Nation of Gods and Earths
The Five Percent Nation or as its members call it, the Nation of Gods and Earths was founded by Clarence Jowars Smith around 1964. Around this time, Clarence Smith became Clarence 13X and rose to the rank of lieutenant in the Nation of Islam's military training unit, the Fruit of Islam. Aside from his formidable physical skills (he supposedly learned karate while overseas), Clarence 13X had a hypnotic speaking style that quickly enabled him to become the student minister of Temple Seven.
But the Nation of Islam soon entered a period of turmoil during which Malcolm X was suspended and rumors of Muhammad's extramarital dalliances began to spread. Clarence 13X's own teachings began to stray from doctrine, and he and the Nation parted ways in 1963. Less than a year later, Clarence 13X reemerged and began teaching a revised Black Muslim theology.
He was student
minister in the 7th Temple in New York City when he was escorted from the Nation
for his preaching or gambling activities (the very reason of his escorting were
never to be known). He said that he was God, renamed himself Allah and started
spreading his thoughts on the streets of Harlem among the youth.
In the early years the group had around two hundred members. Clarence 13X built a close relationship with Mayor John Lindsey and in 1967 they got a house in Harlem. The "Allah School in Mecca" (Harlem was renamed as Mecca and Brooklyn as Medina, the further relocation of Allah) still serves as the Five Percent headquarters.
"Allah," as Clarence 13X now called himself, reinterpreted the Nation of Islam's set of Lost-Found Lessons, a catechism that resulted from Fard's purported conversations with Elijah Muhammad. These Lessons, which every Black Muslim had to memorize, asserted that 85 percent of humanity is mentally dead and ignorantly destroys itself through vice and immorality, while another 10 percent possess the truth but oppress the first 85 percent by convincing them to believe in a "mystery god" who cannot be seen in this lifetime. The remaining five percent constitute the "poor righteous teachers" who also possess the truth -- namely, that the "Living God is the Son of Man, the Supreme Being, or the Black Man of Asia."
Elijah Muhammad had used this lesson to prove that Master Fard, who was his teacher, was God. But Clarence used it to prove that all men possess the potential to become gods themselves.
In 1969 the organization's life took a huge turn, when Father Allah (Clarence
13X) was killed. The crime is still remains unsolved, there are different
theories on who committed the crime, whether they were members of the NOI or the
homicide was related to gambling. Since then the Nation doesn’t have a leader,
it has meetings, called parliaments, which usually occur in public spaces.
Today there are thousands of young black men and women who
are members of The Nation of Gods and Earths. There are even thousands more who
are not members but whose lives have been affected in some positive way from
learning the knowledge of themselves at an early age. Why isn't the man who is
responsible for awakening so many black youth known to the masses of our
people? Why has this man never been honored? Perhaps it's because his full
greatness won't be realized until the world beholds the greatness of the masses
of black youth whose lives he touched. Let's take the time now to look back at
the life of Allah: the man history has yet to remember. Allah was born Clarence
Smith on Friday, February 22, 1928 in Danville, Virginia. He was the fifth son
of Louis and Mary Smith. His sister Bernice and younger brother Harry A (A
Allah) were born after him to complete the family of seven; six boys and one
girl. As a baby his mother nicknamed him 'Put' and this is what he was called
throughout his early childhood years. Allah's early childhood experience was
characterized by the Jim Crow laws of segregation in the south which meant that
blacks were separated from whites in housing, schools, theaters, etc.... Allah
and his brothers and sisters never minded not being with "whitey" as they
referred to them as. They enjoyed life amongst their own people and never were
interested in going where they weren't welcomed. The Smith family lived at 834
Valley Street. It was a six block walk into the heart of town where the movie
theaters were located at. The blacks had a choice of going to the "colored"
theater or sitting in the balcony of the whites theater. Allah and his siblings
carried memories of looking down at "whitey" from he balcony of the theater and
remarking how silly and trivial they were. Summers were spent by the Smith
children in St. Petersburg, Florida with relatives. There, they would swim in a
river behind a slaughter house where cows were prepared for market. There was a
landing in the middle of the river at the base of a train trestle where they
would swim to in order to catch candy thrown by "whitey" from the windows of
passing by trains. Allah was a very strong swimmer. His brothers would joke
that Johnny Weissmuller (Tarzan) didn't have anything on him. One day they were
out swimming. Allah and one of his friends had reached the landing at the
trestle when they spotted A Allah going down in the water. Allah dove back into
the river, reached his brother quickly and pulled him to safety. He had saved
his brother's life. His father, Louis, was a tall man, he wasn't very built,
kind of lanky but he was a helluva man, strong in sense of convictions. An
event that must have heavily influenced Allah's attitude towards life in general
and whites in particular occurred in at their house in Danville while he was
still a young boy. On this occasion, Allah witnessed his father fight a burly
whiteman in front of their house. His father ended up knocking this man over the
banister of the house an they had to beat the man's son and daughter who tried
to come to their father's aid. All this had taken place because the whiteman
had cursed in front of Allah's mother! Perhaps more so than anything else,
these were the kind of experiences that developed and made Allah, the man. He
had instilled in him a "down home" sense of values, convictions, street wisdom,
and awareness. In the 1940's, Allah's mother, Mary moved to New York for
employment. She rented an apartment in Harlem. In 1946, Allah came north to
join his mother and older brothers. Once in New York, his nickname, 'Put' that
his mother had coined for him when he was a boy was mistaken for 'Puddin' and
this is what he became known as. Allah performed a number of odd jobs to keep
money in his pockets. Among them was a fruit stand that he opened up in a little
hole-in- the-wall in Harlem. It was also in Harlem in the 1940's that he
developed a love for gambling which remained with him throughout his life. He
played a lot of pool in Harlem these days and got a reputation as a pool shark.
In 1946 he met Willeen Jowers and grew to love her very much. He wanted to
marry her but because she was only seventeen years old at the time and didn't
have her mother's permission, she couldn't marry him. Allah Willeen had two
sons together. A-Allah and B-Allah, born in 1949 and 1951 respectively.
However in order to prove to Willeen's mother that he wasn't dependent on her to
marry he married another woman whom he loved very much by the name of Dora. He
and Dora also had two children, Clarence and Christine. In
Korea, Allah just missed being killed on many occasions. One such incident
occurred while he was walking through a field flanked by men in his unit.
Gunfire broke out and the men on the sides of him were picked off and killed. It
was as though he had a calling that he had to fulfill back in the states. He
endured the time in Korea, completed his bid, and returned to the United States
with a high and prestigious award for his outstanding service record. While he
was away, his wife Dora, had become a Muslim and entered the Nation of Islam
under the leadership of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. When he returned he too
accepted the teachings of Islam and he joined her at Temple No. 7 under Minister
Malcolm X. It was in the Temple that he met Justice, then named Akbar, who
would become his closest associate for many years to come. His years at Temple
No. 7 began inauspiciously enough, his initial duty was elevator operator for
the temple. However, he was to rise through the ranks quickly. Soon he was
promoted to the position of lieutenant with the responsibility of training the
Fruit of Islam (FOI) in karate which he had learned while he was in Korea. The
FOI is the military training of men in the Nation of Islam.
Perhaps more so than anything else, these were the kind of experiences that developed and made Allah, the man. He had instilled in him a "down home" sense of values, convictions, street wisdom, and awareness. In the 1940's, Allah's mother, Mary moved to New York for employment. She rented an apartment in Harlem. In 1946, Allah came north to join his mother and older brothers. Once in New York, his nickname, 'Put' that his mother had coined for him when he was a boy was mistaken for 'Puddin' and this is what he became known as. Allah performed a number of odd jobs to keep money in his pockets. Among them was a fruit stand that he opened up in a little hole-in- the-wall in Harlem. It was also in Harlem in the 1940's that he developed a love for gambling which remained with him throughout his life. He played a lot of pool in Harlem these days and got a reputation as a pool shark. In 1946 he met Willeen Jowers and grew to love her very much. He wanted to marry her but because she was only seventeen years old at the time and didn't have her mother's permission, she couldn't marry him. Allah Willeen had two sons together. A-Allah and B-Allah, born in 1949 and 1951 respectively. However in order to prove to Willeen's mother that he wasn't dependent on her to marry he married another woman whom he loved very much by the name of Dora. He and Dora also had two children, Clarence and Christine.In 1950, Allah joined the Army and went to fight in the Korean War. This experience required a new set of principles of him other than anything he had thus far encountered. In war, he learned not to befriend anyone because of the uncertainty of who was the next to be killed. However even being half a world away and at war didn't deter him from the loves of his life. He would send home money regularly to his families. Money which he had won.... gambling.
In Korea, Allah just missed being killed on many occasions. One such incident occurred while he was walking through a field flanked by men in his unit. Gunfire broke out and the men on the sides of him were picked off and killed. It was as though he had a calling that he had to fulfill back in the states. He endured the time in Korea, completed his bid, and returned to the United States with a high and prestigious award for his outstanding service record. While he was away, his wife Dora, had become a Muslim and entered the Nation of Islam under the leadership of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. When he returned he too accepted the teachings of Islam and he joined her at Temple No. 7 under Minister Malcolm X. It was in the Temple that he met Justice, then named Akbar, who would become his closest associate for many years to come. His years at Temple No. 7 began inauspiciously enough, his initial duty was elevator operator for the temple. However, he was to rise through the ranks quickly. Soon he was promoted to the position of lieutenant with the responsibility of training the Fruit of Islam (FOI) in karate which he had learned while he was in Korea. The FOI is the military training of men in the Nation of Islam.He studied his lessons hard and soon became very proficient at them. The lessons developed in him a fiery wisdom. And he had a speaking style that was unique to him, a slow methodical cadence stressing syllables that normally aren't. It was hypnotic. He was again promoted, this time to the position of student minister. Elijah Muhammad had received word of this fiery young student minister and traveled to New York to meet him, and bestow him with the name Abdullah. It was at this point that turmoil began to develop with him in the temple. Allah had been a man who always thought for himself, he was no follower. At this point in time, the teachings of the Nation of Islam was that W.D. Fard, the man who came to North America and taught Elijah Muhammad, was the Supreme Being, Allah. At the same time, however, the lessons that the Muslims studied, which were written by Elijah Muhammad and W.D. Fard, clearly stated throughout that "the original man is Allah, The Supreme Being, the Blackman." The lessons also state that "there is no mystery god" and that we should "lose no time searching for that which does not exist." One day in 1963, Allah was addressing the student ministers class. He was speaking about one of the lessons which dealt with what makes rain, hail, snow and earthquakes? He was manifesting his self style, literal interpretation that "all the above is cause by... man." The head of the FOI, Captain Joseph, walked into the room and heard what Allah was teaching. He stopped the meeting, dismissed the men, and spoke with Allah. He told Allah that he couldn't teach what he was teaching there.
Read The Complete History: http://www.thetalkingdrum.com/nge.html
Lessons of the Five Percent
Under Five Percenter doctrine, a member does not become fully divine until he or she has memorized every word of the Lost-Found Lessons of the divine sciences. Once this is achieved, then men take the name Allah and become Gods, and women take the name Earth -- hence the group's name.
The original meaning of the five percent is coming from the N.O.I. (the 5%’ers borrow heavily from the N.O.I.’s teachings). It appeared in the “Lost found Moslem Lesson No. 2”, a forty-question catechism written by W. D. Fard. The 85% are those without the knowledge, the mentally blind, deaf and dumb who are bent on self-destruction. The 10% are the bloodsuckers of the poor, those who have knowledge and power but who use it to mystify and abuse the 85%. The 10% include the "grafted" white devil as well as the orthodox Muslims and Christian preachers who preach that god is a "spook" or a "mystery god." And the remaining 5% are the poor, righteous teachers, who are aver all of the ‘dealings’ of the 10% and their mission is to rescue the 85%. The basic of the Five Percent Nation was that the black man was the Supreme Being also known as God. Clarence 13X also made the Supreme Alphabet and the Supreme Mathematics The percenters’ science is based on these, in which every number and letter has a further meaning, like the 7th (the “perfect number”) letter of the Supreme Alphabet, g, stands for God (Five percenters greet each other with ‘Wassup G?’ which is a commonly used statement in hip-hop, too).
1. That black people are the original people of the planet earth. 2. That black people are the fathers and mothers of civilization. 3. That the science of Supreme Mathematics is the key to understanding man's relationship to the universe. 4. Islam is a natural way of life, not a religion. 5. That education should be fashioned to enable us to be self sufficient as a people. 6. That each one should teach one according to their knowledge. 7. That the Blackman is god and his proper name is ALLAH. Arm, Leg, Leg, Arm, Head. 8. That our children are our link to the future and they must be nurtured, respected, loved, protected and educated. 9. That the unified black family is the vital building block of the nation.
Five Percenters depart from NOI in their teaching of the Supreme Alphabet and Supreme Mathematics, an arcane system devised by Clarence 13X wherein each letter or numeral denotes a concept with an accompanying parable. "A" stands for Allah, "B" is Be or Born, "C" is See and so on. This process of teaching is referred to as "dropping science" or "sciencing out."
For example, the 14th degree (letter) of the Supreme Alphabet "N" stands for Now and Nation, and begins something like this: "Now is the time for the Black man to wake up and come into the realization of Islam, which is the true and righteous Self, which is his true Nature and his true Nation."
Five Percenters refer to many geographical locales by a Middle Eastern name: Brooklyn is "Medina," for example, Manhattan, NYC is "Mecca" while Seattle, Wash., home of a regular parliament, is "Morocco."
|A-ALLAH: is the
supreme being original man from Asia. The sole controller and ruler of the
universe. Allah is the original man who has knowledge of himself, and to
know self, is to know all things in existence. Allah is Arm, Leg, Leg, Arm,
supreme Head. But it is not and as used in the WORD ISLAM.
breakdown by 5 percenters: Allah is the one who knows and understands everything in the science of life. Allah be the supreme Asiatic Black man. He who has knowledge of self and life. Allah be an arm, leg, leg, arm, supreme head, is the original Asiatic Black man, the maker and owner of the planet earth and the one who made the Holy Koran which he applies to every mile of land one year to equal his home circumference, who is the all-eye-seeing Allah see all.
B-BORN: be means to exists. Born is to be brought into existence physically and mentally. Just as it takes 9 months to bring a child into this world (physically), it takes 9 stages (from knowledge to born) to be born mentally through Allah's Mathmatics.
breakdown by 5 percenters: Be is to be myself so O ca make the knowledge born to build powers and babies to teach them the math born mentally god, planting the seed of life into the womb of the wisdom borning the strong part, the understanding.
you must be born physically first then you be born (twice) mentally, and the ones who haven't been born (twice) mentally, is the 85% the poison animal eaters, slaves of the mental death and power, people who worship a mystery god. These are the ones that got to be born again.
C-SEE: is to understand clearly through the 3rd eye which is the mind. Your 2 physical eyes are but the doorways to the third eye which is the all-eye seeing.
breakdown by 5 percenters: is to see something in a clear picture through the physical eye which the mental eye detects at eh same time, cause soon as you do the knowledge, your mind be drawing up an understanding so you can counteract with the wisdom to make the cipher complete. The mind is justice, righteous and truth.
to see is to understand; at one time we couldn't truly see the trick thrown over our eyes, but we've been born twice and know that we are Allah the supreme eye that can see all.
D-DIVINE: one must be divine, meaning pure and refined, in order to destroy all negativity.
breakdown by 5 percenters: is something that is being purified from negative things. God himself is divine because he builds upon possitive to keep it divine so it can't be destroyed.
in order for you to be divine, you must destroy all negative thoughts in you brain by building on possitive thoughts, and in this day and time the only way you can be divine is by building with i-self-lord-and-master. (ISLAM)
E-EQUALITY: is to deal equal in all aspects of life. Equality is also the wisdom's (woman) limitation. Due to the fact she only has 6 ounces of brain cells.
breakdown by 5 percenters: is dealing with my alike. Equality is dealing with the devil and wisdom. It deals with them both because it's their limitation which they cannot go above because they would be dealing with god-cipher-divine (G.O.D) itself.
F-FATHER: is one who is qualified to give life both physically and mentally. Physically to Fat-her with the divine seed of god which is the understanding (child). Mentally to Fat-her with the proper knowledge so that she may properly raise the understanding (child).
breakdown by 5 percenters: is when one furthers one's education. Onlt to fat-her with the knowledgeof self so they won't be mentally dead or dumb, deaf, and blind to the reality of life.
is to father (fat-her) the young with the knowledge of self which is righteousness and by teaching them the science of everything in life which is love, peace, and happiness.
G-GOD: is every original man(asiatic black man) on the planet earth. Every man is god by nature God is the original man who posses 7 1/2 ounces of original brain cells.
is the one who knows and understands all that consists in his cipher. God reveals to others taht they are the gods and queens of the planet earth. Allah is god, god is Allah who is the son of man.
is the supreme being, the original man, the one who is a winner without an opponent in everything he deals with, because god put all things here by wisdoming his power and knowledging his equality from all things he built on.
H-HE or HER: he or her has the power to build or destroy, depending in his or her level of awareness, meaning supreme intelligence
breakdown by 5 percenters: be the ones who shine the light so that he could build her to the fullest equality.
must refine her with the knowledge of he, which is god, in order to build and born a strong foundation to carry out civilization through the queen (her).
I-ISLAM or EYE:
|THE #1 SYMBOLIZES
KNOWLEDGE: which is the first aspect of life. Knowledge is infinite.
THE #2 SYMBOLIZES WISDOM: wisdom is the way knowledge is manifested. Wisdom is the bridge between knowledge & understanding. (wisdom is a woman)
THE #3 SYMBOLIZES UNDERSTANDING: understanding is to see clearly with your mental, meaning your 3rd eye which is your mind. (to have a clear picture with you mind)
THE #4 SYMBOLIZES CULTURE or FREEDOM: culture is the way of life. The way of life for five percenters is Islam. Islam is righteous if you are living righteous you have a freedome from negatory thoughts & actions. For the original man with knowledge of his true self the culture is I-God for he realized that he is God himself. (freedom is to speak the truth)
THE #5 SYMBOLIZES POWER or REFINEMENT: power is the truth of god being made known to the uncivilized who lack the knowledge of self. Power is the ability to manifest your understanding of life. Refinement is to refind your mind mentally & physically. ( refindment is to refind culture)
THE #6 SYMBOLIZES EQUALITY: equality means to deal equal
THE #7 SYMBOLIZES GOD: god, which is ALLAH the supreme being sole controller of the universe. Supreme means most high & being means existence. (God rules the universe. God can show and prove the highest form of intelligence that exist)
THE #8 SYMBOLIZES BUILD & DESTROY: Build means to build on possitive thoughts & actions. Destroy means to destroy all devilishment. To subtract to take away. (build is elevation by adding onto life possitively)
THE #9 SYMBOLIZES BORN: Born is to be brought out the darkness into light. Born is to make something known. #9 is born, as it takes 9 months, and 9 stages to manifest or make anything complete within itself.
THE #0 SYMBOLIZES CIPHER: which is a 360 degree circle of perfection. 120 degrees of knowledge, 120 degrees of wisdom, 120 degrees of understanding. (with out just one of the 120 degrees your cipher is incomplete. O ) *
The expressions "Word is bond," "Break it down," "Peace," "droppin' science" and "represent" all come from Five Percenter ideology. "Word is Bond" in conventional Nation of Islam, as indicated by this reference
1. Who is the Original man?
Ans. The original man is the Asiatic Black man; the Maker; the Owner; the Cream of the planet Earth - Father of Civilization, God of the Universe.
Lesson number one, question number 11 says:
"HAVE YOU NOT LEARNED THAT YOUR WORD SHALL BE BOND REGARDLESS OF WHOM OR WHAT?"
Ans. "YES. MY WORD IS BOND AND BOND IS LIFE AND I WILL GIVE MY LIFE BEFORE MY WORD SHALL". FAIL.
5% NATION FACTS
- The total area of the land and water of the planet Earth is 196,940,000 square miles.
- The circumference of the planet Earth is 24,896 miles.
- The diameter of the Earth is 7,926 miles.
- The area of the Land is 57,255,000 square miles.
- The area of the Water is 139,685,000 square miles.
- The Pacific Ocean covers 68,634,000 square miles,
- The Atlantic Ocean covers 41,321,000 square miles.
- The Indian Ocean covers 29,430,000 square miles.
- The Lakes and Rivers cover 1,000,000 square miles.
- The Hills and Mountains cover 14,000,000 square miles.
- The Islands are 1,910,000 square miles.
- The Deserts are 4,861,000 square miles.
- Mount Everest is 29,141 feet high.
- The Producing Land is 29,000,000 square miles.
- The Earth weighs six sextillion tons - (a unit followed by 21 ciphers).
- The Earth is 93,000,000 miles from the Sun.
- The Earth travels at the rate of 1,037 1/3 miles per hour.
- Light travels at the rate of 186,000 miles per second.
- Sound ravels at the rate of 1,120 feet per second.
- The diameter of the Sun is 853,000 miles.
5% Ideology Influences Rap Music & Youth
I was raised like a Muslim
Prayin'to the East
--Gangstarr, "Who'sGonna Take the Weight" (Step in the Arena)
Consider the opening segment from a recording called "Allahu Akbar" by rap artists Brand Nubian. One possible interpretation of this song, which juxtaposes the opening of the Islamic call to prayer (idhân) and hip-hop beats, is that it suggests affinities between African-American and Middle Eastern Islamic culture. In fact, this paper is part of a larger project which includes an investigation of such connections.1 But the reality is far more complicated than one of simple "affinity." Let me introduce a few complications at the outset.
First, at the level of musical style. The cut "Allahu Akbar" is quite untypical of what I am going to label here, for the sake of convenience, Islamic rap. Although a remarkable number of prominent US rappers identify themselves as Muslims, it is extremely rare for them to throw musical samples from the Arabo-Islamic world into the mix. Orthodox Muslims consider setting the call to prayer (idhân) to music and drums harâm, forbidden, and many Muslims would be shocked by Brand Nubian's "Allahu Akbar".2 Technically, one "chants" or "recites" (tilâwa) the call to prayer, one does not "sing" (ghanniya) it; "recitation" and "music" are seen as distinct categories which should be kept separate.
Second, a complication at the level of doctrine. The Islamic "sect"/group to which Brand Nubian belong, known by outsiders as the Five Percent Nation of Islam, by insiders as the Nation of Gods and Earths, hold beliefs so far removed from mainstream Islamic teachings as to be virtually unrecognizable as Islamic to a majority of Muslims. For example, the chant "allahu akbar" ("God is Greatest") in the context of this Brand Nubian song means something very different than in mainstream Islamic beliefs. God/Allah, for Five Percenters, is not the Divinity as conventionally defined by the monotheistic faiths. God is the black man. For orthodox Muslims, this is shirk, un-Islamic polytheism.
Among the commercially successful and critically hailed rappers who belong to the Nation of Gods and Earths are: Rakim (Allah) of Eric B and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Poor Righteous Teachers, Busta Rhymes, Leaders of the New School, The Guru of the group Gangstarr, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, and Mobb Deep (whose latest release entered the Billboard charts at #6 on December 1, 1996). All members of the group, Wu Tang Clan, belong to the Five Percent Nation, including those whose solo work has sold in the millions: Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Raekwon, and most recently, Ghost Face Killer, whose album Ironman charted at #2 in November [sales?]). The Grammy Award-winning Digable Planets are also part of the Five Percent orbit,6 and the Digables' second release Blowout Comb is loaded with Five-Percent references. In fact, many more noted rappers belong to Five Percent Nation than to Minister Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam (NOI). (The two groups are closely related ideologically.) Prominent rappers who are NOI members or sympathizers include Ice Cube, Public Enemy, Kam, Professor Griff, and Paris. Jeru the Damaja, whose second album, Wrath of the Math, hit the Top Ten album charts in November, belongs to another Islamic sect, Ausar Auset, which is close to Five Percent Nation. Only a handful of significant rappers belong to more orthodox US strands of Islam (Warith Deen Muhammad's American Muslim Mission, or, the Sunnis). The Roots, whose album Illadelph Halflife also crashed the Top Ten this November, have Sunni and 5% members.
Despite all the Grammy Awards, the tens of millions of units sold, and the Fugees' high-profile references to Farrakhan / Ramadan / Qur'an, this Islamic infiltration of the cultural mainstream has, surprisingly, gone virtually without comment, whether from the popular media or the academy. This general silence with regard to Islamic rap is even true of the most acute African-American or Afro-British criticism of the hip-hop scene (for instance, Tricia Rose, Paul Gilroy, Russell A. Potter, Greg Tate).7 An example of such avoidance is an important and much-cited essay by Black British critic Paul Gilroy, entitled "It Ain't Where You're From, It's Where You're At...The Dialectics of Diasporic Identification." The title cites a line from Eric B. and Rakim's rap song, "In the Ghetto." According to Gilroy, the song "directly inspired the production" of the essay (1991:3), and Gilroy adds that rapper Rakim has produced "the most complex and exciting poetry to emerge from the Hip Hop movement" (1991: 3). Gilroy invokes the lyrics of Rakim Allah here in what is a very compelling argument against what he calls ethnic absolutism/racial essentialism and in favor of "fractal patterns of cultural and political affiliation" (1991: 14). "It ain't where you're from, it's where you're at" would appear to encapsulate the argument that what really matters is not biology or origin but politics and affiliation. Yet Gilroy makes no mention of other lines from the same song that are arguably essentialist and absolutist Five Percent allusions. For instance, Rakim mentions those who "lived in the caves" (the white men), the Original Asiatic Black man ("they couldn't cave me in / cause I'm the Asian"), the "third eye" (the mind, in 5% terminology), and he states, "From knowledge to born back to knowledge precise," another occult Five Percent reference.8
Many "progressive" academics are heavily invested in the "oppositional" quality of African-American rap and are therefore perhaps made uncomfortable by the possibility that "Islam" could be a vehicle of resistance.9 Many scholars, for instance, have written about the group Public Enemy (PE), widely regarded as having produced some of the most incisive political rap, but there has been little attention to PE's Islamic sympathies, even though the group's lyrics, the subject of intensive study and citation, make very overt references to NOI doctrine.10 The other reason for the lack of critical attention to Islam in rap is that many Islamic references are either not obvious or simply occult. The cultural critic interested in rap but who has not bothered to study the beliefs of Nation of Islam or the Nation of Gods and Earths will, of course, not catch the allusions.11 Chuck D of Public Enemy's oft-cited claim that rap music is "CNN for black people," a vehicle to convey the crisis-ridden reality of the urban black community, must therefore be problematized. Although the appalling conditions of the Post-Fordist ghetto are a significant theme of the best rap music (including of course, Islamic rap), rap's messages are not merely about the "real," about "authenticity." Islamic rap's lyrical illegibility is not just a question of signifyin(g), of rappers playing Black word games that white outsiders cannot comprehend (see Potter 1995:81-85). For although Five Percenters are a familiar presence in Black urban communities, African-Americans often do not fully understand Five Percent messages either (see d to tha j 1992:10; James 1992:16). Full comprehension is only possible for the initiate, and many allusions appear to be aimed specifically at insiders.
Praises are due to Allah, that's me
--Poor Righteous Teachers, "Butt Naked Booty Bless" (Holy Intellect)
The Five Percent Nation was founded by Clarence 13X, who joined the NOI Temple No. 7 in Harlem in the early 1950s (when it was led by Malcolm X) and became a lieutenant in the Fruit of Islam (the NOI security force) and a student minister. In the early sixties Clarence began to question the NOI doctrine that God had appeared in Detroit in 1930 in the person of Master Farad Muhammad (pronounced Fa-rád). (It was Farad who passed on his teachings to his messenger, Elijah Muhammad.) Clarence 13X reportedly began to doubt that Farad was God, since the NOI taught that the Original (Black) Man was Allah (see Lincoln 1994:69), and Farad looked white (see photo in ???). (Farad, as we will discuss later, was probably an Arab). Clarence 13X began to teach that the black man collectively was God. He was reprimanded in 1963, left the NOI along with a few followers, changed his name from Clarence 13X to Allah, and began preaching to the youth on the streets of Harlem.
Father Allah, as his followers came to call him, taught that the 5% are those black men with "knowledge of self." This 5% knows their divinity, and uses that knowledge to release the hidden resources of black man. Once a man has tapped his hidden talents, he is a God. Most members refer to themselves as Gods rather than Five Percenters, reserving the latter term for those who have only begun studying the knowledge.
Why? That's most asked by 85
--Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets
I fear for the 85 who don't got a clue
--Method Man, on Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Rawhide" (Return to the 36 Chambers: The DirtyVersion)
The 85% are those without the knowledge, the mentally blind, deaf and dumb who are bent on self-destruction. The 10% are the bloodsuckers of the poor, those who have knowledge and power but who use it to mystify and abuse the 85%. The 10% include the "grafted" white devil (created, according to Farad's teaching, by the evil scientist Yacub approximately 6000 years ago12) as well as the orthodox Muslims and Christian preachers who preach that god is a "spook" or a "mystery god."
To hear my people been lost for over 400 years
And they tried this mystery God
And all they got was hard times
--Brand Nubian, "Ain't No Mystery" (In God We Trust)
The 5% are the poor righteous teachers who preach the divinity of (black) man, the god who is "manifest" (not a spook, not a mystery god) and who will save the 85% from destruction.13
Father Allah's other signal contribution besides his theological innovations with regard to the divinity of the black man was that he took the doctrine of Master Farad and Elijah Muhammad to the street. In particular, he disseminated Farad Muhammad's secret teachings, known as the "Lost-Found Muslim Lessons," which are arranged in question-and-answer format (and seem to have been modeled on the catechism of the Masons).14 At the time, NOI members were not allowed to discuss the tradition with outsiders and were supposed to keep it a complete secret. In the early '60s, the NOI Temple hierarchy monopolized the lessons and guarded them from the rank and file. Father Allah also developed his own system of teachings, known as the Supreme Mathematics and the Supreme Alphabets (Prince-A-Cuba 1990: 9-10). The "divine sciences" of Supreme Mathematics and Alphabets are sets of principles, attached to numerals and to the letters of the alphabet, which serve as the keys to divine knowledge. For Five Percenters, the "science of Supreme Mathematics is the key to understanding man's relationship to the universe" ("What We Teach"). Islam, for the Nation of Gods and Earths, is a mathematics-based science, a way of life and not a religion, not a set of beliefs ("Why We Are Not Muslims"). Prince-A-Cuba's description of Farad's lessons applies equally well to those of Father Allah: they were "an esoteric ritual containing keys for recognition between fellow members; a cohesive world view; and a tradition that could be explained only to initiates" (1992).
Father Allah focused his recruitment efforts on the youth of Harlem, and eventually branched out to other East Coast cities. Although Father Allah was gunned down in 1969 by unknown assassins,15 his movement lived on under a collective leadership. The organization's membership, mainly recruited from among urban Black youth, has continued to grow and to spread, reaching West Coast cities in 1987-88. Young Five Percenters are renowned for their tremendous oral skills, gained through intensive drilling in the lessons and through street preaching. Therefore they are amazingly loquacious when "droppin' science" or teaching 5% lessons.
I drop science like a scientist16
My melody's in code
--Eric B. and Rakim, "My Melody" (Paid in Full)
No doubt the verbal proficiency that Gods gain by memorizing the lessons and taking their ministry to the street are important factors for their rise to preeminence in the rap world.
Let me now "sample" just a few rap manifestations of Five Percent teachings.
1. Simply Mathematical. Five Percent rap is full of numerology, based on Father Allah's Supreme Mathematics. For Five Percenters, "the science of Supreme Mathematics is the key to understanding man's relationship to the universe" ("What We Teach"). Of great significance to the Gods, for instance, is the number 7.
G is the seventh letter made
--Eric B. and Rakim, "No Competition" (Follow the Leader)
Seven is the number of perfection. It stands for the seventh letter of the alphabet, G, and for God. (Five Percenters originated the homeboy expression, "'sup [what's up], G?"; originally "G" stood for God, not gangsta.) According to Jah-Z-Allah, keeper of the 5% website, "The God sees in cycles of 7 colors of the rainbow and hears in 7 cycles of notes on the musical scale."17 According to Farad's lessons, the Original (Black) Man has 7 1/2 ounces of brain, the (white) devil, only 6 ounces (Farad, Lost Found Muslim Lesson No. 2). The flag of the Five Percenters, known as the Universal Flag of Islam, contains a 7 (symbol of God) surrounded by a crescent moon (signifying the black woman) and a star (signifying the child).
Now I'm rolling with the seven and the crescent
Puffin' some expression
Manifestin' today's lesson
--Digable Planets, "9th Wonder" (Blowout Comb)
2. Break it down. Five Percenters are extremely adept at the "breaking down" of words, in order to arrive at their true, esoteric meaning, in accordance with Master Farad's and Father Allah's lessons. For instance, from Pete Rock and CL Smooth:
Libraries, broken down as lies buried...
Television tell a lie vision
-- "Anger in the Nation" (Mecca and the Soul Brother)
--Or, the Roots:
U-n-i- verse - you and I verse.
-- "UNIverse at War" (Illadelph Halflife)
--Buckshot (of Black Moon): all we need is Jesus, which means Jes- us, or "Just Us," to save ourselves.
--The name of rapper AZ, short for Asiatic, which broken down is Age and Attic, broken down again is age = body and attic = mind.
--Or from Brand Nubian:
You got to know the ledge of wise and dome
And understand your culture of freedom
-- "All For One" (One For All)
--According to Father Allah's Supreme Mathematics,
Knowledge is the Foundation of all in Existence. It is the Original [Asiatic Black] Man, who 'knows the ledge' or the boundaries of himself and knows that there is 'no ledge' or no ending to his circumference...Wisdom is your Wise Words, Ways and Actions...Wisdom is developed from the knowledge of Self, which allow[s] One to Wise or Speak Intelligently from the Dome or the Mind.
I be the universal, the Biochemical
Arm, Leg, Leg, Arm, Head is the physical
That keeps rhymin' until it's unbearable
--The Genius, "True Fresh MC" (Words From the Genius)
Allah, a.k.a. Arm Leg Leg Arm Head, is the Black Man from Asia (Supreme Alphabet).
In fact, many 5% terms, such as "droppin' science," "'sup G?" and "let me break it down for ya" have achieved such common currency within the hip-hop community that they have lost their original resonance, at least for fans who know nothing of Islam in rap. Even the expression "word" has a 5% origin: Gods uttered "word" in response to someone who had stated a profound truth (Nuruddin 1994: 127). The greeting "peace," heard throughout the hip-hop world, was originally a word of greeting for the Moorish Science Temple, an Islamic predecessor of the 5% Nation (Fauset 1957: 507).]
Other 5% manifestations in rap demonstrate a great deal of heterogeneity of belief, due no doubt to the fact that, unlike the NOI, the Nation of Gods and Earth is not organized according to a strict hierarchy, but has a collective leadership. Some 5% rappers, in line with their brothers in the NOI, oppose the consumption of alcohol and marijuana:
Stay off the drugs if ya wanna be down with this posse
--Poor Righteous Teachers, "144K" (Black Business)
But others are well-known for advocating the consumption of Moët and blunts (Brand Nubian, Nas, and especially the Wu Tang Clan).
I drink Moët with Medusa
Give em shotguns in hell
From the spliff that I lift and inhale
--Nas, "It Ain't Hard to Tell" (Illmatic)
I got, fat bags of skunk
I got, White Owl blunts
And I'm about to go get lifted
--Wu Tang Clan, "Method Man" (Enter the Wu-Tang [36 Chambers])
Lord Jammar of Brand Nubian explains, "See, in the Five Percent Nation, each man is the sole controller of his own universe. If you're the god of your universe, you set up your own laws" (Ahearn 1991:57).18
As for gender, the Five Percenters are less likely to deploy the "bitch/ho" schema of representing women that is favored, as is so well known, by so-called gangsta rappers. Yet 5% rap remains an overwhelmingly male activity; the only female rappers in this orbit are Lady Mecca of the Digable Planets, Lauryn Hill of the Fugees, and a very minor character in the Wu Tang roster, vocalist Blue Raspberry; recently these have been joined by the new R&B sensation who has been compared to Billie Holliday, Erykah Badu. According to Five Percent beliefs, only a man can achieve the level of perfection symbolized by a 7, whereas a woman can only reach a 6. Gods refer to Women members as Earths, or Queens.
Peace to all the Queens
Submitting to the sevens
-- Poor Righteous Teachers, "Can I Start This" (Holy Intellect).
Just as Earth revolves around the sun, woman is subordinate to man.19 A Queen or "Earth," must cover 3/4 of her body, just as 3/4 of the earth is covered by water, and so 5% women wear head coverings and long loose-fitting garments. A female Five Percenter is known as a "muslim," unlike the male God, because she witnesses to the fact that her man is Allah (Nuruddin 1994: 128). According to Sincere Allah Merciful God, "God is not a Muslim. God does not submit" ("Why We Are Not Muslims"). So although Five Percenters tend to treat women with respect, their orientation creates little space for female 5% rap performers or the articulation of women's issues.20
Girls girls these are the details
I like sophisticated liberated females
Dutch treat I have no qualms with it...
Because with all due respect
I wanna stick it to you
--Gang Starr, "Conscience Be Free" (No More Mr. Nice Guy)
I ain't down for a honey who don't wanna submit...
See I'm not the kind to let a woman run it
--Brand Nubian, "Love Me or Leave Me Alone" (In God We Trust)
But again, there is variability, as Digable Planets have recorded one song against right-to-lifers (whom the Digables call fascists) and in favor of abortion rights ("La Femme Fétal") and refer positively to Black feminist theorist bell hooks in the song "Dog It.".21
Homosexuality also comes in for its share of bashing in 5% rap, no less than in other rap varieties. Yet despite homophobic lyrics, Five-Percenters, particularly members of the Wu Tang Clan, have been rap leaders with regard to participation in AIDS benefits, some of them sponsored by gay organizations. Five-Percent rappers Mobb Deep, Pete Rock and the Wu Tang all participated in the album, America is Dying Slowly,22 released in June 1996, whose proceeds go to fight AIDS. In November 1995, Method Man along with rappers Queen Latifah and KRS-One, plus funksters Kool and the Gang,23 performed at an AIDS Dance-a-thon staged by New York's Gay Men's Health Crises Center that raised $1.1 million for the AIDS battle.24 Raekwon and Ghost Face Killer of the Wu performed in February 1996 at another AIDS benefit at the Roxy Total, New York.25
As for the subject of the white devils (referred to variously in 5% lyrics as snakes, serpents, the Yacub crew, skunks, cave dwellers, etc.) here too 5% rappers express a variety of opinion. Brand Nubian and Poor Righteous Teachers represent the hardline position. Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers has asserted, "All the prophets have tried to reform white man, but he cannot be reformed. White man continued to do devilishment" (Ahearn 1991: 76), and "the potency of melanin in the black man makes him naturally rhythmic" (Eure and Spady 1991:74).
Most definitely Poor Righteous Teachers never be down
We're with the kings and crowns not clowns
No blue eyes and blonde hair is over here
--Poor Righteous Teachers, "Word from the Wise" (Holy Intellect)
I'm makin' devils cower to the Caucus Mountains
-Wu Tang Clan, "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'", Enter the Wu-Tang
And yo the devil's got assassination squads
Want to kill niggaz cuz they're scared of God
--Gang Starr, "Tonz O' Gunz" (Hard to Earn)
Other 5% rappers have more nuanced views. Lakim Shabazz, for instance, asserts, "I don't feel that every white person is the devil...But the majority of the ones I've come across are sort of devilish to me 'cause I feel it's in their nature" (Ahearn 1991: 76); Rakim also claims (despite his references to the cave man, mentioned above) not to be prejudiced against or hate whites as a group (Ahearn 1991:76; James 1992:17). Nas, too, appears to occupy the less dogmatic pole:
It'll be paradise life relaxin'
Black, Latino, and Anglo-Saxon
--"If I Ruled the World" (It Was Written)
This moderation of ethnic absolutism may be influenced by recent moves within the Nation of Islam, in which the devil is regarded as an evil characteristic that is also within the black man, not just a characteristic of the white.
A quick comparison of the Wu Tang Clan and the Digable Planets is another way to suggest something of the range of 5% rap. The Wu's sound mix, produced by member RZA, is hard, abrasive, uncompromising, and often, unsettling. Check out "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothin' Ta F'Wit":
As for the deep sources of 5% (as well as NOI beliefs), here too there is a remarkable heterogeneity, even when it comes to direct Middle East/Islamic influences. For instance, Noble Drew Ali, whose Moorish Science Temple is a direct predecessor of the Nation of Islam, traveled to Egypt, where he claims to have been initiated into the ancient Eastern mysteries. Noble Drew taught that blacks were "Asiatics" and specifically Moors, whose ancestors lived in Morocco before their forcible transportation to North America. But Noble Drew was equally influenced by non-Islamic sources. His prophecy, called The Circle Seven Koran, is nearly half based on an apocryphon, The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ by "Levi" H. Dowling, an account of Christ's journey and stay in India from his adolescence until the age of 30 (Wilson 1993: 21). Another significant influence on Noble Drew was Masonry, from whom he seems to have adapted, among other things, the Moorish initiation rites, catechistic forms of teachings, esoteric traditions, and the practice of wearing the fez (Wilson 1993: 26). Noble Drew and the NOI also appear to have drawn on Masonic numerology, especially the importance of the numeral 7 (Rashad 1994: 66).
The belief that the alphabet and numerology are esoteric keys to wisdom also probably have their deeper origins in Islamic Sufi traditions (and perhaps the Jewish Kabbala) (Nuruddin 1994: 122).30 The concern with occult sciences and the mystery of numbers is shared as well by Isma'ili Shi'ites and the Druze sect, an esoteric offshoot from mainstream Shi'ism. Druze teaching additionally involves secrecy and the revelation of doctrine in stages to initiates; such parallels with the NOI led sociologist Morroe Berger to conjecture that Master Farad, the "God" of the NOI, was a Druze or an Isma'ili (Rashad 1994: 77). This idea is not farfetched, for there is good evidence suggesting that Farad was an Arab from Greater Syria (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine or Transjordan), including: the one extant photo of Farad; the fact that he was a peddler (a very common occupation for Arab Druze immigrants in the midwest during the thirties); and Farad's own claims to his followers that he came from Mecca.31 A final deep source are the Jehovah's Witnesses. Both Farad and Elijah Muhammad encouraged followers to read the books of Jehovah's Witnesses' leader Joseph Rutherford, and Adib Rashad has demonstrated the parallels in eschatology between the NOI and the Witnesses (1994:181-184).
As for the Five Percent notions that Black man is God, these are consonant with Gnostic tendencies that one encounters in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, especially in Sufi and Shi'ite spheres (including Isma'ilism and the Druze). In such conceptions, God is conceived as a spirit, a spirit that is manifested in man and only in man. For the Druze, the founder al-Hakim is God in person; for Ismai'lis, the imams are embodiments of divine light, and they show the divine potential of man. For NOI and 5%-ers, Elijah Muhammad, Louis Farrakhan and Father Allah represent the fullness of God in Man, to which men can aspire. The 5%-ers and NOI have simply given this Gnostic tendency an Afrocentric twist.
In terms of thinking about the 5% Nation and its relation to Islamic peoples and beliefs, which have been circulating in North America, unobserved, on the margins, ever since the beginnings of the European invasion of this continent, I find helpful Peter Lamborn Wilson's notion of "sacred drift." Wilson describes sacred drift as a process whereby Islamic heretical cultures of resistance (and in some cases, orthodox Islamic tenets) are carried into the West, by Western heretics, transformed, and incorporated into our own cultures of resistance, our own heresies. This circulation of heresies requires, Wilson argues, a strategy of tact, even silence, but communicativeness is not ruled out (Wilson 1993:5, 7). Apocryphal texts also play an important role in these dynamics. "In the world of apocrypha," Wilson observes,
the Images of established religion and canonical texts acquire a kind of mutability, a tendency to drift, to reflect the subjectivities of the (often anonymous) visionaries who sift through fragments in order to produce more fragments... (1993:22).
My feeling is that to judge 5% (or NOI) beliefs in relation to a baseline of Islamic orthodoxy,32 and then to condemn these beliefs as un-Islamic, is not very useful here. (This is the frequent charge of various orthodox Muslims [Blacks included] in the US against 5%-ers and especially the NOI.) I think that is more helpful to regard the Nation of Gods and Earths as our own, Western heresy. A Western heresy that asserts: the divinity of the black man, as against white images of Jesus; that the black man, not the white man, is the original man, and that white man is the biological descendant of the black; that the white man is, by nature and practice, devilish and primitive and the black, civilized; that white teaching, based on technology, is simply "tricknology," and that Black science, based on mathematics, is a superior form of understanding; that Armageddon is coming soon, that the wicked rule of the white man is about to end, and that the global majority non-whites will soon come to power.33
What is also interesting here is the fact that these heretical, esoteric teachings have been propelled, from their heretofore obscured places of origin, to the center of global culture. If Moorish Science and NOI emerged during the Fordist era of massive black migration to the industrial cities of the Midwest and the Northeast, the next wave, Islamic rap, belongs to the post-Fordist era of global restructuration, de-industrialization, and crack economies. As Islamic rappers infiltrate the Top Ten, as Minister Farrakhan brings a million men together for the purpose of atonement, we need to begin to acknowledge "Islamic" and Middle Eastern presences in our midst. The study of such phenomena will require a serious intellectual engagement with the difficult issue, for secular academics, of "religion" and spirituality, and an engagement that dispenses with labels like fundamentalism, extremism, ethnic absolutism, irrationalism, myth, racism, etc. (see Asad 1993; Pimienta-Bey 1995).
Another pitfall, I would add, would be to adopt a position of fear, shock and horror that certain 5%-er beliefs--for instance, the divinity of the black man and the devilish nature of the white man--are popular today among black youth. In some ways, I am rather ambivalent about bringing these views and their significance into visibility, given the hysterically hostile media and government reaction to Louis Farrakhan as well as the abysmal mainstream scapegoating of Black urban youth. If we think that some of these doctrines are problematic or heretical, we need to try to understand them, to engage them, and to try to work to change conditions that produce them.
Department of Anthropology
University of Arkansas
Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters With Judaism (Religion in
Religion of Islam and the Nation of Islam: What Is the Difference?
The Different Aspects of Islamic Culture: The Individual and Society in Islam
Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam
Peter Lamborn Wilson
Elijah Muhammad and the Ideological Foundation of the Nation of Islam
Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postmodernism (Suny Series
in Postmodern Culture)
Russell A. Potter
Muslim Communities in North America
Jane Idleman Smith
(Nuruddin, Yusuf. 1994. "The Five Percenters: A Teenage Nation of Gods and Earths.")
Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Cultures
Nation Conscious Rap: The Hip Hop Vision (Afro-Americanization of Knowledge
Joseph D. Eure