If you’re looking to be entertained, this album is perfect, but not the kind of jump around your room entertainment that you may get from other mainstream hip hop artists.
Tetsuo and Youth is Lupe Fiasco’s first studio album since the release of Lasers in 2011. The story of Tetsuo and Youth’s release also suits Fiasco perfectly. The long-running feud the artist has had with Atlantic Records meant that they refused to announce a release date until threatened by the online hacker group, Anonymous. Fitting Lupe’s subversive flair perfectly.
As Lupe has done with Food & Liquor, Lasers and The Cool, he has chosen to remain outside of the hip hop mainstream with this album. Strong political and social messages, along with comments on ghetto life and disillusionment dominate the lyrical content. ‘Deliver’ talks about the struggles of the ghettos and the drug problem in America. Fiasco has always strayed away from cheap and meaningless lyricism, but with this album it seems he really wants to spread awareness of the issues he highlights.
He separates the different sections of the album with interludes titled ‘Summer’, ‘Fall’, ‘Winter’ and ‘Spring’. A lot of thought has gone into the structure of the track list. Transitioning from the uplifting and hopeful sounds of ‘Summer’, through to the more real and dark tones of ‘Winter’ and ‘Fall’. The contrast can really be recognised when listening to ‘Dots and Lines’ next to ‘They.Resurrect.OverNew’ (Feat. Ab-Soul). The album begins with unusual uses of banjos, guitars and brass until embracing almost a Trap-Sounding vibe. Could this album be the representation of Fiasco’s struggles with Atlantic Records? There certainly is a mix of anger and pain, optimism and happiness throughout however, making this a dynamic storytelling album.
Whilst some instrumentals on this album sound a little like a rock star turn hip hop producer struggling on FruityLoops, it certainly is entertaining. The eccentric beats are also complimented by the feature of Nikki Jean on three tracks, adding a smooth Southern soul feel to tracks like ‘Little Death’. Sound bites from speeches and phone calls also pop up throughout the album as integrated interludes. The more you listen to the album the more you realise Lupe is not trying to sell records but speak his mind. ‘Prisoner 1 & 2 (Ft. Ayesha Jaco)’ portrays the problems with the American justice system, with some deep metaphors. Recordings of prison phone calls at the beginning of this track remove the entertainment factor slightly, but this is true hip hop.
This album suits a certain audience. For the average listener this album might appear slightly bland or strange. For old school Lupe fans, this album is welcomed. If you’re looking to be entertained, this album is perfect, but not the kind of jump around your room entertainment that you may get from other mainstream hip hop artists. It has an intellectual focus, which puts Tetsuo and Youth in a different league to Lasers. Yet, this isn’t really a background album, it deserves the attention of the listener.
Tetsuo & Youth is out now via Atlantic Records.