Last week we published the first part of our exclusive double feature with Tragedy Khadafi where he talked about a drunk Big Pun puking in the studio without missing a beat in his verse, him stealing Chuck D’s phone number from Marley Marl’s phone book and people who were to shook to jump on ‘LA LA.’ This week, things get a little more serious as we delve into Tragedy’s religious beliefs, his philosophies and views on education and society as a whole. Grab a tall drink, we’re in it for the long haul.
TRU: Your tracks are often filled with terms used by the 5% Nation, how vital is the 5% philosophy to you?
The 5% philosophy is very vital to me, ’cause we gotta know and understand what a five-percenter is. A five-percenter could be anybody, it could be someone who practices the religion of Islam, someone who practices Catholicism or Christianity, the cousin of catholicism. It could be someone who practices the culture of Buddhism, someone who practices the Tao way, or whatever have you. A five-percenter is basically a poor righteous teacher. A teacher who doesn’t capitalize off the ignorannce of other people, who doesn’t capitalize off the illiteracy of people, that’s what a five-percenter is. There are a lot if misconceptions about what a five-percenter is. I consider myself and anyone else who teaches righteousness a five-percenter. Now, I’m not a saint. I’ve done my share of dirt, I’ve made my share of bad choices and mistakes which were detrimental to me and others, so I’m not a saint, but I am a poor righteous teacher. In that regard, I am a 5-percenter. A lot of people confuse a 5-percenter with someone who is a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths. Being specific, I am a God Body in the sense that I know that God resides in his body and in his temple, meaning I have a God-conscious mind. I see myself as being in tune with the most high when I’m in that certain state. Again, that doesn’t separate me from anyone else, aside from the fact that I believe that the original man is the highest manifestation of human beings on this planet and thus closer to God than anyone else.
There’s something that’s often misconstrued about five-percenters. A lot of people will say “how can you consider yourself God?” Well, if you’re a Christian, I can take you to the book of John, chapter 10 verse 35, where the Jews attack Jesus and say “It is not for your works that we stone you” -I’m paraphrasing- “For your works are good, but we stone you for blasphemy, for you say that you are God” and Jesus his reply was “Does it not say in your law” -meaning the Lord’s scriptures who came before him, before the Jews that came to attack and persecute him- “Does it not say in your law that ye are God?” So he wasn’t just saying He was God, he was saying WE are God.
TRU: Yeah, there were big discussions about how to interpret Him being God during early Christianity and it wasn’t resolved until the Byzantines cemented the Holy Trinity as official doctrine.
Exactly. I go through struggles with my own people over this, it’s not an easy thing to understand when you’ve indoctrinated by religion. A lot of us are caught up in religion and don’t even realize it. I ain’t gon’ lie, I was for a long time. It took me a long time and more so than anything, it took me a lot courage to get free. I’m still striving for that freedom. Just to elaborate on these questions more, which I love because I’ve studied for these questions and I strive to get understanding for these questions, not only because it allows me to expound on an answer when I’m posed with these questions but also because it gives me a better understanding within myself, and that’s what I really strive for. ‘Cause that’s the highest manifestation of love. But to bring it back 360 from knowledge born back to knowledge, Jesus was a revolutionary. Revolution means to evolve and revolve and in layman’s terms to bring about change. So if the Jews who were persecuting Jesus were about church than obviously Jesus wasn’t about church. If you take it back to the scriptures, Jesus says “I will destroy this church and raise it back up in three days.” He wasn’t talking about a physical church, he was talking about his physical body, his God temple. Jesus knew and understood that he was God and he said “You can’t get to the Father but through me” but he never said that you had to die. In fact, when he was being executed, persecuted and crucified he asked the Father, the one that came before Him, “Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?” You feel were I’m coming from? So all of this is conducive to that question, to the building blocks of being a five-percenter and being a God Body because we gotta understand that God is in us. The more we look outside for God, the more we loose Him.
TRU: As someone who serves multiple sentences yourself, how do you feel about rap’s portrayal and sometimes romanticizing of jail?
There’s nothing to romanticize about a system that’s designed to destroy us at a certain level, to keep us stagnated. To keep us from our families and keep us from developing into men, into fathers, better husbands or brothers or whatever. Sisters and wives too, there’s a lot of women that go to prison. But a lot it is go to prison based on our emotional deficiencies, our diseases so to speak. Not being able to handle this emotionally, not that we can’t handle them but we haven’t developed ways to handle them that are healthy for us. It’s not conducive to our growth and productivity. That’s real talk, that happens to a lot of us. There’s things I found myself doing and places where I never thought I’d be. There’s things I’ve denied in my life out of shame and guilt because I didn’t want them to be revealed, I looked at them as being shameful and weak. When in all reality, we live in, unfortunately, a word that’s very sick. A lot of things placed upon us, that we carry, we didn’t put it there. Now when we carry them on, of course that’s our responsibility to let them go once we realize they’re negative and sick but most times we get to a point where we don’t know how to let it go, so we carry it on. But initially Like most of us, I wasn’t born with a lot of the sicknesses that we have and carry on, because we don’t know how to let them go or don’t strive to let go in a right way. It’s not easy, man, especially once you get knowledge of self it becomes even harder. There’s a lot of things you create within your realm that you use as a medicine, as a buffer, a comfort zone to feel secure when in all reality, it’s insecurity. Once you get knowledge of self and say “Oh well, I’m not supposed to do this, this is wrong” but then you’re like “Damn, how am I gonna feel if I don’t do that?” I’ll use an example: women.
You might have knowledge of self, but before you even got that you were raised to believe that the more women you had, the better a man you were. Look at hip-hop. Let’s not even limit this shit to hip-hop, look at commercials, look at a beer commercial. Look at boxing, in between rounds you got a woman walking around half naked with a round-card up, to gain a man’s attention. That sexuality gains a man’s attention, he’s stuck on that woman. They know, sex sells, it’s gonna grab their attention and keep them captivated. They know that imprinted in our minds is that if you got a lot of women, you’re the man. Now take it to hip-hop, that’s all dudes talk about. Excuse my expression, they talk about fucking. How good they are, how they can get, how they had this one and that one. That ain’t manhood. I did that stupid shit too, for years, that shit is corny. That shit is wack. Straight up and down, I don’t even think like that no more. I feel good I don’t think like that no more. I hurt a lot of people doing that shit and I hurt myself. I hurt people who didn’t deserve to be hurt.
TRU: People often prop up biology as an excuse for that behavior, saying that’s just how a man is biologically wired.
If that’s how a man is biologically wired, imagine how a woman is wired, a 10-pound baby can come out of her vagina, she can take all types of shit. I’m just sayin’. But again, my culture, which is Islam, I Self Lord And Master, is divine. Because my culture teaches me I shouldn’t move around like that, I should only plant my seed in fertile soil. And a woman shouldn’t do that either ’cause she can take shit into her that’s destructive to her. Imagine a woman sleeping with different men, sleeping around and not knowing who the father of her child is. Of course, she can go on a show or take a DNA-test on her own and find out, but what type of shit is that?
When you’re throwing ya shit around, a lot of us did that because we thought that shit was fly. Even when I had knowledge of selfI did that, which is even sadder. With great information comes knowledge, with great knowledge comes wisdom, wisdom is your ways and actions. That means you gotta live that knowledge, and once you start living that knowledge, it brings forth understanding, which is always the best part. Now you can start to live it within your culture, your whole cypher, but if you skip one and go to three, without going through two, wisdom, you got knowledge but not the responsibility that it takes to live on that knowledge. Thus you have quotes like “with great power comes great responsibility” and with great information should come great wisdom.
We’re raised into a certain belief system, a supremacist, sexist, belief system. Women ain’t shit, they’re hoes and all that, but who taught us that? That shit is poison. You had women back in the days that ran whole kingdoms. Cleopatra ran a kingdom, Nefertiti ran a kingdom, Khadija, the prophet Muhammad’s wife, she was older than him. She was holding things down for him! If it wasn’t for Khadija, funding the prophet’s vision of Islam, there would be no Islam right now. She funded that! That’s a woman, fam!
TRU: You added Khadafi onto your name while you came out as simply Tragedy on your first records, what inspired that addition?
You had Wu doing Wu-Gambinos and a lot of artists mimicking Italians, monsters with Italian names and I didn’t want to do that. I don’t have anything against people of that nationality, I got love for ‘em, but I wanted to have a name closer to me. Like an Italian is proud of the name ‘Genovese’ I wanted to have a name in concordance with my Africanism. It got the reaction I wanted it to get, people paved attention to it. And I happened to have a huge respect for Muammar Gaddafi, especially since his was one of the first African countries to gain independence in 1951. He also was one of the individuals who said at his UN address that all Africans should unite. So he’s not just talking and conveying his message to Africans but he’s also putting himself in that realm of Africanism and saying we should all unite. Even Hugo Chavez got alongside him and announced himself as an African saying they should all unite and he’s of Hispanic descent. This was at a UN address, so this is the type of positive influence and the level of understanding that Muammar Gaddafi had. I had a great respect for that and he’s an outlaw, and I love the outlaw. When I watch a movie I root for the bad guy.
TRU: There’s a certain psychological appeal to the bad guy for many people, I believe.
The bad guy always has a certain kind of brain chemistry. He’s different. He’s comfortable being an outcast, I can relate to that. So there’s a lot of reasons I picked that name and it inspired me to perpetuate that and change the name of the boroughs, make everything third world [Iraq for Lefrak, etc.].
TRU: Gaddafi used to have the support of many of his people and probably wouldn’t have stayed in power for so long without but in light of recent events, apparently lost it. Similar to Fidel Castro maybe, who seemed to sincerely want to liberate his people but was so afraid to have the revolution dismantled he eventually turned into a dictator himself.
They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. I looked at it and went over different parts of information… Take Fidel Castro for instance, they want him out!
TRU: Yeah, there certainly are Cubans that want him out, alwith good reason, but a lot of things he did do right by his people too, and he gave them a lot with comparatively little funds.
Of course, but people don’t see that, they want the illusion. It coincides with the Thug Matrix, man. The Matrix is an illusion and people want that illusion. We live in a society that has definitely bought into that illusion. Women don’t wanna cover their body, men wanna be savages, kids wanna be adults, know what I’m saying? It’s twisted. A lot of other countries, with the internet and other technologies, they’re getting a glimpse. Before that, America was the enemy, now they’re getting a glimpse, they’re seeing parties and videos and they see different nationalities partying and they think, wow. You’re having Muslim women loosing their headwrap, popping E in a club. They’re buying into the illusion of this microwave culture. I’m not saying you shouldn’t advance with technology, like you should be living in a cave with candles around, I’m just saying a lot of people are letting their cultures go. Whereas before, people where more culturally orientated. I remember when there was a time, when I was younger, when you went into a Hispanic home, you knew you were in a Hispanic home and I don’t see anything wrong with that, ’cause that’s their culture. You looked around their home and saw certain things that were part of their culture. If you went into a Jamaican home, there was their culture. Now everything is infused, everything is one. A lot of people may not see it that way, they may look at me like I’m a crazy extremist, but there’s a reason for that. A lot of people don’t peep game until it’s too late. People are letting things go and next thing you know they loose their culture and it doesn’t get passed on. You may say “that’s not important, what’s important is we’re all people” but people don’t realize that what you’ve become, was someone’s idea, and what you lost, was a part of your originality. People care more about the latest bag or the latest sneaker but that’s trivial shit. They’re not passing values on. Wether you want to realize it or not, that’s Americanism. Not the dream of America; freedom; equality; hope and change; everyone sticking together, but the underlying meaning and reality of America is not culture-orientated. It’s about commercializing everything and it’s taking the authenticity out of everything. There’s no basketball, the dollar ain’t what it is, those are signs of the times.
On the song ‘Each One Teach One’ I talk about the school system. I was in the studio thinking “I need to write about something different” and read something in a newspaper about the school system, the reason that it’s failing Blacks and Hispanics. It’s not reaching them, it’s not teaching them, it’s failing them and not teaching them anything. They’re eating them alive! I went into a zone and started thinking on when I went to school and why I grew up not to like school. There was a reason, because school wasn’t geared towards me, for me to like it. As a result, I shunned it. If you’re gonna have a school in the ghetto you can’t just teach kids about shit that happened a hundred years who, you gotta teach them life skills too, things that can stimulate their mind when they walk outside of that school and go back to the hood. I had the honor of meeting my son’s teacher and he had a beautiful teacher, she was a nice lady, she seemed sincere about teaching and took a real interest in my son. I appreciated that lady, she was a good teacher, but for the most part that doesn’t happen.
What I love about having children is to stay trying to encourage them, because I know that once they step out of my cipher they’re going into the battlefield. That’s why I don’t shoot them down because I know once they walk into that institution… People look at the devil like it’s a person or a spirit, the devil is these institutions. They way they have it, you gotta put ya kid in these schools, you go to jail for not putting ya kid in school. You can get your child taken from you and be charged with neglect and abuse for not having your kid in school. This is the system we live in, but the child is going to school to get abused! When you’re killing a child’s dream you’re abusing him! When you’re telling him he can’t travel to a certain point you’re putting limits on him, you’re stagnating him and stagnation is death. You’re killing him mentally. I tell my boys “look God, you the God.”