Lupe Fiasco’s lyrical ability and conceptual creations are unmatched. And in the mainstream rap world those characteristics are virtually nonexistent. But waving his own flag and marching to the beat of his own drum, Fiasco is the much needed yin to the yang of the current rap world. Political views put on the back burner on this one, Tetsuo & Youth is rich with social commentary and analysis, without ever sounding “preachy”.
Lupe’s voice is loud and clear. Every word, syllable and sentence is carefully crafted and delivered over solid production. This isn’t just a collection of songs, but more like a cinematically fused together body of work. The aptly named “Mural” has Lupe Fiasco at his easel, splashing various colours with his paintbrush. There’s no core theme on this one, just random thoughts and ideas from bar to bar, but it works well, and before you know it, you’ve been nodding your head to almost nine minutes of fire.
Touching on topics like systemic racism and inequality, “Deliver” is genius. Lupe is as sharp as ever and holds no punches spitting, “The ghetto was a physical manifestation of hate / in a place where ethnicity determines your placement / a place that defines your station / remind you niggas your place is the basement / white people in the attic…”
“Prisoner 1 & 2” are two songs together where the first song is discussing the hardships and situations incarcerated individuals have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, while on the second one, Lupe talks about the C.O. who’s working at the prison, not being that different from the inmates. He spits: “You a prisoner too, you living here too / you just like us, ’til your shift get through / you could look like us, you know shit get through / you should be in cuffs like us.” He adds the notion that secretly the guards are jealous of the inmates who educate and better themselves despite the difficult situation.
Tetsuo & Youth will go down as one of those albums that every time you press play you’ll catch something new you didn’t hear before.
Tetsuo & Youth will go down as one of those albums that every time you press play you’ll catch something new you didn’t hear before. Due to the excellent production from the likes of DJ Dahi (“Chopper”), MoeZ’art (“Prisoner 1&2”), S1 and M-Phazes (“Blur My Hands”), there’s no issue of the message being lost and ignored, because musically it isn’t pleasing to the ear. Not at all, quite the contrary; in fact, some of the songs you could easily just listen to the instrumentals and vibe out. This quite arguably could be Lupe Fiasco’s best work to date. Like most great art, it probably won’t be fully appreciated and praised the way it should be until years from now, but Tetsuo & Youth definitely has that “timeless” potential.
Words by. Duane Benjamin