After a rollercoaster of success from the hailed Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor and the much less successful Lasers, Chicago based rapper Lupe Fiasco finally strikes the balance between the hip-hop of the early 21st Century that inspired him (with artists like Kanye West influencing him) and his own socially conscious, intelligent lyrics in his latest release Tetsuo & Youth.
After an instrumental featuring laughing children, splashes of water, and oriental style strings, the album opens with “Mural”, a 9-minute epic showcasing Fiasco’s lyrical talent – less explicitly politically charged than before, but still passionately aware, Fiasco covers a range of topics very subtly, from the media to fame and glory, whilst a very simple piano loop plays behind him, accentuated by occasional breaks with vocal charms.
After another instrumental, this time with the sounds of leaves being raked, children playing once again, and a much more jazz infused violin, “Prisoner 1 & 2” begins with the words of famed artist Fela Kuti – Fiasco speaks of America’s prison system, particularly the less than humane treatment of inmates, the corruption of staff, and the lack of a rehabilitation system. The first half of this almost 9-minute song is much stronger than the second, the latter seeming out of place with its slower lyrical output and it’s more electronic theme. It may have been better suited as two separate songs rather than a combined track, but it’s strong nonetheless.
The track “Chopper” also has an awkward fit. It’s another song above 9 minutes and it features a slate of underground rappers. It holds a much darker feel compared to the rest of the album, and even though the pulsating synth can be heard throughout the rest of the album, it has a much different effect here. The words laid upon this music is much more harsh in nature, a commentary on social class, welfare, and inequality, the rappers speaking of their origins and the common pessimistic view of the hoods.
This does not take away from the album as a whole however, and Lupe Fiasco has created a convincing comeback album which retains a lot of his political, economic, and social convictions without bringing about the accusations that he was pandering for commercial success – another rise in the career of one of the most talented rappers on the scene that requires multiple listens to fully appreciate.
This article was written by Mo Hafeez