Members were bestowed with names by their “enlighteners” or teachers. In earlier times, the names would mirror those found among NOI members. As time went on, Gods and Earths would choose names based on their lessons. These names, or “attributes,” would be chosen based on how that person would see themselves. Titles such as Knowledge Born, Father Divine, Heaven Equality Earth, and other names would become customary.
As told in The Bomb: The Greatest Story Never Told by Beloved Allah, which serves as an unofficial biography for the Father, he would join the NOI after his wife, Dora, became a member of Temple No. 7 under the leadership of Malcolm X while her husband was away in the military. For both future students and the generally curious, the tale is as comprehensive a guide to the beginnings of the Five Percent Nation as any.
“Both Hip-Hop and the Five Percent culture developed out of the streets of New York, so the two grew up together.” J-Live
The Father would develop the systems Supreme Mathematics and Supreme Alphabet, built on the Arabic numeral and the Latin alphabet systems. 10 principles were applied for the numbers 1 through 9, adding zero as well. The same was done for all 26 letters of the alphabet.
Through complex interpretations that some have compared to Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Supreme Mathematics and Alphabet serve as the basis for the common “language” spoken among NGE members. Those who study lessons are typically asked on occasion to be able to explain the concepts in their own words and “build” (discuss) amongst other members. As a student advances, the systems can be spoken and tied to the 120 Degrees in a seemingly infinite variety of ways.
Brand Nubian’s 1991 track “All For One” incorporated strong use of the Supreme Mathematics, especially in Lord Jamar’s anchoring verse.
“You gotta know the ledge and wise the dumb/and understand your culture of freedom/power equally with the Gods/So you can build and born your cipher/all your life you must teach truth/of the true and living god, not a mystery spook…”
Jamar’s verse interpolates and condenses the basics lessons of the Supreme Mathematics cleverly into rhyme form, with several splashes of Five Percent phrasings throughout. Erykah Badu’s smash hit “On & On” also references Supreme Mathematics and the lessons. The Supreme Alphabet gets a lot of mileage with rappers as well, most especially on the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Careful (Click, Click)” and RZA’s opening verse where he uses the Alphabet to utter a harsh expletive towards police (“Father You See/Cee King”).
Because of their rapid rise in New York, the Five Percent naturally attracted the attention of authorities who had a curiosity about the youth-based movement. The Father would teach his students that they were neither pro-Black nor anti-white. Instead, he preached that positivity, clean living and righteousness were primary goals. What could not be ignored, however, was the strong sense of Black pride attached to the Nation’s growth – indicative of the surging Civil Rights Movement of the time.
The Five Percent Nation caught the focus of then-Mayor John V. Lindsay, who saw that the youth-driven focus of the group was necessary for him to build ties in collaboration with his office. Forming a task force to connect with community leaders in gang-ridden New York, a curious partnership formed between Father Allah and Lindsay and culminated into the creation of the Allah School In Mecca Street Academy – which also serves as the NGE global headquarters to this day.
The Father was gunned down in an assassination on June 13, 1969 – the details remain murky even in the present day. The murder shook the core of the Nation as tensions grew between the group and the NOI, who some suspected carried out the shooting. The Nation would continue to grow and without a leadership core, many members splintered off, struggling to maintain the concepts put forth by the Father.
Some members of the Nation would become lawless and use the banner of the Five Percent to mask their seedier intentions – an unfortunate trend that culminated most infamously with the Queens-based “Supreme Team” drug ring in later times. Supreme Team soldier Kelvin “Shameek Allah” Martin, also known as street tough 50 Cent, terrorized New York all while claiming allegiance and reverence for the Nation.
Celebrated producer, rapper, and DJ J-Live is one of the Hip-Hop scene’s best talents, most especially on the independent side. The former middle school teacher is also one of the Five Percent’s most vocal proponents, infusing the Nation’s lessons creatively in his album and song titles. J-Live spoke exclusively with Hip-Hop Wired and offered some insight on his time as part of the Nation.
“I think a lot of the mainstream attention we do get is sometimes for the wrong reasons,” J-Live shared. “Things taken out of context, the poor examples of the misguided and the agenda of our detractors. Helpful or hurtful, I’d say it’s natural. It’s the Five Percent for a reason.”
“Both Hip-Hop and the Five Percent culture developed out of the streets of New York so the two grew up together,” J-Live continued. “So terms like “word is bond” and standing on your square in a b-boy stance, and calling your brother ‘sun/son’ go hand in hand. The Five Percent have influenced Hip-Hop. And Hip-Hop has influenced the Five Percent.”
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