Keep in mind that this is only my interpretation of the Michael Young History saga. Not all of the songs explained here have been officially confirmed by Lupe Fiasco himself to be part of the ongoing story, and I may have missed a couple. Solely based on my personal analysis, some of the songs only have certain verses/lines that pertain to the story and will be marked *song title* to make the distinction. The embedded links have been time-stamped to help you follow along as easily as possible. I will be using as many details and references as I can, essentially breaking it down line for line, but you can go HERE to read the condensed, "tl;dr" version. When your done, click HERE to continue onto Part 2!
Scattered in a puzzle-like manner throughout Lupe's discography, the story of MYH is one that summarizes the journey of those that fall victim to the deceit that lies within chasing fame and fortune. Lupe uses this 17-song long musical theater to personify the lure of money and notoriety into 2 inseparable, angel faced, smooth talking, fingers-crossed-behind-their-back Bonnie & Clyde-like villains; The Streets and The Game. The fight within oneself to remain pure versus the constant inner voice yelling "BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY" is stretched even into the afterlife, where Michael Young History transforms into The Cool. The love affair, as it always does, turns into a fatal love triangle. And in the end, The Streets and The Game remain loyal to the only thing they've ever been truly devoted to... each other.
1. Real Recognize Real aka Pills [from MTV2's My Block: Chicago]
"Well the first thing I wanna say is.."
On this song, the 2 ancient and immortal antiheroes are introduced. The 1st verse serves as a warning, foreshadowing everything to come. In a world where everyone goes by their own rules, it is essential to be very cautious of where one's trust is placed. Often, the "unguided and misdirected" youth fall into the wrong hands as they yearn for clout and wealth, but ultimately face the deadly consequences. They all feel invincible on their way to the top, and they all eventually meet their imminent demise.
The Game makes his debut on the 3rd verse. He can be found in all facets of society, from prostitution and dope dealing, to politics. He has body parts made of everything found in your nearest ghetto; a television brain, the belly of a beast, blunts for fingers, hollow tip bullets as teeth, wiretap ears, crack pipe lungs that breathe crack smoke but cough pleasure, a baking soda soul, dice as eyeballs, stripper pole legs, Nike Airs as feet, a stereo system heart that beats rap music, and to top it off, his clothes are made of dollar bills. But somehow, this Frankenstein-like monster has many followers and friends, including the police. His only appreciation for life is the fact that it ends, and he spews out blasphemy every time he prays. He is always awake, carefully scanning everything as he plots his next move. He lives in a home called Jealousy with his wife The Streets and their son, Heroine. He doesn't own a car, instead he travels on stray bullets that act as his personal carriage with his hypnotized minions chauffeuring him around. And the only nutrition keeping him alive is all the liquor poured on the pavement when someone dies.
The last verse serves as a little bit of optimism from Lupe. Even with all the perils facing a child who may be exposed to The Streets and The Game, there is still a glimmer of hope called righteousness. A father instilling the right lessons into his children, a community standing up and fighting for the preservation of their neighborhood, and a teacher showing that a persons' future isn't limited to their current surroundings can all counter-act this never ending cycle. Ironically, this track starts off with a line that seems to capture the essence of everything this tale of being led astray embodies, "A dollar bill will exercise all ills..".
2. He Say, She Say (ft. Sarah Green & Gemstones) [from Food & Liquor]
On the surface, it appears to be the generic story of what happens within a family when a child is growing up in a fatherless home. But as Lupe reveals HERE, it also serves as the introduction of Michael Young History and the foundation to his doomed fate.
Both verses are somewhat interchangeable, becoming the 2 similar perspectives of the mother and little Michael, respectively, begging the father to rethink his departure from the young boys' life. While dealing with his fathers' absence, MYH goes from being a smart kid who would hand in his homework first, to a troublemaker getting into fights at school. He is in danger of failing his grade and being held back, but his mom is doing everything she can to support him both financially and emotionally. They're doing their best to handle the situation and proclaim, "Some days it ain't sunny, but it ain't so hard..". His fathers' only response to their plea is "I don't know what you want from me..", and MYH is left to wonder why his dad won't even give him a chance.
3. Kick, Push [from Food & Liquor]
"I dedicate this 1 right here to all my homies out there grinding, nahm'sayin?
Legally and illegally.."
With no father figure to play catch or build toy models with, MYH needs some form of distraction to cope with the hurt. Luckily, his mom buys him a skateboard for his 6th birthday. The first time he used it, he slipped and hurt himself. But instead of being discouraged, he developed a deep passion for learning how to be good at skating. All the bumps and bruises became worth it when he landed his first kickflip. The loud racket of his new favorite item turn him into an annoyance amongst his neighbors, so he takes it to the park and skates from morning until he's kicked out at night. As he grows older, he becomes better at his hobby which gives him a major boost in confidence, completely abandoning protective gear.
He meets a young lady who shares his passion for skating, becoming lovebirds in the process. He also finds a group of misfit friends that skate, traveling all throughout the city on their boards. They'd get chased by security guards often, because they dared to practice their craft in front of office buildings. Even with all of society being opposed, from authority figures to unimpressed street hustlers that chastised them, they loved every minute of it. It helped them escape their problems, and even helped them make fast getaways whenever violence erupted in their hood. But as always, the police would show up and force them to leave their safety net.
4. *I Don't Feel So Good* (ft. Matthew Santos) [from Fahrenheit 1/15 Part 3: A Rhyming Ape]
With the heavy burden of being a single mother raising children in the ghetto, MYH's mother is dealt another difficult card when her oldest son becomes a victim to The Streets and The Game. In the midst of being a hustler and big spender, he is killed in front of his mom. With the weight of the world on her shoulders, she resorts to drugs as a way to cope with the pain and stress. She also becomes a stripper, presumably as a way to fund her newfound addiction. The chorus goes on to say, "I asked my baby if she love me, she said she don't know/ She said The Games' got her heart, The Streets have got her soul..". By way of their offspring Heroine, she sadly becomes another subordinate for the wicked couple, joining the long list.
When he blew all his money to ball, did he feel it?/
When that bullet came through a wall, did she feel it?/
When he stopped and he dropped and he died, did he feel it?/
When his momma closed his eyes, did he feel it?/
When she couldn't take the pain, did she feel it?/
When the dope flows through her veins, does she feel it?/
When she took off all her clothes, did she feel it?/
When she slid down that pole, did she feel it?/
Will it all be clear to see, will I feel it?/
If God forgives me, will I feel it?/
5. Kick, Push II [from Food & Liquor]
"Look at what we did, we came a long way from dirty ghetto kids.."
On this sequel, Lupe dives deep into exactly the type of things those skateboarding misfits were trying to escape in the first place. The police had just ruined the mood for MYH and his friends, but they were lucky enough to not be fined this time. After a day of skating and panhandling, MYH makes his way home with $10 in his pocket. Instead of buying a dimebag like most figured he would, he went and bought 2 sandwiches for his baby sister and himself. Still feeling the pain of a hard fall he had taken, he rides past the local hustlers that ask him why he would push anything but profit-making drugs. MYH responds by saying that he knows living their lifestyle will only land him in prison. As he continues on his way, he becomes angered when he remembers that those are the same drug dealers that helped his mother become too dependent on drugs to feed her children.
MYH's girlfriend, a white girl, has it just as bad as he does. Unlike MYH, she had both parents in her life, but her father would regularly physically abuse her mom. Also, in the midst of his infidelity, her dad caught a disease and passed it on to her mother. With the medicine being too expensive, she was being pimped by her father in order to compensate the pharmacist. She often thought of ending her life, but skating with her boyfriend helped her suppress those feelings. She eventually became good enough to be sponsored by a skate team, and earned just enough money to pay for the medicine, a phone bill, and a car note for a Honda. The rest of MYH's clique varied greatly, including a homeless friend and a wheelchair bound girl that tagged along as they skated around their evil-deed filled town.
6. Put You On Game [from The Cool]
With MYHs' father nowhere to be found, his older brother dead, his mother strung out on drugs, and his baby sister hungry, he is in dire need of some form of guidance and income. Unfortunately, The Game has no problem with filling that void.
With a sinister laugh, The Game coughs a little bit of pleasure into MYHs' face. He steps in and happily puts Michael up on game, teaching him the ways of the underworld. He admits to being a deity of the world his family members have fallen into. He paints the world as a grimy place, where only those most willing to die in his honor will prosper. Everybody in the physical world knows of his evil empire including poets, artists and intellectuals. But only those who don't manage to escape his wrath can fully understand his appeal.
As his footsteps leave a trail of marijuana, he has an army of heartless and soulless soldiers following close behind. The type of people in his army range from drug addicts and street hustlers, to world leaders. He breaks time and language barriers, because his dynasty has been international since the moment the snake tricked Adam and Eve into eating from the Forbidden Tree. From the American dream to the greed that tore Africa, he is the fuel that ignited every bit of selfishness throughout mankind. He is the shield so-called "gangstas" stand behind, and the puppeteer behind the worlds' curtains. In fact, he is even the "overpriced medicine" MYHs' girlfriend was forced to pay for with her body. He sets the rules at the school of hard knocks, and teaches you that if someone gets in the way of your paper chase, the only correct thing to do is aim for the head and shoot to kill.
He shows no signs of remorse or pity for MYH and his little sister, instead bragging about the trance he put their parents in. He makes reference to another 1 of his young victims, Brendas' Baby, and addresses all of his potential female followers. The only options they'd be given are; welfare recipient, stripper, prostitute, or gold digger. If his batch of poison is potent enough, it may be a combination of the 4. His limited amount of choices for them becomes justified when a television is on, because its portrayal of women corresponds. He promises that the alcohol running in his waters cures all ills, and he happily serves his parched platoon cup after cup as his yard becomes the stomping ground for the rebellious and unruly. As long as The Game is trusted to provide them with a sense of fulfillment, he will always reign supreme considering his throne is made from the skeletons of his deceived prey.
Once they've joined his militia, The Game welcomes them in by completing a ritual. First, they're baptized in Tony Montanas' jacuzzi, then invited to eat at Don Corleones' house, who happen to be 2 of his most well-known martyrs. He joyfully accepts the blame for all the mischief in the world, and wishes that the fatal wounds on his soldiers will echo his name forever. With a very sick and demented instruction manual on life being the only guidance he's ever been handed, MYH finally feels ready to take on the world.
7. Streets On Fire (ft. Matthew Santos) [from The Cool]
As Matthew Santos sings in the intro, "The stars are aligned, and the path is colliding, the plan is arriving, and she's out there smiling." Arrangements have been made for The Streets to seduce another potential boy-toy, and she's waiting for him with open arms. In hopes of stopping her, the skies send warnings every time the threat of her striking again is near.
Lupe has said that the 1st verse is about AIDS, which happens to be another one of The Streets' physical attributes. She is as sick and sadistic as her husband, and finds joy in watching all the pitfalls facing humanity. The rest of the song serves as a cautionary tale from past victims to anyone thinking of trying to attract her, with lines such as:
Scientists, preachers, nuns and everyone else is stuck in an endless debate, each with their own theories of where these international sinful urges actually originate. They are all partially correct in their assessment, but similarly to her husband, only those that are starving for the cheese on The Streets' mousetrap will truly know the full extent of her power. Her sole purpose is to fool people into thinking that there are no lasting risks involved when starting a relationship with her. But as the chorus says, danger is at her fingertips, and death is on her tongue. The biggest risk of them all comes with having a fling with this deceitful witch... your life.
My femme fatale, my darling fraudulent angel/
Once caught her changing the batteries in her halo/
Receipt for her wings and everything that she paid for/
And the address to the factory where they made those/
8. *Just Might Be Okay* (ft. Gemstones) [from Food & Liquor]
Melted into the 2nd and 3rd verses from this masterpiece of a song is the next chapter to the story. MYHs' mother is worried that he is starting to follow in his slain older brothers' footsteps. She has caught him standing in the mirror, mimicking everything about his demeanor from the way he wore his hat, to the gang signs he used to throw up. MYH has ambitions of taking his brothers' place in the hood, even wanting the same car, which concerns his mom to the utmost degree. She dreads the possibility of having to see another one of her sons in a casket, but as Michael Young History steps out of his house into the world, he looks at her and assures her that everything will be fine.
God bless the mothers and younger brothers of hustlers/
Cuz she don't wanna sob at his wake, but he wanna/
Follow in his steps, bang his hat, learn his shakes/
Master his swagger in the bathroom mirror, cop a Chevy/
Steady mob in his place, yeah! its just the problems we face/
Look his moms in her face and promise he straight../
...Then he leaves the house that love built, that HUD renovated/
That Section 8 pays for, well lets pray for him/
Let the beat play for him, put his struggles on display for him/
Cuz he gotta go and face the drama, with a different face/
From the one that he use to face his momma/
If you look close, you'll see it consist of a smile that hurts/
An ice grill, and a trace of trauma, lil bit of his father/
Another criteria that's no different from a young librarian/
Who let the delirium worry him, living in the inner city/
Out of his mind, Liria Reconcilian/
9. Dopeboy Freestyle [from The Coolest Mixtape]
Picking up right where the last song left off, MYH is walking out of his house into his neighborhood, basking in the glory of all the things he has on. He feels fortunate, because most of the people around him can't afford anything in his outfit. His perception at this point is still a tad bit skewed, believing that the expensive clothes came from God. But the greed instilled in him by The Game makes him desire much more of it. He now whole-heartedly believes that living life without the profits of cocaine is a "bitch", and wants no part of being monetarily unstable. He wants money, lots of it, and he sees drug dealing as the only thing that can get it for him at this point. Applying the lessons taught to him by his only role model, he knows that it would be foolish to speak of his illegal activity with anyone. He can't afford the risk of police catching onto his moves, because the home base for his newfound business is his own house.
Although he is acting under devious thought patterns, he tries to justify it to God, and himself, by promising that he'll only sell drugs to kids until he can find a legitimate job. Even with a corrupted state of mind, he still has 1 thing lingering inside him that could possibly save his life. It's the only thing that will give him a chance of turning his life back around, his conscience. The same human conscience that sent tears running down Nino Browns' face as he killed his brother, G Money, on the roof. The same human conscience that wouldn't let Tony Montana go through with car-bombing his intended target while the mans' wife and children were with him.
The song ends with, "Dopeboy, The Streets is calling you..". Will he answer, or does he resist the temptation? Click HERE to read Part 2!