A little over six years ago, Lupe Fiasco dropped Tetsuo and Youth, his fifth official studio album.
It was one that quite a few reviewers and fans believed was his best album since the duo of Food and Liquor and The Cool. For me, it holds a deeper meaning beyond just Lupe doing amazing things in the booth and with his pen. Tetsuo and Youth was the album that brought me back to being a Lupe fan after Lasers and F&L 2. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’ve always been a fan of Lupe’s lyricism. The man can flat out spit at all times. However, his third and fourth albums left a bit to be desired from a purely artistic standpoint. Some questioned whether Lupe had lost it, not realizing the turmoil he was going through behind the scenes and with regards to his label (I spoke on this a bit in the WIRTB review of Lasers linked above).
T&Y was different in that it featured enough double entendres and wordplay scenarios to make most listeners’ heads spin–but it was still all done in a way that didn’t purposely go over people’s heads. In other words, it had the accessibility of a Lasers with the complexities of The Cool. The songs weren’t outright poppy, but they also weren’t full of “let’s beat listeners over the head with a bunch of imagery until they’re bloodied from trying to figure it all out” moments. In fact, it’s probably one of the most-accessible standalone Lupe albums you can get without going to a Lasers.
The reason why T&Y stands out for me and withstands the test of time is simple: it’s one of the first new (at the time) projects I listened to after my mother’s death.
I equated Lupe dropping gems with a simpler time, when she was alive and well and I was younger, a bit dumber and crushed hard on people like during my infamous high school crush on Treeka. While I didn’t hang onto every word like I did when the first F&L dropped during my freshman year of college, I still enjoyed the album immensely and it–like Big K.R.I.T.’s “The Vent”–helped me cope with things in an everchanging world. The way that the album was structured, centering each group of songs around a season, helped me grieve initially as well. I realized–remembered, rather–that life was seasonal and cyclical. We’re born, we live, we love, we die, and our legacies continue the work we started, an endless march until the end of time. However, it’s a march that, even when an end comes, there is no real set ending.
Listening to “Deliver,” for instance, and its message of deliverance from the ills of society, it put me in a headspace where I remembered why I was so special to my mother. I wasn’t just her son, I was her miracle, her deliverance from a life where she was alone for a lot of it. I gave her further purpose in life and her passing gave me further purpose. I didn’t want to let people go about their lives without knowing how much they meant to me, nor did I want my life to go on without making more of an impact on those around me. Additionally, I wanted to be the peace of man Lupe possibly alluded to in the song. Now, I’m not a god; far from it. Even still, I can do what I can to bring some sense of peace to the people I surround myself with/the people who surround me.
Is T&Y Lupe’s greatest album? I’m unsure, but that’s not why I’m writing this. I do know that it’s one of those albums that spoke to me on a level that classics tend to do. If you’ve never had the chance to check it out, do so now and delve deeper into who I am as a fan and a music lover.