The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip hop and the Gods of New York

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9781851685134: The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip hop and the Gods of New York

Sensationalized and reviled as the Hell’s Angels of Black America, the Five Percenters (also known as the Nation of Gods and Earths) began as a cluster of outcasts from the Nation of Islam’s Harlem mosque in the 1960s. Led by a man named Allah, the Five Percenters taught the city’s black youth that they were gods. From their marginalized beginnings, the movement’s history has been charged with drama, spanning the war between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, the Attica prison revolt, Brooklyn turf gangs and 1980s crack empires. Now counting several hip hop stars amongst their ranks, including RZA, GZA, Rakin, and Lord Jamar, the Five Percenter’s profile is arguably greater than their parent organization, the Nation of Islam. With a cast of characters ranging from Malcolm X to rap stars 50 Cent and the Wu-Tang Clan, Knight’s exciting work is the first detailed account of the organization inextricably linked with black rights, Islam, New York and hip hop. The first serious treatment of the Five Percenters as a legitimate value system and culture with its own traditions, Knight investigates the community’s icons and history, examining its appeal in youth culture. Also covering the status of women and non-blacks within the movement, he explores why the organization has often been greeted with negative publicity. With unrivalled insider access to the movement’s elders, oral tradition and community literature, Knight reveals the hidden reality behind the myths, rumours and hearsay, and explores the origins and development of this misunderstood community. Fast-paced and compelling, The Five Percenters will captivate anyone with an interest in hip-hop, intrigue or Urban American sub-culture. Michael Muhammad Knight converted to Islam at 16 after reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X, and at 17 traveled to Islamabad, Pakistan to study at Faisal Mosque. His debut novel, The Taqwacores, is credited with influencing the American Muslim woman-led prayer movement and has also inspired a nascent Islamic punk rock scene.

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Michael Muhammad Knight converted to Islam at the age of sixteen after reading the autobiography of Malcolm X. He is the author of The Taqwacores, a 'Muslim Punk Rock' novel.

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Korean War vet and martial-arts enthusiast Clarence Jowars Smith founded the Nations of Gods and Earths in Harlem in the late 1960s. Known as the Five Percenters, the group was seen as an offshoot of the Nation of Islam (NOI) by many and as pure heresy by many traditional Muslims. Excommunicated by the NOI, Smith used the new movement to teach his idiosyncratic take on Islam, for which he renamed himself Clarence 13X—Allah to adherents. The movement grew in strength, numbers, and influence, even after the (still unsolved) murder of Clarence 13X in 1969; and hip-hop royalty Rakim, Wu Tang Clan, and Busta Rhymes are purported members. Critics decry the Five Percenters as racist, and with alleged connections to the 1971 Attica prison riot, crack-dealing turf wars, and other dirty business, the Nations of Gods and Earths is often considered a street gang by the minions of justice. This exhaustive study of it scores high for gritty realism and insight into contemporary urban street life and culture. Tribby, Mike

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Michael Muhammad Knight
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