Lupe Fiasco - Tetsuo & Youth (Album Review)

Lupe Fiasco - Tetsuo & Youth (Album Review)

"Tetsuo & Youth" is the latest album from Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco. The album features guest appearances from Ab-Soul, Nikki Jean, Troi, Trae tha Truth and many others as well as production from DJ Dahi, MoeZ'art, S1, M-Phazez and others. It was released on January 20, 2015 via Atlantic Records.

1) Summer - Skit

2) Mural - The fist real song on the album finds Lupe Fiasco spitting fire over a beautiful instrumental from The Buchanans. I've heard this sample used a few times before, but The Buchanans flip it a little differently since they mostly use the piano portion instead of the vocal loop. Anyways, lyrically this track may be the best song I've heard in a very long time, with Lupe absolutely bodying the production and rhyming for almost eight minutes straight with no hook. There are way too many quotables on here so I suggest just checking the song out for yourself. - 5/5

3) Blur My Hands (featuring Guy Sebastian) - The beat on this cut is real nice as well, with S1 and M-Phazes delivering an instrumental full of energetic pianos, soaring guitars, bouncing drums and soulful vocals from Guy Sebastian. The production is lush and vibrant and Lupe sounds great over it while rapping about how it's cool to just be yourself (among other things). - 3.75/5

4) Dots & Lines - This song starts out with a banjo playing for some reason and then finds Lupe rhyming over a lighter instrumental from DJ Simonsayz, JackLNDN as well as Lupe himself. The production is nice, with soft pianos, violins, what sounds like a harmonica and some subtle vocals in the background, and Lupe sounds really good over it, even singing the catchy chorus that keeps getting stuck in my head. I really like this one, especially when he seems to be dissing Atlantic records while keeping with the songs theme of geometry/math references -
"In a line, in a line, in a line, in a line, in a line
Three angels in kind, on time, go straight, don't sine"
Dope way of saying go independent. - 4.25/5

5) Fall - Skit

6) Prisoner 1 & 2 (featuring Ayesha Jaco) - The instrumental on this song, courtesy of MoeZ'art, progresses as the song goes on and incorporates everything from frantic violins and beautiful piano keys to light synths in just its first half. About five minutes into the song there is a quick spoken word break before the beat changes up to darker instrumental with ominous synths and harder drums. Lyrically the song is as nice as the production, with Lupe spitting some vivid rhymes about life in jail from both the perspective of a prisoner and from the correctional officer. It's dope how he raps about the officers being trapped in jail just as much as the prisoners are. Very nice. - 4.25/5

7) Body of Work (featuring Troi and Terrace Martin) - Lupe Fiasco raps over another keyboard heavy beat from S1 and Vohn Beatz. The more summery vibe of the first three songs is definitely being replaced by darker instrumentals in the "Fall" portion of the album. As far as the rhymes go, Lupe seems to be rapping about drug smuggling in some of the verses on here, with a bunch of anatomical and religious references included as a part of the "body of work" metaphor. I'll have to dissect the song more, but that's what I'm getting as of now. Oh and that chorus from Troi keeps getting stuck in my head. - 4/5

8) Little Death (featuring Nikki Jean) - S1 and Vohn Beatz team up again for the production duties on this cut, coming with an instrumental that is centered around a sort of distorted sample, subtle horns and a nice bass riff. The beat has a sort of somber feel to it and Lupe rips it, with Nikki Jean making the song even better with her beautifully sung chorus. Lupe's rhymes on this project are so intricate that I keep catching new things on every listen. I didn't really get that feel from his last two albums as much as I am on this one. Dope shit. - 4.25/5

9) No Scratches (featuring Nikki Jean) - The beat on this song, courtesy of DJ Simonsayz, has a sort of ethereal vibe to it that has been present in most of the songs in this "Fall" portion of the album. This time, however, there is this distorted electric guitar that comes in every once in a while and gives the instrumental some depth. As for the rhymes, Lupe and Nikki Jean seem to be dealing with a relationship that has gone sour while incorporating a ton of car references into the lyrics. - 4/5

10) Winter - Skit

11) Chopper (featuring Billy Blue, Buk of Psychodrama, Trouble, Trae tha Truth, Fam-Lay and Glasses Malone) - At this point the album changes up yet again, this time to have more of a darker, synth-heavy feel to it. The beat, by DJ Dahi, is quite ominous and actually works really well within the context of the song, which finds each of the featured emcees coming with 32 bars each (leading to the songs nine and a half minute run time) and rhyming about how you can get a lot of free stuff pretty easily, but owning a gun is subject to strict regulations (among other intentionally hypocritical things). Despite the songs length, the beat bangs and everyone sounds good over it (especially Billy Blue and Trae tha Truth). - 4.25/5

12) Deliver (featuring Ty Dolla $ign) - I think this was the first official single released in promotion of the album and it's pretty dope. The beat, courtesy of MoeZ'art and Marcus Stephens, keeps in line with the synthy feel of the previous song, but adds some vocal chants and window-shattering bass into the mix as well. Lyrically the song is really nice too, with Lupe getting socially conscious again and rapping about how people try to avoid going to the ghetto by using the pizza man as a focal point. I'm diggin' the kind of humorous twist on the topic. - 4/5

13) Madonna (And Other Mothers In The Hood) (featuring Nikki Jean) - This song is Lupe Fiasco's ode to mothers who have to raise their children in the ghetto. The rhymes are good, but the DJ Dahi beat and Kanye West-ish vocals in the beginning and on the hook are not really clicking with me as much as some of the others songs. Despite the heartfelt topic, this song is probably my least favorite on here mainly due to the beat. - 3.5/5

14) Adoration of the Magi (featuring Crystal Torres) - DJ Dahi redeems himself with the instrumental on this track, coming with a beat full of twinkling chimes, ambient synths and mellow drums. I'm really feelin' the production on this one and Lupe rips it, especially that third verse which is easily one of my favorites on the entire album. Actually that chorus is really crazy as well, being extremely catchy while still having a deeper meaning of Lupe referencing classic album covers that have babies in them at the same time. Very dope track. - 5/5

15) They.Resurrect.Over.New (featuring Ab-Soul and Troi) - The final song on the album finds Lupe Fisaco linking up with TDE wordsmith Ab-Soul as well as Troi (who appears on the hook and also providing some subtle backing vocals during the verse) over a DJ Dahi banger. Similar to a few of the others, the beat has an ethereal feel that goes nicely with the way Lupe and Ab-Soul compare life/resurrection to video games. Very dope way to close out the album. - 4.5/5

16) Spring - Skit

I'm going to rate the album

4.25 / 5

because it is really good. The production on the album quite nice, sounding crisply mastered and changing moods and tone as the album steps through its "seasons". While a few of the beats don't stand out in the overall scope of the project, I think this album comes together better than any of Lupe's albums since "The Cool". Lyrically I think that this album is also Lupe's strongest project since "The Cool", with the Chicago emcee ripping every track and even coming through with some different flows. His rhymes are intricate and multi-layered, both in meaning and in complexity, and his delivery meshes beautifully with the production on every song. The dense rhymes add to the albums overall enjoyment in my opinion, since you pick up on something new with every listen. While some other albums may suffer from overly complex lyrics with boring backdrops, Lupe avoids that pitfall by choosing accessible beats and really delivering some great flows and hooks on each song. Overall, "Tetsuo & Youth" restored my faith in Lupe as an artist after his disappointing last two projects. I'd put it right up there with "Food & Liquor" and "The Cool".


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