I sat in rapt attention last Sunday morning as I saw Meet The Press host Tim Russert work to position Hip-Hop music as a major influence behind the behavior of the alleged sniper in the Washington D.C.- area. Here is the official transcript of that portion of the program (any spelling mistakes/errors are MSNBC’s):
MR. RUSSERT: Now, one of the more interesting things that went on in this case was how the police used the media to try to communicate and develop a dialogue with the alleged snipers. And we’ve gone back and looked at a variety of things as to what influences there may have been on the snipers. This is a CD from a group called Kill Army. It’s named “Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars.” There’s a song called “Wake Up.” “Word is bond this is as real as it’s going to get.” Then here is the letter which they left behind at the shooting in Ashland, Virginia. “Word is bond.” And on Wednesday night, we heard Chief Charles Moose of Montgomery County saying this:
(Videotape, October 23, 2002):
CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE: If you are reluctant to contact us, be assured that we made ready to talk directly with you. Our word is our bond.
MR. RUSSERT: Extraordinary, Dr. Meloy.
DR. MELOY: Yeah. It’s also very interesting from the perspective of the degree to which we see in these cases mimicking of other kinds of cases that have occurred previously or other kind of pop cultural data that will be incorporated by the individual into his killing spree or killing series. This does not mean, of course, that popular culture causes these events, but we do know that influences from violence in the media will account for a small proportion of what we refer to as the variants, a piece of the pie, in individuals that carry out these kinds of acts.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you some more based on exactly what you’re saying and bring everybody else into the conversation. Here are more lyrics from that same album. This is a song called “Five Stars.” “Snipers on the rooftop watch out for the Pitbulls. Waited ’til sunsets and moving like ninjas. …Yo, 5 Star General giving orders.” Here’s the letter, cover sheet, they left behind. The five stars were a symbol or an indication that this was the true sniper sending this letter.
Then we had this left behind. I’ll show you here the lyrics from the same album. “My name is Born God Allah, King of North America,” and the tarot card left behind, “Dear Policemen, I am God.”
Playing out a real fantasy, influenced somewhat by music, and yet in his own mind, woven together and we saw this play out.
The exchange got my full attention as I was already fully aware of the effort by many in the media and those above them to position the Honorabale Minister Louis Farrakhan as the inspiration behind the activities of the alleged sniper. Now, I saw more fully the details of the height and depth to which the sniper controversy – from the horrific killings; to the association with the Nation Of Islam of the lead suspect, John Allen Muhammad; to the alleged influence of Hip-Hop; and the repeated visual of the image and account of a Black male committing violence with a firearm – could and was being used by the worst enemies of Black America to justify certain attitudes and policies.
Having been General Manager of the multi-platinum group Wu-Tang Clan with whom Killarmy, the group Mr. Russert mentioned, was affiliated, I can, with authority, dismiss the idea that the activities of the alleged sniper are what Killarmy had in mind when they were motivated to record the album Silent Weapons For Quiet Wars. I was there when they recorded the album, knew the young members of the group personally, and at times, conducted business on their behalf as it related to Wu-Tang Clan.
On balance I saw the positive influence of the 5% Nation Of Islam teachings on the members of Killarmy and Wu-Tang, on a daily basis, for nearly 3 years, day-in-day out. Certainly, they, like everyone else I know, have imperfections and fall short of the best of what they preach. I am also of the view that the influence of the 5% Nation on Hip-Hop has been overwhelmingly more positive than negative.
What was really at the root of Mr. Russert’s association between the murders and the lyrics of an underground rap group? Who was it – a producer at NBC, a rap fan, a music industry representative or someone in intelligence or an interest group – that gave Mr. Russert the lyrics to Killarmy’s recordings? What was the motive? Especially since we have not heard as much as a peep directly from John Allen Muhammad or an attorney representing him.
Immediately, while watching the Meet The Press program I realized that the real target was Hip-Hop music but more specifically the influence that the Nation Of Islam and Five Percent Nation Of Islam have had on the music genre, particularly since the mid-1980s. The arrest of John Allen Muhammad in association with the sniper shootings and a public “connection” with rap music is a dream come true for many powerful people, institutions and organizations that have been threatened by the rise of Hip-Hop and how it has been influenced by Minister Farrakhan, the Nation Of Islam and the Five Percent Nation Of Islam.
Who benefits from tying it altogether?
I have written about this before. But can’t remember a more direct incident where this was so clearly the case. The trial and investigation of John Allen Muhammad is going to be used to accomplish alot more than a conviction regarding the sniper murders.
In 1997 I visited the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) Reading Room at the FBI’s headquarters in Washington D.C. Anyone can do the same today, if they schedule an appointment. I was impressed by the large file that the federal government had on the 5% Nation Of Islam. The files went back over 30 years. I would later take the photocopies I had of some of the files and show them to rap artists and certain influential members of the 5% Nation that I knew personally in Brooklyn and Harlem. I was surprised to see how few of the were aware of the depth of the surveillance that the group was under. At this very moment you can read 132 pages of the FBI’s files on the 5 Percent Nation Of Islam at foia.fbi.gov/5percent.htm.
Interestingly, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has a webpage exclusively dedicated to the 5% Nation Of Islam, under a heading – “Hate On Display: A Visual Database of Extremist Symbols, Logos and Tattoos” You can view it at: www.adl.org/hate_symbols/…enters.asp
Now keep in mind it is hard to argue against the reality that along with Minister Farrakhan, there was no greater “outside” influence, during Hip-Hop’s most “conscious” era, on the lyrics of leading Hip-Hop arists, than the teachings of the 5% Nation. This is the case most obviously in 1987-1988 with popular artists like Rakim and Big Daddy Kane. To varying degrees Lauryn Hill, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, KRS-One, Ice Cube, MC Ren, X-Clan, Queen Latifah, and countless others have been positively influenced by the teachings of both the 5% Nation Of Islam and the Lost-Found Nation Of Islam in the West.
But specifically speaking the surveillance that characterized the government’s opinion of the 5 % Nation as a threat thirty years ago (this does not negate the very good relationship that is said to have existed between former New York Mayor John V. Lindsey and members of the 5 Percenters, from 1966 to 1973) has continued and broadened outside of the home base of the 5 Percenters in New York City.
Today, the antagonistic relationship between federal, state and local law enforcement and the 5 Percenters continues with the group officially categorized as a gang in several states. In Massachusetts, Florida and several other states the group is being opposed by special street crimes task units, local police departments and anti-juvenile violence efforts which consider the group to be a negative influence on young people. The official designation of the 5 Percenters as a gang has real affects on the ability of members of the organization to move freely in society and pursue very noble causes.
Look again at Tim Russert’s sudden interest in Hip-Hop music. What is the real motive in linking the alleged sniper, Hip-Hop and the 5% Nation Of Islam, before a predominately White audience of political observers? And who among those who prepared Mr. Russert for last week’s show, determined that Killarmy’s lyrics should be included in the public discussion?
The answer to these questions relates to Minister Farrakhan’s more-than-a vision experience in Mexico in 1985 and his announcement in 1989 that detailed the U.S. government’s planned opposition to the Nation Of Islam, street organizations and Black youth under the guise of what I have referred to as a “cover story.”
Irrespective of the actual guilt and potential conviction of John Allen Muhammad, is the sniper controversy being used to undermine Black culture and organizations and further demonize Black men, in order to accomplish a much larger objective?
Are we thinking about this as clearly as we ought to or have we been distracted from doing so, by design?
Friday, November 01, 2002