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Rapper Lupe Fiasco brings new, less political music to Salt Lake City

Published November 22, 2013 1:52 pm

Music • With new material, musician — who plays at The Depot on Saturday — ratchets up the sound.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Lupe Fiasco doesn't listen to the radio.

The chart-topping rapper — who plays The Depot on Saturday — said in a phone interview this month that he isn't a hermit but he needs his isolation. The problem with the radio, Fiasco explained, is that everything pretty much sounds the same. And somewhat surprisingly, British electronic rock band Radiohead is one of the few Fiasco sees as doing truly original work.

"Radiohead is one of the only bands that make original music," he said. "I can't say that for anybody else. I can't say that for Lupe Fiasco."

Fiasco's upcoming Salt Lake City show is part of a preview tour for his upcoming album "Tetsuo & Youth," due out in early 2014. The Chicago native said the album has been in the works since he released "Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1" last year. That album debuted in the fifth spot on the Billboard 200 chart and garnered a Grammy nomination for best rap album. According to Fiasco, the response made it clear to his label, Atlantic, that a follow-up was needed.

Fiasco said "Tetsuo & Youth" will be many things, but most of all it'll be "ratchet."

"It's a street record, it's a dance record, it's a ratchet record," he said.

Though Fiasco pointed out that the word literally means "a wrench used to take apart cars," he said he uses it as a kind of catch-all for intensity. In his work, it describes a "graphic kind of imagery," though the best way to understand what a "ratchet" record really is would be to listen to Fiasco's music. Whatever the listener takes from the experience, he added, is "ratchet."

One thing "Tetsuo and Youth" will not be is political. Fiasco has built a reputation as an ideas rapper, with his political views often drawing as much attention as his music. Earlier this year, for example, he was escorted off the stage after criticizing Barack Obama at an inaugural concert celebrating the president's then-recent election victory. The incident drew widespread attention, but was perhaps not surprising given Fiasco's long-public interest in anti-establishment politics.

Fiasco still cares about the issues, but said he opted to leave politics out of "Tetsuo & Youth" because he grew tired of the "overpoliticizing of Lupe Fiasco."

"It started to get in the way of where I wanted to be," he explained. "It started to disqualify everything I was doing. It became, 'Let me just give you an album of music.' "

At Saturday's show, Fiasco will show off that new music along with some of the material fans are more familiar with. He also said the show should include "freestyle stuff" that comes from the Internet. The show will be Fiasco's first in Salt Lake City since 2011, when he headlined the year's final Twilight Concert Series.

jdalrymple@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jimmycdii —

Lupe Fiasco at The Depot

Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco performs in support of his upcoming album "Tetsuo and Youth."

When • Saturday, Nov. 23. Doors open at 8 p.m., music begins at 9 p.m.

Where • The Depot, 400 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City.