Tragedy: Intelligent Hoodlum

posted January 27, 2006 12:00:00 AM CST | 2 comments

Tragedy Khadafi is a veteran in the game. Most people dont know that he had a hand in the careers of fellow Queensbridge rappers Capone and Noreaga, or that he grew up in the studio, watching members of the legendary Juice Crew. But Tragedy spent as much time incarcerated as he did rapping. With his album, Thug Matrix, now released on Fastlife, he took some time to talk about his other projects, life, and what it means to be an Intelligent Hoodlum. In other words, the man has a lot to say. So whether you love or hate his music, you have to respect his hustle. Theres no sugar coating life in the hood, Tragedy Khadafi breaks it down and gives us the real talk

Talk a bit about the neighborhood you grew up in. A lot of people dont know Queensbridge is the biggest housing projects in this country. How has that influenced you and your music?

Thats a good question. One of the biggest ways that it influenced me and my music is from my lifestyle- the environment that I grew up around. For instance, when a lot of dudes was tryin to be the next Patrick Ewing, or Michael Jordan, or Magic Johnson, or whatever, my focus and responsibility was feeding me and my brothers and sisters. I didnt really come outside like ok, Im gonna go hang with this dude, or that dude. I came outside to get money and eat, since I was a kid. QB really grew me in a lot of different ways cause I met a lot of different individuals The funniest shit about Queensbridge is when you move out there, no matter where you from, you never fucking leave. Yo, you never leave that project. That hood is crazy. For instance, I remember when I was like 14, laying in my bed, watching a movie at like 1 or 2 oclock in the morning, and I had to go to school the next day. I was in Junior High School. And it was some dude walking across Hollywood Boulevard and the camera shot down and focused on him walking across the stars. I remember laying on my bunk bed and saying to myself, damn, I will never see no shit like that in my life. Thats how everybody thinks in QB. You really think, Im never gonna leave this place. Me and Littles was talking the other day, I said yo son, everyone that comes to the Bridge never leaves that place. Its like a graveyard or some shit And fortunately and unfortunately, that shapes our music. I remember a time where the streets translated the music, and then the music translated to the rest of the world what the streets were like. And thus that gave me the concept for CNN. It wasnt just because Capone N Nore: CNN. I was like, we gonna report from the street, we gonna be the CNN for hip-hop, we gonna report what this is, what we see here. Just because you see something on the news dont mean its right, that dont mean its bad, depending on which angle you looking at it, which perspective you have. So, thats what we did. But thats what music WAS. But now, its different. Its like the music dictates the street now. And thats crazy.

Going back to Queensbridge, when I was interviewing Poet, he was saying that being from the Bridge, you really have to puff up your chest a little more, because the Bridge got shitted on for so long. So he just feels an extra sense of pride, an extra sense

Of motivation. Yeah, no doubt. And I mean for the most part, its like everybody in the Bridge got love for each other except for a couple of dudes who choose to isolate themselves. You cant be the King of Queensbridge and then nobody in Queensbridge see you.

Not to name any names or anything

I mean, come on Youre nowhere near the Bridge. And thats cool, dont get me wrong. Go get your bread, get your house. Youre supposed to do that, but come to the hood. You cant be the King of a Kingdom that you dont even touch. How you doin that? And then dont just holla at brothas when you about to start a war and you trying to alley-up. You fuckin with a G, dog. Dont come around, like, yo, yo, I realize I did Come on dog, dont hit ni--as cause you calling wars out now. And I notice every time you call a war, everybody gets the call. I aint saying I got the call, he didnt call me, I aint gonna front. But you been asking about me I aint mad at the dude - just be a man about your shit. If he ever come across this interview then take it for what it is, I dont gotta take cheap shots at you. And Ill tell you this to your face, dog. Im a man. So its like, learn from this, analyze it, make yourself better, be stronger, be real with your shit baby. You from the Bridge, represent the Bridge! What youre doing is not the Bridge! Thats not how the Bridge moves, dog, you know that! So it is what it is.

Youre sort of like the Ambassador of Queensbridge in a lot of ways. A lot of people dont realize the role that youve played in other peoples careers and just helping people come up. How do you feel about that?

Thats why its real important for people to pick up this DVD and CD I got because its one thing for me to say it, like you cant be a self-proclaimed anything But when you got Havoc telling you the influence that I put in his life and how I gave him the name Havoc; when you got Capone and Noreaga, basically like yo, this dude taught us everything we know When you got dudes telling you from they mouth... Yo, I dont gotta say nothing. I dont wanna say nothing. Thats not a warrior to me.

Comin up, what did you learn from working with the Juice crew and the likes?

I remember comin up and being around Big Daddy Kane, you know how fucking nasty Kane is? You dont wanna open your mouth. Youre sitting there like Its equivalent to anybody who wants to make it in the corporate world or whatever, going to like Princeton or like fucking Yale. Youre having sessions with Rakim, do you understand what that means? I been in the corners of these sessions, like I was a little dude in the corner just sitting thereYou ever find yourself becoming so receptive that you leave your physical body? Like, youre not conscious of your body. Youre just in this moment, in this place, in this energy. Thats what that shit was like, every time. Because you gotta remember not only are these dudes the illest in the game, they were the game. Like you dont understand what that feels like to echo across your building while you walking through the block with some Filas on and no socks on and a tank top and you like, fucking, 80 pounds, 16 years old you dont even have fucking facial hair. Just walking through the block. Youve been there, you see how the buildings are, imagine that shit bouncing off the walls and its like its touching you while you walking and you like, yeah this is my moment. Thats what that shit feels like. That shit is the illest high, like G. Rap. Come on, man. Amazing. But you know, I hope that theres young artists or young listeners who feel that way now about somebody cause if they dont they being robbed.

So what do you say to the kids who come to you for advice, who look up to you, or just around-the-way kids?

Be true to yourself. Love yourself. I think one of the greatest crimes that anyone could commit is not loving themselves and I think that translates to a lot of other bullshit. I think its ultimately the lack of love for self. When you love yourself, youre not trying to sell death to nobody. When you love yourself, youre not trying to physically hurt nobody. And do your dreamsand if people are not with you, they are against you. If they cant be supportive of what you doing and what you really love and youre true to, then you gotta leave them alone. Sometimes it hurts but you dont ever wanna be in that situation. See, Im lucky and Im blessed. Im so blessed sometimes, on some real shit, tears come to my eyes when I think about it. When I sit back and look at the shit Ive been through, Im like damn, Im not even supposed to be here right now. How the fuck am I here? I got holes all in me. Sometimes your parents dont understand, sometimes your significant other doesnt understand, sometimes its you - you might not understand, and its hard. But you cant let them get in your way, and you cant get in the way of your own self cause nothing comes with sleeping but dreams. And in this day and time for young people to have dreams, I think thats beautiful. Dream big. Taste your dream. Appreciate everything, cause you could be in a different situation. And Ive been in all of them, except death damn near. I didnt die yet. Ive been shot, stabbed, car collision... Ive been in jail so much. But you gotta keep that passion; keep that focus on your dream.

Talk about going to jail.

My man, Castro, I was at his crib and we was just talking and kicking it. And he was talking about how we had a lot of friends that they didnt even make it, like they gone - a lot of our friends. And were not that old - Im only 34, son is like 32. Thats serious. We was going down the list, like, damn, damn, damn. You count off two hundred mother fuckers you knew thats dead. Thats serious.

Far worse than death is jail.

Well, if anybodys familiar with George Jackson, its like being in jail where basically your soul is on ice, you a slave, you a product, a number. Ive done been to jail all over the place, I been to the worst jails. They consider Fulton County Jail as the worst county jail in America. This is the jail where they dont even lock your cells at night, the inmates run the jail. And Im from New York, imagine that shit. But see Im a wolf and Im a warrior so my shit is gonna be respected cause wherever we gotta go thats where we gonna go and wherever we gotta come back to, thats where we gotta come back to. And Im prepared for whatever that means. So its like after a while your shit is respected, like homies good, yeah alright, youre good. We gotta exist in here and you not playing me. But Im looking at other dudes and Im going damn, shorty, you letting dudes just run up in you like that. Wow, this shit is serious, man. Yo, I was the youngest inmate at Elmira Prison, thats a Max A prison, I was 16 years old. The system sent me there cause they wanted me to get raped; they wanted me to get broke down. But it didnt happen. And it taught me a lot. I was in there with dudes who had triple life, they aint never coming home. You know who else was in there with me? Black Rob. We used to battle and shit. But on some serious shit, like that shit really opened my eyes up going in there. My shit was serious. I had ni--as trying to rape me, that shit is real. Where I had to go out with a pencil, you understand where Im coming from. These little dudes be thinking like, yo, you not even built for war. Then they gonna go down cause they not built for it, and when they come home, its gonna be a wrap. Their whole spirit is gone - they broke it. The system will break you.

How has going to jail affected your music?

It basically gave me the concept for Intelligent Hoodlum. I met a dude in Elmira, named Hicks. He had double life, young dude. He was two, three years older than me. But this dude, like he didnt look old but his whole aura was like, wow, son is a General. I was like 16, and like he was schooling me on how to live. But his whole science, the way he moved was ill. And he would just hit me with mad jewels, books to read. And in my mind this ni--a looked like a fucking intellectual hoodlum cause he always had the specs on. He was so articulate. And I was like how do you know about all this shit? He was a gangster. He told me, he showed me what a gangster really is. It aint no dude with a bandana on. Che Guevara was a gangster, Fidel Castro was a gangster, mother fuckin Malik El Hajj Shabazz was a gangster, Johnnie Cochran was a gangster, Mumia is a gangster, Mottola is a gangster, Russell Simmons is kinda gangsta. Word up, on some real shit. I respect that - those are gangsters. Basically, Hicks educated me, showed me you know how to eat to live instead of living to eat. And I learned a lot of valuable lessons in there. Serious shit.

How do you keep your positivity after all the things youve seen and been through?

Im not gonna front. My mom said that shit to me a long time ago. My mom said some deep shit to me, she was like you know what, I love you. You keep compassion. I dont know. I just feel like, Im not gonna give up. Im black, man, look at me. Im a King - thats in my blood. I cant give up. And me getting cold is giving up. I cant never give up. Everybodys not built to be strong and stand-up. I wanna be like Mandela if some shit come at me. I aint gonna front, I have my moments; I have my scars, too, psychologically. When I have to go be by myself because I have been away in places like that. And I gotta chill, be still. The other day I had to do it, and I aint ashamed of it cause it keeps me level. I had to go get a room just to be by myself. I just laid back and chilled. I didnt turn the TV on, I turned my phone off, and I stayed in that room all day and night just lying there thinking, cause I needed to be in my temple in myself. Shit gets too crazy, people all around me, you should do this, you know what you should do? Nah, yo. Nah. Some of yall love me, some of yall dont. And yall are not me. I gotta drive this, if youre riding, come on lets go. If not, fall back, get out my ear. As a matter fact, Im gonna holla at you later, Im gonna get you out of my ear.

Tell me about your album, Thug Matrix.

I basically want to put out hot singles, and I want to put out the music Ive been known for and the music I love. I want people to appreciate it, and just follow me. Follow my history; follow what Im doing and where Im going. We just finished shooting a movie. Poets in the movie.

Whats the movie about?

Its called Tragedy: A QB Story. Its about my life story.

Its important to talk about plans outside of just making music.

Market yourself. Market real hip-hop. Theres a way you can make money off of real hip-hop too. Theres a forum, theres an outlet, theres a demand. You could do it. See thats the thing, people have the wrong image and perception of shit. If you a big fat guy, you aint jogging ten miles a day. Its hard enough for you to get out of the bed. If you a skinny guy, you in shape, you do shit like that. Its like you gotta get-in where you fit-in. You aint gonna be. Stop going at this shit right here, prime time shit. Go underground, be the best underground dude. Go to the hoods. You cant be selling real hip-hop in the underground if you dont really touch the street like that. Its not gonna work for you. You gotta get out there. Thats the only way its going to work for anybody. If you got the thirst to do this shit, youre gonna find your fucking way Travel, man, travel. Thats the best thing I couldve done. You meet all different types of people, doing all different types of things. They could put you on to some shit.

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