In the days leading up to the current air strikes being launched by the United States and a coalition of allied nations in Libya, press outlets uniformly reported that Moammar Gadhafi had been committing genocide, slaughtering his own civilians to thwart an opposition force attempting to oust him from power. But Tragedy Khadafi, the rapper who bears the name of the man who has for decades been labeled a brutal dictator, is questioning the information he is receiving from the mainstream media.
“I never take things on face value,” Tragedy told HipHopDX this past Thursday (March 17th) regarding those reports. “To take things on face value could be detrimental to ones life. … In light of the recent news, and so-called information about Muammar Gaddafi, the President of Libya, killing his own people, I can’t really expound on that at this point based on where that information comes from. Some of the same people who delivered that information have delivered misinformation to us in the past. Those same [media outlets] told us that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And we’ve come to know that wasn’t exactly true, or that wasn’t exactly the basis of the war or his execution. Propaganda’s always created.”
Having expanded his emcee moniker in the mid-‘90s from Tragedy (having formerly been known as the Intelligent Hoodlum) to include the surname of the Libyan leader, the politically-minded poet is once again contemplating a name change.
“If in fact it is true [that Gadhafi is committing genocide], I would definitely consider it,” Trag replied when asked if he might drop the “Khadafi” from his stage name. “That’s a great atrocity to turn guns on your own people. But, like I said, I would have to look into that further and really consider that, which I’m doing. I’m actually looking into that and trying to filter through all the information and find the facts and find what is to be truth.”
Where to go for an unbiased assessment of the events unfolding in the North African nation given his distrust of media in all of its forms – including its most contemporary one – will prove difficult, but do-able according to Tragedy.
“[Aside from] the Internet, we do have sources,” Trag replied when read back a prophetic line from his now 12-year-old verse on “Illuminati”: “1999, none refined/Internet web control ya whole mind.” “I have international friends who are in different places and different positions who can definitely bring me correct information. It’s just a matter of time now waiting to receive it.”
Once he receives the truth he is seeking regarding the uprising in Libya, maybe Tragedy can share that information with the world via his upcoming motivational memoir “about advancement,” Hustler’s Blueprint, or preceding solo album, (the first formal offering from Trag since his release from prison last summer after serving four years for criminal sale of a controlled substance), The Last Report.
“It’s the last report from the streets, so to speak,” he explained of the concept behind his forthcoming revival release. “Most of my albums have definitely been conscious, but they’re more street-infused. Because, I was taught that when you wanna teach somebody something you don’t bring it over their heads. And over the years I’ve gotten a lot of questions in terms of like, ‘Why did my direction change from Intelligent Hoodlum and/or Saga of a Hoodlum to [The] War Report, and from War Report to Thug Matrix …?’ But, basically what it boils down to is this: I can’t turn back the hands of time. … I said in a song how, ‘Life is like a book, in order to grow you turn pages / We can’t reverse our ages, and we can’t reverse developmental stages.’ Like, for me to try to go back and recreate what was then – at that particular time the world was different, you were different, they were different, and I was different. And I think my comrade Nas said it too: people wanted him to make another Illmatic but it’s all about moving forward. It’s not about trying to rehash the past, or dig up a dead body – not to say his music is dead, or Illmatic is dead, or to say that the Intelligent Hoodlum is dead, because Intelligent Hoodlum is not dead. It’s just that, I’ve grown and that’s what you’re gonna get in the music.”
Before getting his grown-up long-player, this summer fans of one of the forefathers of the gritty street style that would come to define one of Hip Hop’s hallowed grounds – the Queensbridge housing projects – will be receiving the digital-only third installment in Tragedy’s Thug Matrix series.
What longtime supporters will not be receiving from Trag is a reunion recording with Capone-N-Noreaga.
“Honestly, that’s not in my focus right now,” C-N-N’s mentor replied when asked if new collaborations are in the works with his protégés. “I’m not trying to force something – not saying that it has to be forced, but, I’m more so into going with the energy of things now. I’m not into forcing anything. … I’m not focusing on [recreating] the past. I know people wanna see and hear me with [N.O.R.E.], with Capone. I’m not saying that the door is closed to that – ‘cause I been communicating with Nore more so than anybody – and it’s definitely been talks about it, but that’s not my primary focus. My primary focus is just giving you the best, illest, sharpest, focused Tragedy I could give you.”
In talks to work with Alchemist, and with tracks from Scram Jones already in hand, the re-focused Trag will be sharpening his lyrical sword over sounds provided by the producer he personally named over two decades ago after witnessing the wild antics of the then troublesome teenager.
“Havoc is always on deck,” he noted. “In fact, Havoc and I are considering doing an album together.”
Unfortunately, one longtime collaborator will not have a role in Tragedy’s return to the game: the recently deceased Killa Sha.
“He was a true artist,” said Trag. “And he was a true friend. I wish he was here now. It just feels strange, him not being here physically, having an input on this project. ‘Cause he’s been such an instrumental part of my projects, as well as my life. And it’s a shame that the public hasn’t really gotten the full Killa Sha. Like, he was on the verge of putting out an album. He was also working with Large Professor. He was doing a lot of touring, internationally. And he was just beginning to get his spark as a solo artist. People have known Killa Sha to always be kinda like my backup dude, my sidekick so to speak, but it was so much more to him and he was on the verge of bringing that out. And another soldier passed … without the world getting to really see who he was as an artist and who he was as a human being. And that’s just more motivation for me, and I hope for other people, that when we look around we see how fragile life is and appreciate those voices that we have amongst us, and give them the praise and honor they deserve. Like my grandmother always used to say: ‘Give me my flowers when I can smell ‘em.’”
One recently lost voice many may find surprising that Tragedy shares his praise for is Nate Dogg. As one of the co-authors of the infamous “New York, New York” retort, “L.A., L.A.,” and who as part of the legendary Juice Crew was musical allies with TJ Swann, the man who many credit as the father of the rap-sung hook in Hip Hop, Trag may be one of the last Rap luminaries expected to pay homage to the recently passed Dogg Pound crew-member who was technically once a sworn enemy.
“First and foremost, I wanna send out my condolences to his family,” Trag said of Nate. “He was a prolific artist, and if he got on your track, if he got on your hook, he made it that more glorious. … Nate Dogg was profound, man. It’s a shame that he had to pass so early. But, I appreciate Nate Dogg, in spite of the fact that Tha Dogg Pound took shots at New York and I said, ‘Yo, we gotta shoot back.’ In spite of that, I always had the greatest respect for Nate Dogg. … He gonna always be remembered and respected for being – he was the hook master. I even liked his solo joint [Music and Me and “I Got Love”]! [Starts singing] ‘I got love / I, got, love, for the people in my family tree / Play no games.’ Nate Dogg was serious, man. We gotta mourn another soldier. We gotta mourn another artist who left before his time. … Peace to the God, Nate Dogg.”