Little Death” and “No Scratches” are a pair of decent songs. However, after coming off of “Body of Work”, the tracks do not compare.
“Winter,” literally the “coldest” season interlude, lacks the sound of happy laughing children from the previous season tracks. In its stead is a screeching violin, and wind sounds reminiscent of a scene in Fantasia. “Chopper” features 6 rappers including Trae the Truth and Glasses Malone, each rapping 32 bars instead of 16. However, where “Mural” plays well with it’s long-track length, at 9:33, “Chopper” is entirely too long and drags on for what feels like hours.
This section is quickly redeemed on the next three tracks to become possibly the best part of the album. The first, “Deliver,” is a legitimate insight into the gritty urban streets of Chicago, Lupe’s hometown. The chorus — “The pizza man don’t come here no more” — evokes a message on how bad it has become in the “Chi-rack.” Continuing with the real tone of “Deliver,” “Madonna”, has nothing to do the singer, but actually references the Italian phrase, “ma don-na”, or “my lady”. “Madonna”, which also features Nikki Jean, compares Virgin Mary, and her fear of Jesus’ persecution on the cross, with the fear of mothers in ghettos, who have fears of having a child being lost to their neighborhoods. With the religious undertones and metaphors, Lupe skillfully crafts a trilogy that ends with “Adoration of the Magi.”
“Adoration of the Magi,” an obvious reference to the nativity of Jesus, has clever wordplay on such a high level, it’s almost unreal to think someone could come up with it.
“They.Resurrect.Over.New,” the penultimate song, features Troi once more, as well as rapper Ab-Soul. T.R.O.N. with it’s video game intro comes equipped with strong verses from both rappers, and the references to the game and movie are apparent, but not overbearing, with Troi riding the beat very well. With “Spring”, the final track, the children make a return as if from hibernation from the winter, and with the birds chirping ever so softly this puts the album’s seasons in full circle.
As most have speculated this is Lupe’s final album, he definitely went out with a bang. With an overall complete album, save for a few tracks that are masked behind great tracks, it’s impossible to truly find too many issues with the album without nitpicking. It seems as if the 8 years between The Cool, and Tetsuo and Youth were lost years, but Lupe is definitely back with this project, setting the bar very high for 2015.
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