Tetsuo & Youth is Chicago-born rapper Lupe Fiasco’s fifth studio album. Fiasco first rose to prominence following his verse on Kanye West’s track ‘Touch the Sky’ and his debut album Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, both of which received widespread critical acclaim. Sadly, Tetsuo & Youth falls far short of the lofty standards set by his earlier work.
Fiasco is one of the top wordsmiths in the game, with a lyrical variety and cleverness of wordplay not often heard in the mainstream rap world. On ‘Mural’, he seems back to his best, with his complex rhyme scheme and flow supported well by strong production from The Buchanans. His best songs always seem to incorporate anecdotes from his experience growing up on the South Side in Chicago, and this is no different. With ‘Mural’, he ably paints a lyrical cityscape, juxtaposing his eclectic taste for art and culture with candid descriptions of the rundown neighbourhoods he grew up in. The result is a hauntingly beautiful song that stands out as the best on the album.
The next two songs, ‘Blur My Hands,’ which sees Fiasco and Guy Sebastian collaborate, and ‘Dots & Lines’, are both quite strong. Sebastian’s vocals for the hook punctuate Fiasco’s verses effectively, while the production on ‘Dots & Lines’ has a wonderful hint of both bluegrass and Far Eastern influence, which, given Fiasco’s eclecticism, is neither a surprise nor out of place. The resulting beat suits his voice impeccably and, like ‘Blur My Hands,’ ‘Dots & Lines’ is one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album.
The album is divided by interludes, with the previously mentioned tracks all following the ‘Summer’ interlude. Unfortunately for fans of Fiasco’s earlier work, the songs that follow ‘Fall’ are somewhat unspectacular, with his collaboration with Nikki Jean on ‘Scratches’ perhaps the most notable track.
Finally, following ‘Winter’, comes a section that can only best be described as experimental, with lots of Trap influences on the beat, a style that does the man no favours. This album is carried by a very strong performance on the first third, but subsequently goes downhill. Overall, a disappointing effort from an artist who may be past his best.