Five Percent Nation

12 Dec 2005

“I fear for the 85 who don't got a clue” ---Method Man

I was volunteering at a Seventh Day Adventist Church recently. As I chatted with some of the young members, the subject of Hip Hop came up. This began as a discussion on the findings of a couple of the members. According to them, some rap music may have anti-religious connotations that therefore go against their Christian beliefs. I listen to rap music and I have never heard any anti-religious undertones in mainstream rap music. So I shared this with the church members. When I asked for more details, they brought up something called the Five Percenters. They briefly told me what they were and how Hip Hop was influenced by them, even showing me a few websites.

With all of this new information spread throughout the church, many young people are now wondering whether they should be listening to music with themes that go against their religion and beliefs.

The Nation of Gods and Earths/Five Percent, according to blackapologetics.com is “an offshoot of the Nation of Islam founded back in 1964 by Clarence 13X who was a minister in Mosque no. 7 under the tutelage of Malcolm X. The movement got its start because Clarence 13X rejected the notion that Wallace Fard Muhammad was God Incarnate. He began teaching that the black man himself was god and the black woman was earth.” The five percent name comes from the belief that eighty-five percent of the population is ignorant, unlearned and uncivilized people who need to be led, ten percent of the population has some knowledge of self, but they use it to control the eighty-five percent instead of liberating them. The remaining five percent are those who possess knowledge of themselves, their origins, and the way the world system really works and their mission is to educate the eighty-five percent. Similar to Muslims, the Five Percenters do not eat pork. But they differ in that they do not follow traditional Islamic teachings, mainly because it is a violation of Islamic Law to equate a human being with God. They do not believe in religion itself, but believe their way of life to be a social movement through what they call “Islam”. Five Percenters believe that the God of the bible is made up and the Bible has no influence.

Many Hip Hop artists are admitted Five Percenters and through the past couple of decades, they have incorporated their beliefs into their lyrics and spread the word from its home of Harlem in New York City to all over America. The Fugees’ song “Vocab/Hip-Hop Remix” for instance goes:

loved P.E. they kept me conscious of what I was saying/ Afrika Bambaata, Poor Righteous Teacher/ Got within myself so it made me a Five Percenter.”

“Listen to rappers from Brooklyn or the Queens Bridge projects,” Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons says. “And you hear Five Percent- speak all in their rhymes. Rakim's poetry is immersed in it. A lot of the poetic images in Hip-Hop are informed by them, from Eric B. Is President (in his references to seven MC''s, which relates to Five Percenter beliefs) up to Erykah Badu''s On and On."

Artists that believe in the teachings of the Five Percenters consist of Erykah Badu, Common, Nas, Sadat X, Wu-Tang Clan, Busta Rhymes, Az, Erik B and Rakim, The Roots and countless others.

The Five Percenters vocabulary is even used by many rappers. That included expressions like “break it down", "droppin' science", "sup G [God]?", "word is bond", "true mathematics" and "360 degrees of knowledge". Along with all this, there is also the coded language of Supreme Mathematics and Supreme Alphabet from Clarence 13X who devised a system where each letter or numeral defines a concept that supposedly unlocks the keys to reality and the universe. Examples from wikipedia.org include

• 1 = Knowledge (the gathering of facts through observing, learning and respecting)

• 2 = Wisdom (wise words being spoken)

• 7 = God (the black man who is the original is god)

• A = Allah (arm, leg, leg, arm, and head)

• B = Be or Born, G = God, T = truth, etc...

Some of the teachings of the Five Percenters are fairly radical, while others just seem as though they are for the empowerment of black people such as: education should be fashioned to enable Blacks to be self-sufficient as a people, children are the link to the future and they must be nurtured, respected, loved, protected, and educated and also the unified black family as a vital building block of communities. By no means can I denounce or call this way of thinking idiotic or cult-like (which many do). After all, who am I to judge others? I can however control what I listen to and from now on, I will actually listen to what these rappers are saying instead of just going with the beat. A few of the ideas of the Five Percenters make sense to me and I can agree with them. But by no means do I agree with most of them. What I can say is the next time you listen to a rap song; listen very closely since you may discover that Five Percenters terminology and ideology is embedded in the lyrics of your favourite song. This may or may not bother you, but you should be aware of it.

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