Tetsuo & Youth, Lupe Fiasco's 5th studio album, proves he's no longer the quirky new guy cool with Kanye West. It has been a bit of a bumpy ride for the Chicago native. Tetsuo & Youth comes off the heels of two lukewarm efforts, leaving Lupe hoping to recreate the success as well as the critical acclaim of his debut album Food & Liquor, and his follow up effort The Cool.
The album starts with the intro track "Mural" (after a short instrumental track) with an almost nine minute sparring session where Lupe exhibits a seemingly endless barrage of lyrical jabs, hooks, uppercuts and any other punch that can be thrown. Tetsuo & Youth has a number of high points. Lyrically Lupe doesn't disappoint one bit. He attempts to show layers even metaphorically in ways he never has before. There are a few points in this album that leaves one to think that Lupe could have been a star in the 90's Golden Era of lyrical MCs. There are also points in the album like "They.Ressurect.Over.New" featuring Ab-Soul and Troi that leave you a bit disappointed less than halfway through the song.
The main quandary with Tetsuo & Youth is not so much the production, as much as it is the production for the most part sounding the same. There is no real change in tempo from start to finish. The album becomes at times monotonous, leaving listeners primed to miss a few hot lines that are drown out by the musical repetition. You find yourself remembering a superior line of Lupe's, but not remembering which song to find it on because they all kind of run together. The flow of an album is very important, and I guess it could be said that the album flowed too well. It actually damages the overall cohesiveness by doing so.
Tetsuo & Youth is overall a really solid album. Lupe shines lyrically with witty punchlines and creative wordplay. Song by song the production holds up. I could have done without the attempt at trap music, but other than that all of the production risks seem creative. Lupe Fiasco fans will be delighted to hear his new outlook on the world. The album is definitely worth a listen.