“I fathered your style, you can’t believe I’m still nice” boasts Tragedy Khadafi over eery piano keys on the openener ‘Narcotic Lines.’ From the mouth of many emcees it would be mere hyperbole but when you’re the former ‘Intelligent Hoodlum’ it sounds more like a statement of simple fact. During his first incarceration, Tragedy ran across the 5% Percent philosophy that would be ingrained in the dense slang of his songs. Going from a junior member of the Juice Crew to an O.G. spearheading Capone & Noreaga’s War Report album, his lyrics combining philosophy, revolutionary politics, conspiracy theories and street aesthetics with a thug’s mentality inspired generations of rappers. Virtually all Queens emcees that came after him owe a debt to him as they all incorporated parts of his blueprint into their persona, but the revolving door that the penal system could’ve installed for him ensured that mainstream success always eluded Tragedy Khadafi. Now free again, he drops the third installment in the Thug Matrix series, attempting to wake up those that slept.
‘Still Breathin‘ is not a song lambasting those that might’ve forgotten him but a victory in itself against a system set against him. It succintly sums up his drive: “Every morning I piss in a cup, my motivation is to go hard, wake all my hood n*ggas up”. That Thug Matrix 3 does so over brooding, dark beats won’t convert many neophyte rap fans enamored with today’s more club-friendly sounds, but they’re a perfect fit for the Queens veteran. It might be the fact that he never attained the star status many of his peers reached but Tragedy sounds as hungry on the mic as the day he first stepped to it. This ensures that the album maintains a hard-hitting sound despite a slight lack of variety in subject matter and atmosphere, and the relatively succinct length of ten tracks further holds off the need for a skip button.
Times have changed, as evidenced by the current events in which the Libyan dictator Tragedy Khadafi named himself after is embroiled. The real Qadaffi is far from the strongarmed, seemingly irreplaceable leader he once was, and while rebel forces representing a vast majority of their country run up on his last strongholds he remains steadfast in his hiding place letting those still loyal to him fight in his name. Rap’s Khadafi undoubtedly once chose his moniker as a name both inspiring images of African strength and that of a man of his people, and while his namesake veers away from that image nowadays, the intelligent hoodlum still attempts to rile his peers and open the eyes of those that surround him. While something similar might’ve once been said about the Libyan dictator as well, Tragedy Khadafi seems about as far as you can get from the type of guy that lets others do his fighting for him. His sound is no longer one that’ll generate hit records, but that’s no detriment to the strength of his work. With fist-pumping music featuring many samples of political speeches throughout, Tragedy Khadafi makes a strong case for his brand of audiosonic guerilla warfare.
Tragedy Khadafi – ILL-Luminous Flow