Indiana Daily Student

'Tetsuo & Youth' is a 'wordsmithing playground'

Lupe Fiasco 'Tetsuo & Youth'

Grade: A-

Lupe Fiasco is back. And in case you’ve forgotten, he’s here to remind you how freaking clever he is with his latest album “Tetsuo & Youth.”

The 16-track album sounds as if it’s exactly what the Chicago emcee has been trying to make for years. Any standards that have been set by the music industry have been completely ignored as Lupe opted to use his fifth studio album as his own personal wordsmithing playground.

It’s so complex that you can’t fully understand it on the first listen. Or second listen. Or any amount of listens, actually.

The entire album is so jaw-droppingly intricate that if you space out listening for even a few seconds, you’re lost. Bye. Lupe’s already a mile ahead of you.

Getting through the dense metaphors and rhyme structures requires undivided attention, which doesn’t exactly make it the typical hip-hop album you’ll bump in your car with your buddies.

The album is broken up into four instrumental “seasons” that set the mood for the tracks. Each season gets progressively longer as the album goes on.

His complex tracks are oftentimes double or nearly triple the length of an average song. The first full track, “Mural,” runs for nearly nine minutes and doesn’t even have a hook.

With “Mural,” think “Dumb it Down” off “The Cool” raised to the second or third exponent. It’s as though Lupe was personally trying to make all of the annotators at’s heads explode.

It’s in these tracks that Lupe is at his best because he gets to show off.

“Chopper” runs for nine minutes, 32 seconds and almost feels like free-verse.

“Adoration of the Magi” will probably be his most commercially popular song thanks to a mind-blowing hook and rhythmic, free-flowing verses. Lupe himself tweeted that it was his favorite piece and that he had a “conceptual epiphany” while in the studio.

Then there are tracks such as “Prisoner 1 & 2” and “Body of Work” that I am still trying to wrap my head around. It’s impossible to take it all in, even listening to the album four or five times through.

Lupe doesn’t seem to care that he’s virtually ensuring he’ll get no radio play. At his core, Lupe Fiasco remains a “lyrical” rapper whose No. 1 goal is to impress you and make you think and question the world around you.

Lupe has struggled to regain his form since releasing “The Cool” in 2007. “Lasers” was a pop album weighed down by his record label and “Food & Liquor II” seemed to fall a bit short of expectations.

“Tetsuo & Youth” does not.

The album is the result of what happens when you give Lupe Fiasco a pen and tell him to go have fun.

He isn’t forcing any political opinion down your throat. He isn’t telling you why you should feel guilty about the human race like he tends to do, either. He’s not forcing a movement, he’s just telling stories and allowing listeners to draw their own ideas and feelings from the record.

And that’s when Lupe is at his best. That’s when his unconventional style works. That’s what makes “Tetsuo & Youth” one of his best — if not the best — albums he has put out.

At the end of the day, you might not understand what Lupe was trying to say just yet. Maybe you will tomorrow. Maybe, like with “The Cool,” you’ll be analyzing “Tetsuo & Youth” a decade from now.

It’s just nice to have Lupe Fiasco back.

Sam Beishuizen

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