Lupe Fiasco: Tetsuo & Youth

Chicago rapper spits brainteaser lyrics over ambitious backdrops

Credit: Reid Rolls

Spending too much time decoding this 78-minute behemoth might break your brain. Lupe Fiasco's fifth album is a swirl of double meanings, extended metaphors about yoga and math, and increasingly labyrinthine ways to say "I'm dope" ("Nerd gang, make Mandelbrot sets when we handshake"). Even on its surface, though, it's the meatiest set he's produced in years. Kicking and pushing against the rap status quo, he raps over French jazz funk, pens a two-part suite about the prison-industrial complex, inserts contemporary classical-string interludes and curates a nine-minute gang-sta-rap-posse cut featuring the "realest people" he knows.