Hip-hop lyrics can be like a Rorschach test - look at them long enough and you're sure to start seeing things that aren't actually there.
More often than not when I've interviewed an artist and asked them about the concept or meaning of a lyric or song they say, "That's not what I was thinking when I wrote it, but it's dope people are getting their own thing from it."
But sometimes - it's rare, but sometimes - an artist's lyrics are actually as complex as you fantasized, or even better, so deep it took you months, if not years to uncover them. Lupe Fiasco's the epitome of the kind of lyricist who leaves hidden meanings in his music so routinely you become almost paranoid in looking for them, so while I'm certainly not surprised that Genuis uncovered a layer to his "Adoration of the Magi" lyrics I hadn't recognized in the 100 times I listened to it, my mind if still blown.
Start by looking at lyrics (and the NSFW video, if you're into that kind of thing and you won't get fired for pressing play):
Why you ready to die? You just a baby
Why them tears up under your eyes? You just a baby
Keep your head up in the sky, you just a baby
Quit chasing money, never mind, you just a baby
Why you wanna be born again? You just a baby
Why you playing in the streets? You just a baby
Out of all the meanings I pulled out of those lines, I never realized that each one corresponds to a classic album cover, starting with the (in retrospect) obvious link between "Why you ready to die? You just a baby" and the album cover of Biggie's Ready to Die.
There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to how you experience and interpret art; what you take from it is what you take from it, regardless of what the artist intended. But while it's easy to go overboard, there's certainly a type of person who loves the puzzle-solving nature of pulling apart lyrics. Those are my people, and those are Lupe's people too.
So remember, no matter how thoroughly you think you've understood Mr. Fiasco's lyrics, you're probably still missing something. Look again. And again. And again.
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.
Photo Credit: LupEnd