Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth (Atlantic Record; 2015)
Forget the ill-conceived electropop production of Lasers. Forget the laborious politically dense drivel of Food & Liquor 2. Tetsuo & Youth has arrived and with it, the Lupe Fiasco we once loved and cherished has seemingly returned, older, wiser and ruthlessly refuelled. While its sprawling length (a whopping 78 minutes) never quite justifies itself due to a few less than stellar pop-rap tracks that, while never as offensively bland, recall a more confused Lasers-era Fiasco, and its seasonal motif never quite comes to fruition. Lupe nonetheless showcases some of his most focused and ambitious songwriting yet. Take “Mural,” the album’s aptly-titled opener, for example; free of hooks, Lupe paints a vivid, densely packed canvas and effortlessly navigates a lush piano-driven sample from Cortex’ Troupeau Bleu for nearly nine whole minutes, devoid of breaks. It’s a stunning showcase of virtuosic flow and lyrical dexterity and a reminder that, when focused, Lupe Fiasco can rap with the best around today. He’s almost there.
Trial Track: “Mural”