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The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-hop and the Gods of New York Paperback – October 1, 2008

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The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-hop and the Gods of New York + Why I Am a Five Percenter + GODS, EARTHS and 85ers
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Editorial Reviews

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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Knight does an excellent job of presenting the movement's founders, belief system and its history as seen by the people who live it." Monsters and Critics
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851686150
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851686155
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #170,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The author takes us into the lives and times of those who lived amongst the 5%ers founder in the ghetto of New York City amidst a hotbed of political turmoil and the changing of both the tide and the guard. From the likes of Sweet Daddy Grace Divine to Marcus Garvey to Harlem street youth who would not conform to the dietary regime and dress code of the NOI but were attracted to its self empowering, esoteric lessons in catechismal format...the author introduces you them all and shows you the world through their eyes. He brings it up to current times at Parliamentary sessions, and he details happenings and conversations he encounters as Moors, thugs, intellectuals and others engage him...a White, Orthodox Muslim...walking the streets of Harlem and absorbing the story and history of the NGE.

Being familiar with the intricate origins of the 5% Nation as well as many of its more obscure moments in history, I am quite taken back by this work. It is to date the only reliable, academically approached, work of cultural anthropology on the 5%ers that extends beyond the length of an academic essay. Covering everything from its inception in Newark, NJ with Duse Ali, Timothy Drew, the NOI and extending into the undocumented & shadowy world of the Black Angels and the nuances of young puerto rican and white urban youth (in addition to the black youth) from NJ & NYC who were brought under the tutelage of Clarence 13X (an incredibly complex and self contradicting icon who held down his square and mixed at ease amidst the City Hall social circles just as he did in the underworld of Harlem), this book even covers the interaction with Malachi Z. York's sect in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The approach is one of entrenched neutrality...
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Barry Gottehrer on October 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A remarkable achievement combining voluminous detailed research and a skilled writing style. a very honest recounting of the extremely complex history of the five percenters--from its founding by clarence smith in new york city in the l960s who believed he was Allah and the survival and growth of his group of followers nationally following his violent death nearly 40 years ago. as an author myself ("the mayor's man" is one of my eight books)and one who knew Allah personally and was in new york city government when the five percenters were founded, i highly recommend this book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Micah Anderson on January 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
New York City has been the birthplace of many important indigenous American cultural movements--from various artistic trends, to social movements, to a wide variety of religious sects from many different traditions. One such group that combines all of these elements is The Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) and is also the topic of study in the book, The Five Percenters--Islam, Hip-hop, and the Gods of New York by Michael Muhammad Knight.

The Nation of Gods and Earths (also often known as the 5% Nation, a title stemming from a Nation of Islam (NOI) teaching that there are three groups of humans--85% who are ignorant, 10% who are in control but are liars and hypocrites, and a last 5% who are the "poor righteous teachers", and know the truth) is a movement whose primary focus is on self-determination--debatably for only those of non-Caucasian descent--stemming from the knowledge that each black man is their own God. Through the study of "Supreme Wisdom Lessons" which are intended to give the adherent "knowledge of self", and various other esoteric practices, the members of the NGE create for themselves a deeper knowledge about themselves and the world they live in. The group's quasi-Islamic philosophy was greatly influenced by the teachings of the Nation of Islam, and the founder of the NGE originally known as Clarence 13X (but after founding the NGE went simply by the title "Allah" or "The Father") left the NOI because of ideological differences. He took with him some of the more esoteric teachings of the NOI, and then proceeded to morph, reinterpret, and then teach the willing youth of Harlem in the mid- to early-1960s, who for various reasons did not want to join the NOI.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jackson on July 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just recieved my copy of The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip Hop, and the Gods of New York and can already tell it's the kind of book that I won't be able to put down until I'm finished and even then have to go back and re-read. It's extremely detailed not just with information on the NOGE but on the forebearers of movements like Father Divine, and the seeds of Islam and Muslims in America as far back as the days of the slave trade in Georgia.

Mr. Knight has obviously done an immense amount of research into the topic and not as an objective outsider trying to offer a scholarly approach but as someone invested with the Gods as an ernest interest. The prose style of writing and the narratives of his encounters keep a work that in someone else's hands might become boring or dry, fresh and relatable. He makes you want to know more and keep digging into the subject to find the full 360 of every intricate detail.

This book isn't a light read and it isn't for someone with a passing interest just looking for a sound bite sized chunk of condensed knowledge but for those who really want to know about a very important but often overlooked and misunderstood piece of American cultural history that can get misrepresented or turned into something else by the other "85%".

If you've read any other works by Mr. Knight I urge you to check this one out as it's well worth the read.
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