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Plagued by mediocrity across his past two albums, it was certainly warranted for fans and critics alike to be skeptical of the latest offering by Lupe Fiasco. Speculations aside, Fiasco has come out swinging with his fifth LP Tetsuo and Youth. Not only does this serve as a “comeback” of sorts, but it also shows a newly acquired sense of complete artistic control and the making of an incredibly genuine album. After several listens, it’s safe to say that Lupe Fiasco has returned to form and beyond, and he’s crafted an album that could be destined to stand as one of the best rap albums to be released in 2015.
Tetsuo and Youth clocks in at 16 tracks split into four sections: summer, fall, winter, and spring. Each section also features an instrumental interlude track, and while the concept may sound gimmicky, it greatly assists in creating an album that’s every bit as cohesive as it is varied and interesting. Another awesome aspect of the album worth noting is the fact that most of the songs are dense and lengthy, with some approaching the nine-minute mark. None of the songs really overstay their welcome either, and every second of tracks like “Mural” sound precise and intentional. In other words, the album is completely void of any filler. Considering the density of the whole LP, this is a commendable feat in itself.
Lyrically, Lupe Fiasco leaves nothing to be desired. The sixth track, “Prisoner 1 & 2” is the quintessential example of that. The track falls in the “fall” section of the album, where narratives about prison and the criminal justice system dominate the lyrical content and help emphasize political messages and real life stories. This is a welcome transition from Lupe’s last couple of albums, which seemed to sacrifice quality in favor of a full emphasis on the messages. It’s certainly been real and genuine in the past, but this album seems to be the merging of those raw qualities present in Lupe’s early work and the social awareness that has characterized more recent releases.
In terms of style and production, the album stands out on all fronts as well. Guest appearances include Ab-Soul, Nikki Jean, and more. Beats are also modern, creative, and don’t feel as if they’ve been recycled or ripped off in any way. Tracks vary in terms of intensity and the element of the themed portions of the album make it translate into one huge, progressive spectacle that almost falls in the vein of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It’s certainly a lot to digest, but multiple listens will reveal that Lupe Fiasco is more focused than ever on crafting a well-delivered, ambitious journey of an album
2015 may end up being the year of Lupe Fiasco, and that wouldn’t be a negative thing at all. Tetsuo and Youth is a testament to the modern rap scene, and it’s clear that Lupe Fiasco has the chops to stand out in such a saturated field.