Present as a guiding force for the rhymes of Poor Righteous Teachers and Brand Nubian and a constant theme in the songs of the Wu-Tang Clan, the teachings of the Nations of the Gods and Earths (NGE), otherwise known as the Five Percenters, carry deep roots in Hip Hop. Founded by Allah, known previously as Clarence Edward Smith and Clarence 13x, the NGE teaches, at its base, that the Original Man, or Black Man, is God. Allah first began by spreading his message among the youth in Harlem until he was killed in 1969. By this time though, his message had already been adopted by the “First Born” disciples who initially started following his teachings, and since then, the NGE has became a worldwide conglomerate of like-minded individuals bonded by a pursuit of knowledge of self as well as the effort to spread their message of truth to the ignorant masses.
Knowledge Of Self: A Collection of Wisdom On the Science of Everything in Life, a self-published collection of essays edited by Dr. Supreme Understanding Allah, C’BS Alife Allah and occasional HipHopDX contributor Sunez Allah, serves as a comprehensive starting manual for those curious about the philosophy of the Five Percenters. Covering everything from personal knowledge of self narratives told from the belly of the beast to in-depth re-readings of The Bible, Knowledge Of Self is a cumulative look at what the Gods and Earths teach, spoken in their own words.
As a recent response to another book review of “Why I Am A Five Percenter,” HipHopDX was asked by this works’ publishers to make our readers aware. In doing so, we give a glimpse of what you’ll encounter in Knowledge Of Self, here is a list of 10 things we learned from reading this collection of essays:
1. The term “Five Percenter” stems from the NGE worldview. They say that 10% of the world know the truth – that the Black man is God – yet conceal it from the 85% so that they can control this vast, ignorant majority. Members of the Nation of Gods and Earths, the remaining five percent, know that the Black man is God and work to spread that truth. Members of the NGE are also known as “Poor Righteous Teachers.”
“The Black man is God” means that the true power of oneself is harnessed not from growing close with a divine force (what they refer to as a “mystery god”) but from cultivating yourself from within. In the book’s introduction, it is stated that “The Nation of Gods and Earths teaches we are the creators of our entire universe and subsequent reality” (8).
2. Members of the Wu-Tang Clan were first introduced to the NGE by a man named Popa Wu (also known as God Freedum Allah). He brought the knowledge to Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Unique Ason Allah), RZA (Ruler Zig Zag Zig Allah) and GZA (Allah Justice).
3. Numbers and letters are very important to the NGE because they think science and mathematics explain the harmony found throughout the universe. Studying these connections allows one to become aware of a greater philosophy for how to properly live life according to nature’s patterns and principles. Members are encouraged to gain knowledge of self through learning more about science and mathematics in general, but the specific NGE teachings for studying numbers and letters are called the Supreme Mathematics and Supreme Alphabet, respectively.
Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian thinks he got his role as Supreme Allah on the HBO series Oz because he didn’t compromise his NGE teachings when first speaking with series creator Tom Montana. Jamar told his manager he wanted to start acting, and though he was first only able to secure an appearance at the HBO premiere for The Sopranos, several people from the show Oz were there as well. After exchanging numbers with a cast member, Jamar eventually landed a meeting with Montana. Jamar was hoping to use his role as a platform for the NGE because of their strong presence in the penal system, which at that point was not represented on the show. When he started to explain the NGE philosophy to Montana, he mentioned that the Black man was God, which prompted the creator to retort “So if the Black man is God, does that mean the White man is the devil?” Lord Jamar told him that’s exactly what it meant, and Montana liked it. He believes not backing down in that key moment is what secured him his role.
4. While the Nation of Gods and Earths has historical ties to the Nation of Islam, the two aren’t actually affiliated. The connection stems from NGE creator Allah, who was previously an understudy of Malcolm X known among other members of the Nation of Islam as Clarence 13X. He later parted ways with the Nation of Islam when he began to preach that the Black man is God, a divergence from the Nation of Islam’s belief that creator Wallace Fard Muhammad was the Messiah. After being excommunicated from the Nation of Islam, he started the NGE by preaching to the youth in the streets of Harlem, which explains why members of the NGE call Harlem “Mecca.”
5. The NGE think that the White man was created. Since melanin is a naturally occurring substance in humans and it’s a quality White people lack, the NGE argue that the only way to explain that discrepancy is through continued selective breeding to create a race of people born without melanin. Their claim is supported by evidence that suggests climates do not dictate a person’s skin color. According to their teachings, a man named Yacub grafted the white man, who was only created roughly 6,000 years ago. For a greater connection here, some fundamentalist Christian interpretations of The Bible claim the Earth was created roughly 6,000 years ago, and while the NGE says there is plenty of evidence refuting that theory, they claim that particular time stamp traces back the creation of the white man. According to “The Build: The Whiteman Is The Devil,” written by Shaikhi Teach Mathematics Allah:
“In the book of Genesis it is revealing the beginning or origin of the devil (or whiteman) through a genetic process . . . Those who write our history in advance predicted that Yacub would produce a generation of people that would be unalike his own. So there in the book of Genesis you read about Jacob (Yacub) grafting a flock of animals. The secret is that the animals are used as a symbolic term for people in order to hide the truth of the devil’s origin” (123).
For this reason, Caucasians are also referred to as the “colored man” by members of the NGE because their skin color has been changed from its original, darker shade.
6. Unlike the Nation of Islam, where there is a clear chain of command, the Nation of Gods and Earths prides itself on having no hierarchy. According to Sha-King Cehum Allah in “Allah and Indigenous Anarchy,” “Allah [the creator of NGE] taught us to be leaders and therefore we have no ‘central’ lead figure. Yet, we do have leadership. Those qualified with moving forward with certain issues and actions. We have no hierarchy, except between the ‘best knower’ and those ‘seeking to know’” (174).
7. When the NGE first started, Allah was technically their figurehead until he was shot to death in 1969. Members of the NGE think the killing was ordered by the government as a tactic to stop the spread of their message. However, since the Nation teaches that Gods gain power through knowledge of self, every member is considered an equal. Since Allah’s death, there has been no attempt to establish any form of hierarchy within the NGE.
8. Members of the NGE are not permitted to marry or reproduce with White people. Marrying or reproducing with White people would be considered diluting the race because white people are believed to be inherently “devilish.” As Eboni Joy Asiatic Earth states in her piece “To Be or Born the Earth,” “We, as a nation, have our agreed upon restrictions – no pork, no marrying / mating with Caucasians. Outside of that, we are free to live our culture through the proper application of the math” (196). Freedom Allah echoes the same sentiment in his essay “Who is the 5%”: “Allah, the founder of the Five Percent Nation, was not hateful and neither are we. He taught that we should not fear competing against nor interacting with Caucasian people. He taught us that it is fine to socialize with them however, we should not mix our seed with them, for that would be grafting out the originality of our seed” (140).
9. One rite of passage into the NGE involves choosing your own name. Unlike your “government” name, which is typically given to you by your parents, members of the NGE feel that you should be able to choose your own name. Self-identification is very important to the culture since it lets one choose how they project themselves to others. Your name traditionally points out character qualities you feel exhibit who you are or who you strive to be.
10. While members of the NGE used to choose Arabic names, a similar trait adopted from the Nation of Islam, they decided to later use English terms to avoid any confusing connections to the NOI. C’BS Alife Allah explains this in his essay “A Good Name Is . . .” when he says “Being that the Gods and Earths came through the temples of the Nation of Islam we started out with Arabic names. At a certain point in our history we moved from adopting Arabic names to names that reflected the language that we speak here in North America, English” (150).