Much attention was paid to the glistening, coaster-sized medallion hanging from rap mogul Jay Z’s neck as he and his wife, Beyoncé, sat courtside during a Nets game at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center last week.
His unauthorized use of the emblem representing the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGEs), aka the 5 Percenters, has upset some members of the self-empowering organization, who say he’s not affiliated and has never attended any of their functions.
“Now cipher … which means no!” answered Bed-Stuy native Lord Graceful Malik Allah, an NGE researcher, when asked if he recalls Jay Z ever being a 5 Percenters. “We was running through Sumner, Roosevelt, Tompkins and Marcy [projects], and the older God that was in Marcy from 1977 until the late 1980s was Lord Supreme Science Allah, and his Earth’s name was Nubia. We used to have ciphers in Marcy and never knew anything about this brother, or heard his name, or nothing about him, pertaining to the NGEs.”
The organization’s logo was designed by Universal Shaamgaud and presented to its founder, Allah the Father, in 1967. Wearing the Universal Flag commanded much respect in the streets then and also brought intense scrutiny from 5 Percenters.
“He’s disrespecting our flag because he’s not from our community. I never saw him in a cipher,” clarified Understanding God Allah, aka Big Un, from Bed Stuy’s Lafayette Gardens. “If you proclaim that you’re God, and you’re righteous, you better know your lessons, or there were consequences. A lot of brothers knew—don’t become a 5 Percenter if you’re not going to study, because we took it serious back then.”
The 44-year-old rapper came of age in the “Heart of Medina,” as the NGE refers to Bed-Stuy, during the late 1980s when the organization was prominent amongst local youths. When asked if the group’s symbol held any significance to him, Jay Z replied, “A little bit.”
Their influence on his art is undeniable, as he has referenced them throughout his career, most recently in his recording “We Made It.”
“If you look back four, five years ago, he was wearing crosses … so now in 2014, he’s wearing the sun, moon and stars—our Universal Flag—and we wanna know why,” said Lord Graceful, who’s been studying since 1974. “In order to wear that flag, you have to have knowledge-of-self, know your lessons, 120.
“There are DVDs saying he’s dealing with secret societies amongst the elite … so maybe he’s using our flag to hide behind that, because people in the streets are getting that knowledge on what he’s dealing with.”
Big Un also speculated, “Maybe he was holding himself back because all of the criticisms about us as some racist guys calling white people devils… and knowing that he’s affiliated with so many rich and powerful [Caucasian] people, he was shielding this to protect his fortune and his reputation… but now that he’s gained all his fame, maybe deep in his heart, this is what he really admired and respected… I don’t really know his motive.”
Shawn Carter was photographed wearing the Universal Flag on numerous occasions, including during an interview on Power 105.1 promoting his album Magna Carta Holy Grail last summer. Rumors are circulating that he’s preparing to fund a movie about the Harlem-based group and is using his high visibility to promote it in advance.
“It will shine some light on us and maybe people will get a better understanding about us,” Big Un commented.
The NGEs, set to commemorate their 44th Show & Prove event this June 13, and 50th anniversary this October, was established in Harlem by Allah, The Father in 1964 after departing from the Nation of Islam’s Temple #7 the previous year, which was then headed by Minister Malcolm X.