It’s hard to believe it has been 9 years since Lupe Fiasco released his much celebrated debut album Food & Liquor, which was followed by his sophomore effort (and the equally admired), The Cool. Since these back-to-back classic projects, it’s fair to say Lupe Fiasco’s career has languished, and fans of the Chi-Town lyricist have become somewhat disillusioned with his output. In Lupe’s defence, the issues surrounding his plight have not always been his fault, with his much publicised label disputes affecting the creative influence that he had over his music, in particular the album Lasers.
Four years on from Lasers (and three years on from Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1), Lupe Fiasco has delivered his 5th album, Tetsuo & Youth. The album is split into the four seasons, with each section marked by an instrumental interlude. Within each divide, the songs seem to mirror the mood of the season, with lighter songs included in summer and darker songs in winter.
The album begins with an extraordinarily lengthy tirade from Lupe titled ‘Mural’, where Lupe spits like there’s no tomorrow. You will find no chorus or hook here, as Lupe proves to any doubters that he hasn’t lost his lyrical skill. Unfortunately though, this example of definitive Lupe is followed by a run of fairly uninspiring tracks that concludes the opening section of the album.
The next track to grab the attention is ‘Body Of Work’, where Lupe uses the human anatomy as a metaphor for our sins. In the exceptionally clever song, Lupe once again proves that time has not affected his ability to create a metaphorical masterpiece, leaving the listener in a tangled web of witty wordplay. The same can be said for ‘Little Death’, which features beautifully crafted vocals from NikkI Jean, a long-term collaborator of Fiasco’s. Her effortless chorus provides the platform for Lupe to convey a powerful message via laid-back rhymes, supported by a soulful instrumental.
The winter section of the album – that portrays the problems of people living in poverty – opens with the six-man feature filled track ‘Chopper’, that includes verses from the likes of Trae The Truth. The gritty, 9-minute posse cut allows Lupe and guests to describe the darker side of where they come from, touching on issues like corruption and explaining how it’s easier to obtain guns than it is some of life’s essentials. ‘Deliver’, which features additional vocals from Ty Dolla $ign, uses the idea of the pizza men from certain companies not delivering in certain areas due to the high risk of being endangered. The album is closed by the Ab-Soul assisted ‘They.Resurrect.Over.New.’ where Lupe references the 80’s video game TRON in the title, as well as makes multiple video game references throughout the song. Lupe & Ab-Soul lyrical styles complement each other nicely, making for very interesting verses from both.
Although many fans of Lupe Fiasco may feel he’s fallen a long way from the heights reach on his first two albums, there is enough evidence on ‘Tetsuo & Youth’ that shows that Lupe is still lyrically capable of resurrecting his career, even if he’s not consider as relevant as he once was.