Published on January 8th, 2015 | by Retro1920


Lupe Fiasco – “Adoration of the Magi” [Decoded/Annotated]


[disclaimer: this is only 60 percent of the decoding… the other 40 percent of the decoding is in my head and if I try to write it I would have to verbally say it to someone so they can continue writing after my death].


Avid Lupe fans know that the title to Lu’s fifth studio album, Tetsuo & Youth, should not be taken to the extent of portraying a storyline for the character Tetsuo in the anime cult classic Akira. For those of you who have seen Akira you may have had recent epiphanies of the correlation between Tetsuo and Lupe’s vivid details of the youth in today’s society.

In this saga of Lupe’s fifth studio album, everything from the album artwork to the title of the album is well thought out in meticulous detail: the tracklisting contains 16 tracks: 12 tracks broken down by interlude compositions – the interludes represent the tone of the season.

Lupe releases Deliver, Madonna, and Adoration of the Magi in the subsequent order they are listed on the album. Direct correlations have already been made between the records Madonna (and other Mothers in the hood), and Adoration of the Magi. With the album not being out at the moment, there are a few gaps in the story line for us to figure it out, but as of now it looks like Lupe is creating his own contemporary musical or art collection pieces of biblical verses. Like looking at an art masterpiece, lets examine the author/illustrator’s intent. Throughout the track Lupe observes different issues from a youthful perspective (videogames, etc..). As said in the bible and a lot of spiritual beliefs — only through the heart of a child can we enter the kingdom of heaven.

Here is a link to the lyrics for Adoration of the Magi. You can print these out or pull it up and dual screen RCQ’s decoding and the actual lyrics.(I have helped to assist the annotations to the lyrics on Rap genius as well.

“There are songs on the album that have five narratives at the same time.” – Billboard Interview [2015], Lupe Fiasco

[Verse 1]

You’re so smart
You’re like, a contemporary museum of art
That farts, that’s harsh
Narcissism on narcotics on sharp objects in large pockets
At dark, you ain’t gotta hide it

[1st Entendre/Chain]
Art should be reflective of the people, much like the mentality of the country should be somewhat reflective of the people and its culture. Lupe shows parallels between corporations infiltrating the art scene and the mentality of the machine with its people and its diplomacy:

Narcissism on narcotics on sharp objects in large pockets.

Narcissism-(only caring about one’s self and appearance)
on narcotics-(legal and illegal Consumption and distribution of drugs for capital gain)
on sharp objects — (steroids/testosterone driven)
in large pockets — ($/Capitalism to consume)
At dark (under the radar)

(An extended metaphor coated with alliteration).

Lupe is saying you don’t have to hide it? He says this jokingly, because all governments hide their dirty work but Lu says you can at least admit it while hiding it at the same time.

keep the duality in mind, because Lu’s style of painting is abstract/contemporary.

Just keep it metal gear solid.

Solid Snake ran covert operations during the day time and at night.

Lu hides messages in his music and in his contemporary style of art.

“Lead the leaders, that’s what you follow it, then clobber it.”

Claim to be the leader of leaders (the leading country for democracy), yet we clobber other countries with undemocratic practices.

“Yeah, it’s food in them drums and boxes,
if you beat em up then they’ll drop it.”

[1st Entendre]
Lupe is talking about the music industry. The way people interact in the art scene has trickled down to the music scene which is a reflection of America’s mentality. He is saying that there is food (monetization) in rapping over instrumentals, which he refers to as drums and boxes (drums/beats/protools/mbox/studio equipment).

Also, the entendre goes back to music as well. There is food (revenue/and food for the soul) in the chopping and sampling of the blues (music about overcoming hardships) and jazz.

If you rap hard enough and get the recognition, then the record label will drop the album. He is also saying that if you make the music that the record label wants you to make, the music may actually “beat up” the people in your own community. (do more harm than good).

After you “play the game” (make cookie cutter music) they will drop your album and eventually once they cash in, they may dispose of you and find the next emerging artist that can do the same thing as you.

And they’ll rapidly flicker till they disappear
Blinging gradually quikens till they isn’t here
And that’s da da da da da da da….
Just to be back in
Reincarnated, exact twin
Exact ten, exact twelve
Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba…
Exact self
Do I really gotta say it?
Didn’t we all play it?
Dojo, Abobo
Overshoulder throw, polo
Billy, Jimmy
Even on the low low

He uses the sound of a player dying in Double Dragon to indicate the downfall of a career, as an artist is almost disposable in this day age (not here to last). And they make an exact clone of an artist or a song, whatever is hot and trendy.

Like a video game, these characters/archetypes come right back to play the game. The music industry can make an exact clone to do their dirty work.

You can go from trying to find peace in your Dojo (music) to being an Abobo or having Abobo intrude your Dojo.

Like a video game, these characters/archetypes come right back to play the game.

Lupe is admitting that he has been there, and is asking his fellow industry mates to admit it as well… “Didn’t we all play it?”


da da da da da da – character dies…
ba ba ba ba ba ba – character gains helth

exact x10 exact 12 and then character gets full health – “Exact self.”

Lu is Talking about Prostituting yourself through the music in verse 1. “Exact ten” “exact twelve” can be the track limit the record label tells you that you cannot exceed on the album if you want to make money! And x10 and x12 are power up symbols in video games. And albums are on the shelf for like $10 or $12 bucks and all the money coming makes like a coin slot sound.

Also, Tetsuo & Youth is technically only x12 full-length tracks; four of the sixteen are interludes. This meets the iTunes 12 full length-track limit.

What if he was personifying an actual stripper here too? “Don’t try to hide it.” “Exact ten.” “Exact twelve.” (We give exact cash to stippers) Then da da da da da da (climax) just to go back in (her).

“Yeah, it’s food in them drums and boxes,
if you beat em up then they’ll drop it.”

[2nd Entendre]
Lupe is indicating that we live in a dog eat dog world. If a state beats up the people of one area that is funded by a government (let’s say like the U.S.), the U.S. will allow the country they are funding to “drop” bombs on their neighbors (Ghaza Strip, Palestinian-Israelian Conflict, Middle-East, etc..) and not say anything about it.

A gov’t can drop rations off in an area if it is beat up. At the same time, a gov’t may steal their resources once they are inside the territory.

a shot at countries, like the U.S., extracting resources from countries who have resources like Gas/(oil).

He also switches perspectives and say people these communities will find food in overcoming their hardships.. And some of them.. If they are pushed to the edge will fight back.

“If you beat them up, then they’ll drop it.”

[3rd Entendre]
If you beat them up, they will drop (give up) their drums (oil).

“There’s food (money) in them drums (oil) and boxes
If you beat them up, then they’ll drop it.”

food = money/fuel for your body or engine
drum = oil
boxes (1) = where rations are stored
boxes (2) = coffins from death and high famine

Lu is saying, Countries can actually find FOOD (money) in these places where there is a growing mortality rate from starvation and corruption. In these places there are boxes: boxes of rations to feed the people, and coffin boxes to bury people.

If you beat them up, they will drop (give up) their oil drums (oil barrels).


As seen in the picture, In double dragon you can beat someone up who has an oil drum (barrel) in their hand. When you hit them they drop their oil drum and then you can pick it up and use it against them.

In the process, you are also wrecking the community. In a video game, we never think of that though! We just move forward and our third person POV let’s us move to the next community where a villain is and we do the same thing; we have no regard for the bystanders around us.

// Entendre goes back to music as well… There is food (revenue/and food for the soul) in the chopping and sampling of the blues and jazz.

And they’ll rapidly flicker till they disappear
Blinking gradually quikens till they isn’t here
And that’s da da da da da da da…. (sound effects of someone dying in Double Dragon)
Just to be back in
Reincarnated, exact twin
Exact ten, exact twelve
Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba… (sound effect of coming back to life/health in Double Dragon)
Exact self
Do I really gotta say it?
Didn’t we all play it?
Dojo, Abobo
Overshoulder throw, polo
Billy, Jimmy
Even on the low low

Abobo is also a northern suburb of Abidjan and urban commune of this city in Côte d’Ivoire with many residents being Muslim religious settlers.

Lupe is also alluding to civil unrest seen in many Muslim based sectors. the sound of death Lupe refers to can also allude to the bloodshed in Eastern areas. War/conflict is a topic Lupe also discusses in verse 2.

In the same token, Lupe is using youthful terms such as video games and Double Dragon to show that in real life people are being brainwashed into fighting people in their own community for what they think is right. And in a way we glorify it.

“Didn’t we all play it?”

Over shoulder throw, polo
Billy, Jimmy
Even on the low low

[1st Entendre]
Lupe is also talking about the people reinstating U.S. Presidents so that they can bully other countries again and again. No matter how many presidents are elected we get the same outcome.

Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter perhaps? Both Presidents revamped a plan to improve relations with Middle-Eastern countries. And Clinton is now being accused of knowing a guy who solicited underage prostitutes to high end officials.

Over shoulder throw, polo
Billy, Jimmy
Even on the low low

[2nd Entendre]
Over shoulder throw – (overthrowing a dictator/regime)
The satisfaction you get from overthrowing an opponent over your shoulder in Double Dragon is much like the satisfaction of overthrowing a dictator/regime. Lu points at the work Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have done to get rid of their enemies/competition. Billy and Jimmy are also the name of the main characters in Double Dragon.

Also, president Clinton and Carter throw shade at each other on the low. They are under the same regime but they even have disagreements. If we see it as Double Dragon (Red and Blue) the Democrats and Republicans join together, have disagreements on the low and carry out covert operations.. They even have trouble bonding when money is involved.

We know the game… “Didn’t we all play it?”

Over shoulder throw, polo
Billy, Jimmy
Even on the low low

[Additional Meaning]
People of neighboring/brotherly areas/religions/culture acting like they like each other and then throwing shade physically (over shoulder throw) at each other.

Bill clinton and Jimmy Carter are both democrats and in double dragon you can kick people on your own team! if your billy you can overshoulder throw jimmy and kick him and vice versa.. even on the low low lol. It’s part of the expertise of playing the game, don’t hit your own teammate lol

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
(These magi adore you x2)
Why you want to be born again? You just a baby
Why you playing in the streets? You just a baby

After each hook you can hear (ooh’s and ahhh’s) this is an indication of someone being mesmerized by an event or a spectacle. Babies are malleable. It is a double edged sword. At the same time when you are young you are curious and more receptive to change.


[1st Entendre]
it is a message to the people in our lifetime as well. To remember to be youthful.” We (as Lupe is admitting) adore young artists, much like the Magi adored Jesus. Lupe will change POV’s throughout the hook. 1st Person to 3rd Person.

“And just like Jesus had an impact, we can have a big impact, too. Kings and Magis adore the youth, because they can all be saviors of the world.”

By keeping that in mind, We can consider the connotation Lupe is alluding to in the last line of the hook.


“Why you playing in the streets, you just a baby.” [Kendrick Lamar also has a picture of him as a baby on the cover of Good Kid MAAD City, a tale of a hopeful youth learning about himself as well as the gritty streets of Compton, California].

Lupe is showing adoration for these musicians who have the power to touch the world much like Jesus. Lupe is saying the Magi’s (the kings/legends) adore them for the power they have to impact the world.

[Additional Meaning]

He also telling us to slow down. To tell the youth to slow down there is still time to find out who you are. Enjoy the fact that you are young and don’t be so ready to get old (die). Enjoy being a kid! Tone is like a mother rocking her kid to sleep keeping it tranquil with a lullaby.

This is also like a third person psalm for Jesus. Jesus was ready to put our past life of sin on the cross and be born again (to live in purity). For this he is adored.

Magi, Wise men look upon the youth to guide the world. The wise look at the youth in adoration much like the youth looks at their elders for recognition and guidance. There is a sort of wisdom in ignorance and the more youthful you are the stronger your will to learn.

[2nd Entendre]
Additionally, Lupe addresses his concerns in the hook with a different tone. Lu is looking critically at the the fast lifestyle of the youth — “why you playing in the streets? you just a baby.” Other issues are addressed like kids who are feeling depression or suicidal at such a young age “Why you ready to die? you just a baby.. “Why them tears up under your eyes? you just a baby.
Lupe is even referring to religious fanatics who are willing to die for their cause “why you ready to die? you just a baby… why you want to be born again? you just a baby.”

All of these issues are put into light with a more serious tone than the one used to imply an undertone of references to different albums.

[3rd Entendre]
We know that the magi were wise men from “the East,” most likely Persia, or modern-day Iran. This means the wise men traveled 800 to 900 miles to see Jesus when he was a child.

In the hook, Lupe is also referring to the help/signs the Three Kings had given to Jesus when he was a child. It is sad that the Middle East or Arabian, Egyptians and other Wise Men in the East were there for Christ when he was a baby and the biggest Christian Nation, The United States of America, is not there for the same countries in the East. Lupe answers back in a melancholic way by saying but “the Magi adore(d) you (Christ).”
Then immediately Lupe juxtaposes the tension if different nations/territories/religions and describes the actions of the extremist movements “why you ready to be born again? You just a baby. Some are ready to die and be born again in order to serve their God/religion misleading.

Lupe is saying the Wise men adored Jesus and he/they are probably asking what happened?

I think in a way too, Lu is saying the Three Wise Men helped Jesus and Herod tried to kill “your” King yet the U.S. always has a bone to pick with the descendants of the Wise Men.

Like the Madonna record, which precedes Adoration of the Magi on Tetsuo & Youth, Lupe uses a hyperbole to draw parallels between stories in the bible and the suffering faced by people in the contemporary world;

(Lu) compares situations in the ghetto with stories of the bible.

[Verse 2]
Let’s vogue….
Now let’s vogue, Mountain pose
Downward facing dog, warrior pose
Tree pose, bridge pose
Triangle pose, seated twist (pose, pose)
Upward facing dog (pose, pose)
Pigeon pose
In this bitch, that’s vulgar, that’s yoga
Let’s try it again with clothes
And closer, enclosure, exposures

[1st Entendre]
Lupe starts off the second verse, much like the first verse, with an extended metaphor. The extended metaphor is a baby fetus, yoga, and a stripper’s dance routine. Lupe is meticulously referencing different yoga poses. He is also carrying out the theme of youth! Lupe uses yoga references simultaneously with images of a newborn fetus,the parallels of creating life through meditation.

[2nd Entendre]
Lupe also references Madonna (Virgin Mary)/(motherhood) to show the importance of nurturing life — in this manner through a form of meditation/yoga. He also juxtaposes the yoga poses and the name Madonna, referring to the singer now, to mirror images of sexual acts/poses; a transitioning to Lupe’s strip tease references.

[3rd Entendre]
Touché Lupe. Touché.

Lupe starts off the 2nd verse alluding to the stripper in the 3rd verse. The Yoga poses are identical to a stripper’s routine. Google the different yoga poses and picture “A pole next to it.”

Yoga Flame [Yoga Flame lol]

The same system, yoga, that is supposed to be used to heal the body and mind, resembles a stripper’s dance routine to “trick” and get money/power; Lupe is referring to controlled religion perhaps? Also, if you are creating movement on a pole, you can only go up and down. Your movement is actually confined and based off spectacle. It’s alluding to people only caring about entertainment and capitalism (moving up and down economic and social classes). Basic values and culture is forgotten.

The stripper can be personified by different entities.

How does one thing used for good (yoga/meditation/religion or democracy), turn into something being used for the complete opposite? Religion. (Why you chasing paper? never mind you just a baby).

-Additional Meaning to Grand Entendre –
Lu also alludes to the cultural appropriation of the West.

When you think of yoga in the West, you think of white people stretching in the park. Once again a resource has been snatched from the East by the West for personal gain. A system that was once used for meditation/buddhism, is now used by someone else in a similar fashion but for personal gain and almost done in a way to make it seem like they were the creator of this resource.

^ Lu may even be exaggerating the point even further, stating the American culture has been bleached and appropriated. And we sell ourselves to the world like we are the orginators of everything – carrying on our narcissism. Would pole dancing be a contemporary form of dancing/art? Artsy Fartsy.

Let’s try it again with clothes
And closer, enclosure, exposures

Similar to verse 1, Lupe starts off verse 2 with an extended metaphor with multiple meanings. The first metaphor is of a baby fetus positioning itself in the womb. Then Lu says now picture this baby with clothes on; the person is growing up in the world and becoming an adult. Depending on which additional metaphor/entendre you are thinking of (yoga or stripping), Lupe is asking us to picture the former or latter but with clothes on. If it is a person doing yoga they are enclosing their body to eventually extend (free/expose) their body, mind, and spirit and give it space. If it is a stripper, picture her with clothes on just so she can take them off. This process in itself is enclosing the stripper’s spirituality, and in this paradox the stripper takes clothes off to expose herself, which actually encloses her even more. This also ties into the personification of the U.S. tricking themselves/the people who give them money; the U.S. is being exposed in the process. Following the spectacle, no matter how much the stripper (personified) encloses and exposes itself, we know its true motives. It’s a puppet on a string. It’s all an illusion to capitalize on money/tricking.

Watchin’ Gazans and ashkenazis ride roller coasters

Lu brings up riding roller coasters to carry out the theme of youth.

Lupe is alluding to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this line — a relevant socio-political issue. Gazan’s have conflict with Israel, which is inhabited by Ashkenazi Jews. To say they’re riding roller coasters is a metaphor for the rise and fall of the conflict and the emotional instability between the two parties.

Alternatively, Lupe is painting the image of ridiculousness. Just as, in the line above, Rosicrucian and the Koza Nostras would never expose themselves on Oprah’s sofa, Gazans and Ashkenazis would never ride roller coasters together like friends do.

Also, Lu continues his theme of youth!

Yea Lot’s option
Now up is down, Two player
Now A is jump and B is punch
You seein’ something that weren’t there
To find friendliness in a nemesis, it’s an old test
3 Buttons, see somethin
that’s emphasis on genesis


Lupe takes the whole perspective of looking at the world from a child’s point of view. If we could be more kind and youthful towards one another, especially in the way we look at things we can see that even if people have different religions (A,B, and C — 3 major religions act as buttons) he wish they can coexist on the same platform (controller) and they can help a person maneuver through life (a video game with obstacles in it).

He says lots of options because there are different messengers and religions people choose to follow. Since religion and the prophets and messengers were sent to Earth to do God’s work people are looking down (worshiping the messengers/prophets which are symbolized as the buttons on the controller) instead of looking up at God and give him the glory and keeping his message in mind. Fighting over petty stuff. In this way things are looking down, instead of up. The messengers should be doing God’s work none the less.

There is conflict with the people who put more effort on whose religions is the best so the buttons (messengers/prophets) are being used against each other. Two players specifically go at each other’s throats… jews/muslims christians/muslims… Etc… (A) One button/religious group of people have to jump and dodge a (B) punch from another button/religious group of people.

Plays with the theme in the first verse of you being able to hit your own brother/teammate in Double Dragon.. even on the low low.

[Verse 3]
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
It occurs virgin is the word version
That refers perfect to the first person
In the third verse, who’s really me
In the third person but prefers the first one, that’s me

Lupe switches from different points of views throughout the record, even in the hook Lupe uses all three points of view. This is why Lupe reiterates POV throughout the third verse.

Lu is relating to Jesus. Lu prefers the first person (being considered a friend of the people and dodging adulation)… rather than being considered an actual prophet, legend, or Rap God – living in 3rd person.

He may also be saying that he believes Jesus was the messenger and a real human being but he prefers to see him in the first person – a messenger of god, who carried out similar works as Moses and Abraham, than seeing him in the third person – as the only overseer above us besides the father.

Lupe may be saying that Jesus preferred the first person rather than the third person.

And virgin does refer perfect to the son of God – Jesus who is talked about in biblical “verses” in third person. Jesus who is spoken about in the third person but he prefers the first one (words directly spoken by him).

Lu is also saying rapper’s today aren’t the first one to grace a mic and do great things, much like there has been many messengers in biblical terms to do God’s work. Yet, it’s how you do it and depending on that you will be revered…

Who got a baby in here with these strippers? / She’s two weeks pregnant / Didn’t even know, he’s dancing with her, damn…

This may be reaching, but I think the conclusion statement is it would be rough to nurture a dependent under these conditions (personified as a prostitute). The seed follows the spirit and dance of the Mother. Also, Lupe is asking who has a baby around these type of people?

Also, everything you experience in life good or bad, makes you who you are.. everything in life from you being young wearing pampers to being old wearing adult pampers (depends -brand name pampers) is a draw… it is all important… (Catalog of music/obstacles in life). All babies/people are the same Unless you Bam Bam (messenger/emcee g.o.at.) knocking them pitches into the grand stands, in the club (bam bam’s weapon of choice)// bam bam uses a club, so do rappers to make sure their message/music is heard.

Last Epiphany
p.s. –“What constitutes a prostitute is the pursuit of profit.” – Hurt Me Soul, Lupe. (Prostituting through Sex, Art, Music, Diplomacy).
Prostitution is the general underlying theme throughout the track. What if he was personifying a stripper as far back as verse 1? “Don’t try to hide it.” “Exact ten.” “Exact twelve.” (We give exact cash to stippers) Then da da da da da da (climax) just to go back in. Lu is also talking about Prosituting yourself through the music in verse 1. “Exact ten” “exact twelve” can be the track limit the record label tells you that you cannot exceed on the album if you want to make money! And x10 and x12 are power up symbols in video games.

Tetsuo & Youth. 1/20/15

“You have to go to Harvard to be a Lupe Stan.” – SLR II, Lupe Fiasco


About the Author

is a writer for RapConQueso. Former artist coping with social anxiety, while others enjoy their social media, social networking, smart phones, and texting privileges.

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