Perhaps it is blind determination that compelled Killah Priest, Tragedy Khadafi, Hell Razah, Timbo King, and William Cooper to unite and form the supergroup Black Market Militia. Each MC respectively conveys a gritty style of street storytelling underlined with Islamic beliefs, Hebraic teachings, and Five-Percenter ideology. This combination of the secular and the spiritual leads to quite an interesting dichotomy. As Tragedy explains, “I believe all of us have a street side to us, as well as a conscious side.” The vibe between these five MC’s was immediate, and what initially was meant to be a one-song collaboration eventually expanded into an entire album.
With musical roots stemming back to the Wu-Tang Clan and Juice Crew era, Black Market Militia has the potential to shake up a lot of heads in the Hip-Hop industry. Several members of the group sat down with AllHipHop.com to discuss how their collaborative project came about, and whether or not the world is ready for what these MC’s really have to say.
AllHipHop.com: How’d the Black Market Militia project first come about?
Killah Priest: Well, we wanted to focus on making a militant album, ‘cause that’s the way it was set up. At first, I just wanted to make like a crazy Hip-Hop joint, but you know the struggle stuff always comes up so we threw that up in there. It was first me and Tragedy, ‘cause we met at The Source party a while back. We exchanged numbers back-and-forth, and I thought it’d be ill if me and him came together and made like a new, even harder, Mobb Deep, you know? Then he brought in William Cooper, and my whole fam was like, “Who is this cat?” So it’s like all right, I’ll bring in my boy. I brought in Hell Razah and Timbo King. So that’s how it all happened, everybody was feeling the vibe of it in the studio, and we just started recording.
AllHipHop.com: What’s the meaning behind the title? The name alone carries a lot of connotations.
Tragedy: Black Market is something that’s underground, that people deem under the radar. To me, that was my affiliation with the concept. The interesting thing about it is that all of us have different perspectives, but that’s what makes it what it is. My perspective is mine, but at the same time we can all build and come together on a record with different perspectives that are positive. We all coming from different angles.
Killah Priest: A militia is a movement you ain’t gonna hear everywhere. It’s four general MC’s and the newcomer, William Cooper, [we’re] just blazing ‘cause we can’t be touched. That’s the attitude we took to it.
AllHipHop.com: You all have strong spiritual beliefs, yet you each ascribe to different teachings. How’d that play out in the studio?
Hell Razah: It all worked out because we each learned something about each other’s cultures. At the same time, it’s a lot of the same stuff; whether you deal with Islam or you with Hebrew Israelites, it all comes from Abraham. So it all boils down to one thing regardless. There was a lot of s**t happening while we was recording. Iraq, Bush being reelected, all of that was going on while we was recording. So the studio was crazy. We was watching Illuminati DVDs, Che Guevara movies. The studio session was like a temple; everybody brought something. Somebody might bring a book, a tape, a document – like, “Yo check this out!” Then somebody else would be like, “Oh word, well you seen this?” Just building, it’s like steel sharpened steel.
Killah Priest: We would all just come to the studio and start building. Some of the songs was even done in Jerusalem when I went out there. Everyone was just building, from a seed to the tallest tree, you know? We took it on every level, every aspect. We all got one movement, and that’s the struggle. We all see eye-to-eye. When we building on conspiracy theories and things like that, just hearing Trag speak I was like, “Ah man, the god is kinda ill with his speaking.” I’d listen, then I’d add on. Then Razah who’s an incredible speaker, he had all types of books. So we was just going back-and-forth, it was like a vibe. Like being in an Indian tent.
AllHipHop.com: An underlying theme that runs throughout your lyrics is the mixture of street life with righteous teaching. Do you see these two lifestyles as being inseparable?
Tragedy: A lot of us come from the street, so that’s a part of us. If you’re a smart dude and you come from the streets, that’s gonna be your basic education. That’s where you learn how to deal with the world. So me, I learned certain things off the streets that became part of my character. But at the same time, you learn other things about the world that’s not just on a street level. When I spit, I wanna reach out to everyone and give them my perspective on how I see the world. That’s not to say my perspective is right or wrong, that’s just my perspective on s**t. I believe all of us have a street side to us, as well as a conscious side. Especially speaking for myself, I know that’s what I added to it.
Hell Razah: I’m looking at it like, I got to relate to the youth on the streets when I speak so they could understand it. I could talk some deep s**t, but they might not understand it fully. So I gotta mix it with the street so they could decipher it. If you look at it from back in the day with Christ in Jerusalem, he was in the streets, in the marketplaces – same way you go downtown today where you go shopping. He would go through the market, and that’s how people heard from him, like yo’ who’s that speaking? Then you had god-bodies building in a cypher on the street, and people would come up, like “Yo, what’s going on? What they talking about?” We got to go out and speak to the people who don’t know the message, and that’s the streets.
Killah Priest: You got to have some sort of knowledge in everything that you do. From kings in ancient times to those in the corporate world today, it all comes down to loyalty and honesty amongst your peers. Handling business, doing what you got to do to get your name and lineage where it’s supposed to be. Feeding your babies, and making sure everything is put into perspective.
AllHipHop.com: What role do you feel consciousness plays in Hip-Hop music today, and what do you add to that?
Killah Priest: It plays a lot. Look at Russell Simmons and Puffy, look at them and their elevation into politics. See, we have a voice. We’re about self-awareness, self-movement, and empowering our community to be their own government. Be their own Black Market Militia and use their own resources instead of depending on the powers-that-be to feed us. You know, grow your [own] food; it’s not hard.
Tragedy: We’re gonna bring a breath of fresh air to the game. ‘Cause everybody don’t wanna get caught up in the 50 Cent beef. Everybody don’t wanna get caught up in what the norm is in Hip-Hop right now. People have different tastes, and I think those who have more mature tastes will gravitate to this album. It’s like a breath of fresh air. There ain’t no drama involved, we stating facts as individuals. I think it turned out to be good music.
AllHipHop.com: What are some specific issues you tackle?
Tragedy: We touch on a lot of issues. I got a verse on a song called “Dead Street Scrolls” where I talk about all the good books I’ve read that have opened my eyes. Another track is “The Breath of Life” where we talk about how the breath of life can be taken by anybody, by police, or even by your own man. There’s a song called “The Struggle” where I talk about how I’m not racist, but I’m discriminated against. At the same time I still love my Blackness, because my Creator informs me that I come from greatness. So even though in this world I may be discriminated against, it’s only because of my greatness that I am discriminated against. Then you got songs like “Mayday!” where we talk about a hostile takeover. I believe sometimes it comes to a point when you gotta be aggressive with the world, with this system.
Killah Priest: Yo’, Black Market Militia is gonna f**k up a lot of heads. I see it as the new Wu-Tang, you see what I mean? You got so many forces together, and the lyrics on the album is bananas. You got tracks like “Paintbrush” and “Hood Lullabye” – those are big songs. This is like CNN to the hundredth power, so I’m feeling good about that.
AllHipHop.com: Coming from your respective groups in the past, what are some things you’ve learned from those experiences that you’ve applied to this project?
Killah Priest: A lot man, just dealing with individual personalities. There’s so many brothers in the Wu and I’ve hung out with my share, me and GZA the most. It’s just about learning different personalities and how you deal with each other when you get on tracks. Even personal problems. It taught me to be a general. Coming from the Clan camp and watching the RZA, I’ve learned a lot. It’s like any other group. Everybody has their say, there’s disagreements, but we got to come under one order where we all can move and be right with the same movement.
Hell Razah: Just being in control of your own music. Like this album right here? It wouldn’t have been that way if we didn’t do it through our own selves. Somebody from the label would’ve been telling us, “Get beats from this-or-that producer,” you know? All the people we got on the album – Dead Prez, The Last Poets – that’s how we do naturally on the strength. That ain’t no record company bulls**t, like it’d be a good marketing idea or something. It wasn’t like that, we f#### around with the same people. When you got control of your music, it’s just real.
Tragedy: That’s a real intricate question ‘cause there’s so much that I’ve learned. All of my expertise, all of my faults, all of my experience and inexperience. So I’m just bringing it to the table, giving you who Tragedy is. We all got individual careers, we only came together to give the people something different, so that they can think different. Feeding them a different type of food, you know?