Lupe Fiasco used to gain as much attention for his protests as for his music. But on his fifth album Tetsuo & Youth (out in early 2014), the Chicago rapper abandons the socio-political commentary altogether. “For some people it’s gonna be a shock, because there are no politics on the record. Consciously, there are no politics on the record,” he tells Rolling Stone, adding “If you want to hear my political spiel or some psuedo-intellectual Lupe, go listen to [2012’s] Food & Liquor II. From here on out, I’m just making music.”
Fiasco’s current single “Old School Love” gives away some reasons behind his rationale, as he runs through hip-hop’s roots and gently critiques the present. Even as Tetsuo & Youth features modern-day hit-makers like Ed Sheeran (“Old School Love”), Chris Brown (“Crack”) and Rick Ross, Fiasco says that while recording in Chicago and Los Angeles, he tried to steer clear of the current rap hype circle.
“My mind is a time capsule of the late Nineties and early 2000s,” he says. “I don’t even listen to hip-hop; it’s very rare that you’ll catch me listening to hip-hop other than Big K.R.I.T. or Tupac. I just feel like an old-ass man and senile.” (K.R.I.T. also appears on Tetsuo.) Similarly, Fiasco says that Tetsuo & Youth‘s lyrical content was partially inspired by his upbringing in Chicago’s crime-ridden Westside: “The content of it is like, ‘Oh, shit — I didn’t know Lupe could talk like that. I didn’t know Lupe knew that guy. I didn’t know Lupe was affiliated with that.'”
As a result, he compares the album somewhat to Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, his 2006 debut that gained strength off his skateboarding love story “Kick, Push.” While Tetsuo & Youth is still “about 85 percent finished,” Fiasco says that the longtime fans will have something to look forward to. “Day one Lupe Fiasco fans, from 2003 or 2004, they’re gonna get a lot of that back,” he says.”That’s gonna be a surprise. You gotta have those five or so years to have that retrospective moment.”
As far as the album title goes, Fiasco insists that he did not name his album after Japanese manga series Akira character Tetsuo Shima — “For me, Tetsuo sounds cool” — but admits to being loosely inspired by the biker-gang member who’s bombarded with destructive, psycho-kinetic abilities. “You can hate him for what he’s done, but it’s not just him being an asshole,” Fiasco says. “How that relates to me as a person — you can take that however you want, but it was more like, let me get to the emotion of that misguided anger and make this sound like a song.”
Fiasco will preview Tetsuo & Youth on a 33-date tour that kicks off November 1 at University of North Florida’s Coxwell Amphitheater in Jacksonville, Fla. Following the tour, he returns to the studio to record five to six more songs. “You’re gonna feel this shit, trust me — like, ‘Oh shit, I can’t believe Lupe did a record with that guy. And that guy. And that guy and that guy.”