With a cast of characters ranging from Malcolm X to 50 Cent, Knight’s compelling work is the first detailed account of the movement inextricably linked with black empowerment, Islam, New York, and hip-hop. Containing unrivalled insider access to the movement’s elders, oral histories, and community literature, this fast-paced investigation uncovers the Five Percenters’ icons and heritage, and examines their growing influence in urban American youth culture. Including coverage of Brooklyn turf gangs, the Attica prison uprising, 1980s crack empires, and the stars of Five Percenter rap, Knight explores the origins and development of this controversial community, and reveals the hidden reality behind the myths, rumours, and hearsay. 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, the cult novel credited with inspiring 'Muslim Punk Rock'.read more
Reviews for The Five Percenters by Michael Muhammad Knight
A sympathetic and thorough exploration of Five Percenter history, mysticism (high science), joy and tears. The early chapters give an excellent overview of the history of Black Muslims in the USA from enslaved Muslims in the antebellum south through the mysterious Ben Ishmaels and Noble Drew Ali's Moorish Science Temple and splinter groups, the Nation of Islam and Malcolm and then of course Clarence 13X, who called himself Allah and who the Five Percenters call Father. Surviving all kinds of hell in 1960s Harlem and a prison for the criminally insane called Mateawan, the mood picks up as Allah hooks up with one of Lindsay's elves, the amazing Gottehrer. The author treats anecdotes from law enforcement and from the Five Percenters themselves with equal parts skepticism and curiosity, leaving the reader to judge the details while firmly supporting a picture of hard-luck kids trying to make sense out of the universe. Some parts of the book I found really funny, in a bittersweet way. The names these people choose for themselves and the way they break down words, numbers and white rituals like golf can be absolutely hilarious out of context, but Michael Muhammad Knight tries and is often successful at showing the Truth behind these ideas. The entire Yacub story has a very different meaning for me, and the idea that white supremacist doctrine are like pins in our brains that we have to pull out can be useful. In fact, there is a lot here that can be useful for white anti-racist activists--the abilities that Knight shows, to listen and be a guest and be open, are hard to learn but essential. You have to admire a Grafted Man who is given the Lessons in a hallway of the St. Nicholas Projects.The cover of the book puts hip hop in the subtitle, and there is some writing inside about Rakim, Brand Nubian and the Wu-Tang Clan, but even if he never wrote about any of them, there'd still be a lot here for hip hop fans. So much Five Percenter language and concepts have entered hip hop that after reading this book I realize that many of my favorite songs and artists are saying much more than I thought. Artists like KRS-One, who is not a Five Percenter, have to be understood differently when you realize how much of his text is a response to Five Percenter thought.Dr. York's Nuwaubians appear as well, but they deserve their own book. I hope I can find one as good as this one.Knight also takes the Five Percenters to task for their ideas about women, and reveals deep divisions between some of the older Gods in what is a actually a very heterogeneous movement.I recommend this book to hip hop fans, prison wardens and corrections officers, students of religion, and anyone trying to pull some Yacub's pins out of their brains.read more
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