temming back to Eric B & Rakim classics like In the Ghetto, the Nation of Gods and Earths, otherwise known as Five Percenters, have been some of the most successful MCs and producers to date. From Busta to Raekwon to J-Live, this powerful belief system changed the Hip-Hop vernacular from using words like God, Third eye, and Cipher. This rarely discussed history comes alive in the extensive book that accompanies Lord Jamars debut, The 5% Album. The music, which features Raekwon, Sadat X, Grand Puba and others, also teaches the wisdom behind these words.
The last Brand Nubian MC to release a solo album, Jamar uses his platform to celebrate his own while educating others. Having spent over two decades affiliated with the NGE, the New Rochelle veteran speaks about some of the issues that his album unveils. Read a discussion on the Five Percent Nation, in search of better understanding a rarely told fabric in our Hip-Hop heritage.
AllHipHop.com: Most know Clarence X started the Nation of the Gods and the Earths [NGE] around 1963, but not much else about the organization...can you tell us some history?
Lord Jamar: Basically,The Nation of Gods and Earths was started by Clarence 13X, who we [NGE] know as the Father Allah. He also belonged to the Nation of Islam and through studying the lessons of the NOI, he came to realize that the God they were talking about was the black man. Not just one black man, but all black men and he began to teach that. He was exiled around the same time Malcolm X was silenced by the NOI since they opposed what he taught. He went to the streets of Harlem and began spreading his teachings. He called his nation the Five-Percent Nation, meaning that there are five percent who know the truth about the world and have knowledge of themselves. 85 percent have no knowledge of themselves and are just ignorant of whats going on in the world and then theres ten percent who have knowledge but withhold it from that 85 percent to capitalize and oppress them. Thats where the terminology comes from.
AllHipHop.com: How and at what age were you introduced to the Nation of the Gods and the Earths? What attracted you?
Lord Jamar: Just the knowledge. Words have energy and that vibration of truth attracted me. What was taught to me about religion just didnt make sense and once I was exposed to NGE, a light came on. I was about 13 [years old] when someone gave me Lessons of the Black Man and that started me on the road to self-knowledge. I became part of NGE around 14, 15 years old.
AllHipHop.com: What is the difference between the Nation of the Gods and the Earths and orthodox Muslims?
Lord Jamar: Orthodox Muslims see themselves as being one who submits to the will of Allah, whereas we see ourselves as Allah himself. We show and prove that we are the Gods of our own universe. Also, NGE is a culture, a way of life, not a religion. We dont pray or believe in a hereafter; Heaven and Hell is right here on Earth, its a state of mind.
AllHipHop.com: How are Hip-Hop artists who belong to NGE, like yourself, spreading the message outside of music?
Lord Jamar: Basically, you live by example. Its the way I teach my children and go about my everyday life. I dont necessarily teach Five Percent classes but I do things in my personal life to add on because you are supposed to build. I dont have an NGE class, per se; my NGE classes are my albums. But Ive done presentations at my sons school on the elements on Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop.com: NGE's states "each man is his own universe, each man governs himself"...that leaves room for no uniformity. What rules does one follow to uphold the beliefs of NGE if everyone is operating under their own rules? Doesn't that leave room for inconsistency and possible self-destructive behavior?
Lord Jamar: Im sure for certain individuals, it does. But as a whole it allows for the movement to never dissolve even though our leader was taken away from us. Were all taught to be leaders so the movement doesnt dissolve in the event that the leader dissolves. But it requires self-discipline and following basic things, such as dont eat swine, dont commit crimes - just live a decent life. But like in any culture people can still misconstrue and exploit principles and take them for what they want to use them for. But as a whole, I think that insulates us from the movement being stopped as a result of one person being removed.
AllHipHop.com: George Clinton once blamed sexism in rap on the fact that Five Percenters bring "customs...from another [Arab] culture" to the traditional black "b*tch, ho" mentality, which by itself, was "just fun and games." Mixed together, they produce misogyny. Any thoughts on this? With today's Hip-Hop being some of the most misogynistic ever, how do feel about a statement like this?
Lord Jamar: [Laughs] Come on man, can we really take anything he says seriously? How can he say that we in the Five-Percent Nation promote misogyny when we refer the black woman as the Queen of the Earth? She represents the planet Earth, which is what we live on and what we need to live. We dont represent misogyny. Its all said in ignorance; he may not even know what a Five Percenter is, you know? Or he may have met someone who called themselves a Five Percenter but his whole belief system was other than that, which is possible. But in any religion that can happen How many Christians do you meet that call themselves Christians but dont represent Christianity. Does that person represent all Christians? No.
AllHipHop.com: What is a woman's role in NGE? Why can a man achieve a level of perfection of seven, while a woman can only achieve a six?
Lord Jamar: Well it starts with America. Living here in America, weve internalized European traditions and outlooks. When it comes to explaining this part of NGE, its based on the fact that men and women are different. And thats just real. We are not the same. For example, women can a have a baby once every nine months while a man can have one baby every month for nine months if he chose, because he doesnt have that limitation. Now, that is not saying that the woman is below the man, its just something that makes women different. Its just how nature was created. Instead of lying to people and saying, you can go as high as you wanna, be honest because you cant. We also say the woman is necessary but secondary and women feel like offended by that. I understand that a lot of women feel like we are trying to put them down or hold them back, and were not. Everyone just has to play their part and know their position. We have to learn that as a people. And the womens role in the Nation is to teach the babies, which is very important. She is the mother of civilization. They say when a black woman teaches, she teaches a whole civilization. To complete your cipher, you need knowledge, wisdom and understanding which is the man, woman and child.
AllHipHop.com: What is NGE's role in the black community, as far as outreach to the youth and poor?
Lord Jamar: You have Gods that you wouldnt even know they were Gods and they are very active in the community as well as everyday people. You may never know that, but say if another God is around, that person may reveal themselves to them. Since the beginning, NGE has always done outreach and programs within the community. We have Allah schools in different cities where you can build plus they have GED classes and computer classes. But its a combination; you have individuals doing things and collectives doing things as well.
AllHipHop.com: How do Gods recognize other Gods?
Lord Jamar: You can just observe somebody by how they act, speak or talk. But if we were just on the street, sometimes you can recognize Gods when they wear the universal flag [a small pin] but most times mind detects mind, which is where your third eye comes in and if youre really in tune, youll know.
AllHipHop.com: You play a Five Percenter on HBO's Oz. The character was very authentic, how involved were you in the development of the character? How do you feel about the impact this character has on people who are unfamiliar with NGE?
Lord Jamar: I was involved with the character as far as who he was and what his background was. I gave them the idea, the name and even the crime of the character and they took it from there. I know Supreme Allah was a bad dude and some people might say, We dont want the Gods to be seen like that, but Im keeping it real. There are plenty of Gods that are locked up but thats not everybody; those are individuals. Just like this character is an individual. I felt like it was important for people to see us in any capacity because we werent being seen at all. The show is authentic but I felt my character lent even more authenticity to the show. At one point, NGE was being called a jail religion. Although its not a jail religion, how are you going to have a show about jail without showing how NGE is a part of that culture?
AllHipHop.com: Explain the connection between jail and NGE. Does it put a black-eye on the organization?
Lord Jamar: Yeah, it is a negative connotation. Because its not a religion and its not something you have to go to jail to be a part of. In fact, I remember growing up and thinking to myself, I want to be swift and knowledgeable without going to jail. I didnt learn it in jail; I learned it out here in the world. In the penal system, we get characterized as a gang, which is not what we are. Prisoners sometimes get isolated and are treated unfairly because of their beliefs in NGE. We are not a gang and these people dont need to be persecuted for gang activity when our collective does not control any turf nor organize any crime.
AllHipHop.com: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about NGE?
Lord Jamar: That we hate white people and that were a religion or that were a gang.
AllHipHop.com: Does division exist between rappers who belong to NGE and Muslim rappers or even rappers who belong to NGE and rappers who don't?
Lord Jamar: Absolutely. One of the basic things we learn is supreme mathematics and if all people knew supreme mathematics and followed what it meant, wed be a lot better off. To do the knowledge before the wisdom. You cant do two [wisdom] before one [knowledge] or you are going to get a bad three [understanding]. A lot of people act before they think and it produces a misunderstanding. Mathematics is the language of the universe; this whole world can be understood through mathematics. If we were taught supreme mathematics, that would be helpful, no matter what your background or beliefs.
AllHipHop.com: Based on your beliefs and the positive messages you put forth in your music, are you disappointed with Hip-Hop music today?
Lord Jamar: Yeah, Im kind of am disappointed in rap music. But everything happens for a reason and maybe we need for music to be like this in order to appreciate something good. I think the times we live in helped change the music too. This is a more politically-charged time in the world so the music changes with it.
For more information, visit www.5percent.org