Lupe Fiasco “Tetsuo and Youth” Album Review
Born February 16, 1982 as Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, Lupe Fiasco was raised in Chicago and was not a fan of hip hop growing up due to its vulgarity and misogyny. At the age of 19 Lupe started to record songs in his father’s basement and joined a group called Da Pak. The group was short lived, but Lupe soon crossed paths with Jay-Z who gave him some help inking a deal with Atlantic Records. In 8 years Lupe has made 5 albums with the most recent being “Tetsuo & Youth”. The highly anticipated fifth and final studio album under Atlantic was released on January 20th 2015.
The album cover is a painting by Lupe called “Uomo Mangiato Tigre” (Man Eating Tiger) which he explains is open to interpretation, just like the album. The album features three tracks that are almost 9 minutes long and 4 seasonal interludes.
“Summer” is the intro into the album which has sounds of children laughing, playing in water along with a harp and string melody. “Mural” is next track and starts off with Lupe kicking it for almost 9 straight minutes with no hook at all. He touches on many different topics from his youth, to religion to video games. Next up is “Blur My Hands” with a hook by Guy Sebastian who won the Australian Idol. The song seems like it was made for the radio and breaks the vibe of the album a little bit, but is very well-produced. “Dots &Lines” starts off with a banjo strumming away then breaks into one of the catchiest hooks on the album. A positive song about taking the correct path and to “go straight, don’t sine” with sine having a couple different meanings (sine wave or sinusoid is a mathematical curve that describes a smooth repetitive oscillation). Very clever by Lupe, I cannot say that I knew what that meant before this review and took it as “don’t sign”. Just shows you how much Lupe puts into his music and how deep he is.
“Fall” interlude is a slow walking baseline and a violin solo. The slow strum changes the mood and direction of the album for the next few tracks. Ayesha Jaco is featured on “Prisoner 1 &2” which was produced by MoeZ’art. The song touches on incarceration and racial profiling and also breaks down to 2 different hooks. The song was made for Lupe’s close friend Chilly Chill who is trapped in prison the same way Lupe is trapped in the music industry and more specifically his record deal with Atlantic. Troi and Terrance Martin are featured on “Body of Work” which is a reference to the total accomplishment of a writer or artist. The song goes into Lupe’s relationship with Hip-Hop. “Little Death” features Nikki Jean on the hook which is beautiful yet slightly eerie and has been said that the hook is told from the perspective of the devil. Lupe describes the track as having many different running pieces and that the 3 verses represent clashes with different religions dealing with sex, animal treatment, and the justice system. Nikki Jean joins Lupe again on the next song “No Scratches” which tells a tale of relationships and getting out before you get hurt. Lupe uses a car crash as a metaphor for the breakup.
The interlude “Winter” comes on next which feels like it could be in the movie “Psycho” by Alfred Hitchcock. Billy Blue, Buks of Psychodrama, Trouble, Trae tha Truth, Fam-Lay and Glasses Malone all are featured on “Chopper” which was produced by Dj Dahi. The track has more featured appearances than all of Lupe’s previous four albums combined. Glasses Malone and Psychodrama’s Buk verses really hit alongside Lupe on this jam. “Deliver” is the first official single off the album which is a song about certain pizza joints that won’t deliver to neighborhoods that are considered to be in high-risk locations. Lupe said “A song like ‘Deliver’ is the autobiography of a myth in the hood. You don’t recognize it until you are there”. “Madonna (And Other Mothers in the Hood)” features Nikki Jean once again and is a deep song about the mothers’ struggle to raise their children in the harsh environment of the ghetto. Lupe raps about the similarities between the Virgin Mary and mothers raising their children as they fear they will fall victim to the violence of the city as Mary feared Jesus’ persecution.
“Adoration of the Magi” is a name traditionally given to the artistic portrayals of Jesus Christ’s Nativity and also Lupe’s favorite track on the album. Produced by Dj Dahi and featuring Crystal Torres the song preaches to the young rappers to earn adoration rather than expect it. The third verse has been often talked about in underground blogs as being so ridiculous (in a good way) that many meanings are often missed and if you can take time to dive into the hidden messages then you will be pleasantly rewarded. Lupe says that he had a conceptual epiphany (pun intended) when in the studio making this song. “They.Resurrect.Over.New” features Ab-Soul and Troi is an acronym for TRON (a video game that was released in Lupe’s birth year 1982). The hook “proceed to the next level” is a video game reference but once again Lupe has a double meaning and it is referring to his moving on from Atlantic Records and will now be able to fully express himself. The album finishes off with “Spring” which is a 1 minute and 35 second outro that has the sounds of children playing and birds singing, signaling hope for the youth and Lupe’s future.
“Tetsuo and Youth” is a very complex album; a few listens are not going to give you a full understanding of what’s going on. Lupe has grown lyrically in front of us over his last 4 albums, and this album shows us his most growth to date. It is beautifully crafted with deep lyrics and brilliantly beats. Lupe’s double entendre will play games with your head, as it exists in almost every song, and makes you wonder if there is literal meaning in what he says or if there is another agenda. Most of the time it is both, and only the clever hip hop fans will be able to decipher the true meanings and will be rewarded for doing so. On a scale of 1-5 I would give “Tetsuo & Youth” a 4.5. Definitely an album that you want to check out!
Lupe Fiasco – Adoration Of The Magi feat. Crystal Torres
Lupe Fiasco – Deliver