One thing has remained consistent from Lupe Fiasco’s 10-year trip from hip-hop’s critical darling to the over-30 outsider: His verses have always remained dense (yes, including some off Lasers). Fiasco may have claimed he was cool with falling out of relevance, but that didn’t mean he was going to completely dumb it down. A Lupe project in 20andforever means there are plenty of bars that will aim for the head, whether it’s in a hook-less fusillade like “Mural” or more traditionally structured songs like “Deliver.”
Tetsuo & Youth is an immediately satisfying listen, but many of the metaphors, concepts and references will fly over your head on the first listen — maybe even the second and third. But they are humorous and filled with truth bombs. Check out what verses are packed with the most below. Take the following with a grain of salt: It’s very likely there are missed metaphors in the other songs.
“I like my pancakes cut in swirls/
Moroccan moles and undercover squirrels/
I like cartoons, southern cities with large moons/
Faith healers, ex-female drug dealers and art booms/
Apologize for my weird mix/
What taste like hot dogs and tear drips?“
Name dropping the Moroccan Mole and Secret Squirrel is a weird mix in any hip-hop song. That said, the non-sequiturs are connected by how they all present images of prosperity to young eyes. Even the female drug dealer, who represents a woman who got what she needed (money) out of the game without indulging in it.
“Prisoner 1” —
“Scared thugs going crazy in a caged box/
Looking at the world through the TV/
And they gone, rapping over beats from the tabletops/
Ay! That’s how it is in a police state”
If you look down at any city from an aerial view and a low altitude, you’ll realize that we live in a society of boxes — the rooftops look like squares. In these lines, you get the connected images of squares and rectangles: the cage, the TV, the tabletops. It connects the prisoners to civilians; in other words, we’re all prisoners in a sense. Even those who are free look at the world through a TV and rap over tabletop beats.
“The ghetto was a physical manifestation/
Of hate in a place where ethnicity determines your placement/
A place that defines your station/
Remind you n****s your place is the basement/
White people in the attic/
N****s selling dope, White people is the addicts/
White folks act like they ain’t show us how to traffic”
It’s a reference to the racial caste system: A concept that places citizens on the social hierarchy judging by the melanin on one’s skin. Whites may be guilty, but black people suffer the most.
“Adoration of the Magi” —
“Can’t be eyes closed when you side scroll/
You not the first person/
The first person from your first cursin’/
To your first cursive/
And your curse words is in the curve version”
While “Adoration of the Magi” continues the biblical theme of the final third, “Adoration of the Magi” may still refer to the racial caste system. Babies are born into situations where they’re exposed to societal ills — a curse. Sad, but most people don’t see the misfortune until much later; it’s easy to glance over, like cursive handwriting.
“Coolest, tulips, flowers, fall from the towers/
Like balls from Galileo to lay low/
Ignorance that the world isn’t ours, the gall”
Knowledge is power. The correlation of Galileo and the flowers could allude to budding awareness. Galileo was also forced to “lay low” because his theories went against the bible at the time — then a huge offense. But it’s OK: Those who possess knowledge shall inherit the earth. The ignorant are audacious in believing otherwise.
“And these choppers might kill us/
Look these wild n***s in they eyes/
In the video it’s some n***s that done died/
Looked the ghosts in the face and I cried”
He’s referring to the very sad interview he did with Sway.
“Body of Work” —
“Oedipus wrecks, motherf***er this better than sex/
Material potion the love of my martyr/
Currency soaked in the blood of my father”
The tale of Oedipus tells the story of a hero that fulfilled Greek prophecy by having sex with his mother and killing his father. So this is a motherf***er in a literal sense. The last line refers to money that’s been tainted, either by the destruction of life or by sins (more than likely the ones refered to throughout Tetsuo & Youth).