Lupe Fiasco released his fifth full-length album, titled “Tetsuo & Youth,” on Jan. 20.
“Tetsuo & Youth” was Fiasco’s final project with Atlantic Records before his contract expired.
The album is a testimony of the bond Fiasco had with the record company, despite many of his earlier complaints.
“Tetsuo & Youth” exemplifies the hard work that went into not only Fiasco’s product, but also his relationship with Atlantic Records.
This dedication to hip-hop resulted in Fiasco’s most satisfying project since “The Cool” in 2007.
The album’s title, “Tetsuo & Youth,” is derived from a combination of the anime,a form of Japanese animation, “Akira,” and Fiasco’s overall message with his album.
Tetsuo Shima is one of the primary characters in “Akira,” the best friend of the main protagonist, Kaneda Shotaro. Tetsuo is regarded as the black sheep of his group in “Akira,” a clear parallel with how Fiasco often describes feeling amongst his peers in the hip-hop community.
When asked in an interview, Fiasco simply said, “Tetsuo just sounds cool to me.”
Other hip-hop artists, most notably Kanye West, have also made references to “Akira” in their work.
“Youth” helps set the tone for the message of the album: bettering the younger generations for the future. Fiasco has always been synonymous with deep lyricism and pointed thoughts.
Fiasco has not lost any of his lyrical talent, but he has made the messages more subtle. In his earlier albums, “Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album and Lasers,” Fiasco is accused of being “too preachy,” only giving his points from behind the “pulpit” instead of the microphone.
In “Tetsuo & Youth,” Fiasco comes back to weaving his messages into the lyrics as opposed to forcing his lyrics into the message. The artwork for the album also helps to set the tone, lending smooth hues and shades to the mellow tone of the overall work.
The artwork was painted by Fiasco, and the picture follows the pattern of simplistic and minimal album covers seen from him in the past.
One of the most intriguing aspects of “Tetsuo & Youth” is Fiasco’s use of interludes.
Fiasco includes four interludes, each only a minute or so long, named after each of the seasons. These short instrumental pieces set the tone for the next installment of tracks on the album. Each of these interludes perfectly captures the essence of the season it represents.
Most albums, at least in hip-hop, use skits or speeches for their interludes. Fiasco’s introduction of simple, yet effective instrumentals adds to his soft and mellow tone, although still not taking away from the depth or message of the album.
The samples and instrumentals used for most tracks in the album have a distinct jazz influence. The most notable of these jazz-influenced tracks are “Body of Work,” “Dots and Lines,” and “Little Death.” The tracks that progress the message of the album are the most interesting and well produced.
“Deliver” is the most popular track on the album, taking the concept of pizza delivery and relating that to the current state of youths in the ghetto. Especially in a college town, pizza delivery is a highly recognizable and relatable subject.
“Prisoner 1 & 2” depicts the prison system, coming from the perspective of the prisoner and the prison guard.
“They.Resurrect.Over.New” takes probably the most popular stigma of youth, video games, and uses that to show that the youth must progress to the next level, both in games and in life.
Combining the jazz and message aspects of his music, Fiasco implements one of the smoothest jazz instrumentals of the entire album to give one of his strongest messages in “Adoration of the Magi.”
In the hook of this track, Fiasco asks many questions of his audience, ending each with “…you’re just a baby.” The last phrase, however, is a statement instead of a question: “Quit chasin’ money, never mind, you’re just a baby.”
This shows Fiasco’s acceptance of the inevitable fate of youth today. Despite what he may preach with his music, Fiasco knows the younger generation must learn from its mistakes.
Fiasco also, as with his past albums, employs the talents of many other musical artists. Guy Sabastian, Nikki Jean, Crystal Torres and Ab-Soul are just a few of the talents that lend their gifts to the making of “Tetsuo & Youth.”
“Tetsuo & Youth” is another classic installment to Fiasco’s discography. Each interlude, sample, feature, brush stroke and track was carefully thought out to create a mellow, smooth, and enjoyable experience for the listener.
“Tetsuo & Youth” deserves a listen from anyone who claims to be a lover of the hip-hop genre.
With his current separation from Atlantic Records, it is unknown which direction Fiasco will turn to.
But if “Tetsuo & Youth” is any indication of the future, listeners have much to look forward to in the years to come.