Lord Jamar Defines "Devil," Explains Use Of "Faggot" On "Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down"

posted | 44 comments

Lord Jamar Defines "Devil," Explains Use Of "Faggot" On "Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down"

Exclusive: Brand Nubian's Five Percent philosopher weighs in on whether his former protege stic.man penned for Nas and why his past "like a faggot in the clink" lyrics did not constitute Gay-bashing.

In advance of HipHopDX’s forthcoming retrospective, “Diamond D’s Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop 20 Years Later,” several of the contributors to one of the more memorable releases from the early ‘90s are being interviewed to recall their memories from the making of the Diggin’ In The Crates crewmember’s debut. Each Hip Hop luminary involved is also being asked for some additional thoughts on their own pasts. The first SB&HH alum to be questioned for this special feature was Brand Nubian’s baritone, Lord Jamar.   

Below is the portion of Q&A post-discussion of his appearance on Diamond D’s “A Day In The Life,” wherein the outspoken orator addressed some of the more controversial moments in his own 23-year career. The commanding emcee, who began his career on Brand Nubian’s 1990 debut, One For All, by boldly declaring he has “no tolerance for Black ignorance,” marked the 20th anniversary of the most talked-about track in the Brand Nubian catalog by enlightening the uninformed as to why he chose to use the taboo word “faggot” as a synonym for “punk” on the classic ass-kicking cut, “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down.”  

The rapper/producer/actor (who is set to appear alongside Michael K. Williams and Jamie Hector of The Wire fame this fall in the web series Lenox Avenue) went on to illuminate his actions and positions regarding a few other interesting topics of discussion. While he continues to plot the perfect time to unleash his sophomore solo album, Known Associates (via his own label, Universal Indie Records), the Five Percent poet graciously took some time to carefully explain who The Nation of Gods and Earths see “the devil” as, why he – like Kendrick Lamar – refuses to partake in the political process he says President Obama had him “gassed up” to participate in four years ago, and why a dozen years ago he stopped working with his protégés, dead prez, following the duo’s debut (and why he believes stic.man possibly could have ghostwritten for Nas.)  

And finally, the consummate multi-tasker (who in addition to his rapping and acting activities is also Associate Publisher of two tablet-based publications, Hoodgrown shared a few fond memories of the man who helped inspire his hustling prowess, the late Chris Lighty.

HipHopDX: When “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down” dropped 20 years ago how intense was the protest coming at y’all from the Gay rights community over the original LP version of the song?

Lord Jamar: We didn’t really even know about it. [But then] the record company, [Elektra Records], was like, “Yo! They’re whylin’; they’re buggin’ out.” [They were] talking about some GLAAD shit and all this type of shit. [But] we always took the attitude – especially back then, we was nice and young – we didn’t give a fuck.

When MTV didn’t wanna play “Wake Up” because they didn’t like our portrayal of the devil or whatever we was like, “Well, fuck ‘em. Don’t play it. We don’t give a fuck.” We’re not even thinking about the financial ramifications of [the label] spent money on the video and all of that. They were like, “Oh, if we just edit it,” and we was like, “Nah, fuck that, don’t edit it.” But they went ahead and edited it anyway and then MTV played it.

So, you know, that [protest to “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down”] didn’t really have no affect on us, at all. In my mind I’m like, “Well, okay, they can protest.” At that point I don’t think that community was buying Hip Hop records anyway. So it’s not like your protest is gonna stop my record sales and all this type of shit. I guess y’all was trying to go after corporations and stop people from selling it. But, it didn’t work.

And first of all, that’s not what the song was even about. They tried to use certain lines from the song and tried to twist it for their cause. In the street people call people “faggot” all of the time. That don’t mean they’re calling you a homosexual. That’s a slang term for a sucker or a weak muthafucka or whatever you wanna call ‘em. Or a punk.

DX: But you’re saying the whole song wasn’t intended to be -

Lord Jamar: Wasn’t nothing about Gays and Gay-bashing. That’s what they tried to make it seem to be and that’s not what it was about.

DX: So what finally made you and Sadat X go back and substitute “sissy” in the place of “faggot” and “rip up a party” in place of “freak, flock, flow, fuck up a faggot” for the video version to the song?

Lord Jamar: Because we wanna hear it on the radio. Not from what they said; because we wanted to hear it on the radio. Because everybody was doing clean versions to songs, not just ‘cause of that song. Because if you wanted your joint played on the radio you need the clean version. I understand that, fine, let’s do it. But nowhere in our minds was it any pressure from GLAAD or anything like that. They didn’t have anything to do with it.

DX: Now, the obvious follow-up question … I know your personal stance towards homosexuality hasn’t changed since “Punks,” but in the current climate of television commercials encouraging young people to stop using the word “Gay” as a slur, and rappers and other artists applauding Frank Ocean for publicly coming out, do you have any regrets at all in hindsight for expressing your religious views regarding homosexuality in such an aggressive way?

Lord Jamar: Well, there again, what are you talking about? Like, you see what I’m saying? It’s making it seem like that song was about that and I was aggressively going after [homosexuals]. Nobody was doing that. “Just got whipped like a faggot in the clink,” that’s some real shit. Niggas get beat up in jail that’s faggots. What’chu want me to do about that? You see what I’m saying?

DX: Maybe it’s unfair to ask you; I’m really referencing Sadat’s part.

Lord Jamar: Yeah, Sadat [X] said, “Don’t understand their ways and I ain’t down with Gays.” That’s his prerogative. But now when he said, “Shoot the faggot in the back for acting like that” [on “Pass The Gat”], he’s not talking about homos right there. That part he’s not talking about Gay people even though he said “faggot.” You see? For acting like what? For acting Gay? No, for acting like a bitch-ass and talking shit. That’s what it was about.

So nah, I don’t regret nothing. First of all, my stand on homosexuality is I don’t agree with it but everybody has their own free will in this world. And if that’s how you choose to live, you do you. I don’t agree with it; I feel like it’s a distortion of mind. But that’s up to me. You don’t have to live in my universe and I don’t have to live in yours. So I don’t regret nothing I said … ‘cause it’s all real.

DX: I mentioned your religious beliefs. Recently, HipHopDX -

Lord Jamar: They’re not religious either, but go ahead. [Laughs]

DX: [Laughs] Okay.

Lord Jamar: More philosophical I would say than religious.

DX: Okay. Well, recently HipHopDX contributor Brandon E. Roos wrote a really enlightening editorial on the essays included in the book Knowledge of Self: A Collection of Wisdom on the Science of Everything in Life. And in his list of the 10 things he learned while reading the book, he cited the story of how you secured your role on Oz by explaining Five Percenter philosophy to the show’s creator and refusing to back down from your belief that the Black man is God and therefore the White man is the devil. I have to admit my ignorance to this subject even after years of absorbing Wu-Tang Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers and Brand Nubian songs; I never took the time to really research the Five Percent faith, so I was always under the assumption that the label “devil” could be applied to anyone of any race. Is that incorrect?

Lord Jamar: No, it is not incorrect; yes it can be. The first devil would be considered a Black man, because we are the original people of this planet earth. In the teachings of the Five Percent Nation it basically is saying that the White man would be like a physical manifestation by nature of … not necessarily evil … but see when you say “God” and “devil,” these are redefined terms by us. These are not the terms that you think of God and devil when you think of a Christian philosophy or what we’ve been taught by society at large. So, the White man would be almost the carbon copy of the Black man.

And whereas by nature Black people are more peaceful, we were taught that by nature White people were more bellicose, more warlike, more self-serving, ready to master others. And this was done to teach us a lesson: to not do this to each other. ‘Cause all that shit that happened in Egypt and all that slavery; that was Black people doing it to Black people. But it’s hard to see. This is why Moses was mistaken as a king and all that because he looked like the Egyptians. And it’s hard to see physically – Black on Black crime. So from what we were taught, this man was created to show you a physical representation of what you are doing to yourself.

And it’s not about hating anyone. It’s not about none of that; it’s about knowing yourself and having understanding of who you are.

DX: How much do you think your insistence on lacing your lyrics with Five Percent teachings through the years adversely affected your career?

Lord Jamar: Well, it depends on what you mean by adversely. Everybody’s perspective is all relative. Like, did it stop us from making money in certain venues or avenues? Absolutely. But how did it affect me positively? Did I have people coming to me like, “Yo, you got me through college with your music, and you enlightened me to different ways [of thinking]”? That’s priceless. So when you say adversely, it’s all on what someone would feel is adversity.

DX: I was just curious if there were any like deals or any type of meetings you found yourself in where someone explicitly said we’re not doing anything with them because of that?

Lord Jamar: Nah, they probably would just hide. You see, people like that are just … they’re suckas. So they might feel like that but they’re not gonna say it to your face, they’re just not gonna fuck with you. [Laughs]. … It’ll never get to the point of like, Let me get ‘em here in a meeting and express the fact that I don’t like what the fuck they’re talking about. [Laughs]

DX: You mentioned earlier the “Wake Up” video; that was directed by Fab Five Freddy [of Yo! MTV Raps] right?

Lord Jamar: Yes it was.

DX: So, I mean, did he have to go into a meeting to get it back on the air?

Lord Jamar: I mean, he was fighting for us. He worked at MTV, obviously, and that was kind of why we wanted him to do the video ‘cause we’re figuring, “Hey, he’s at MTV; if he does it we’re definitely gonna get played on MTV. So let’s let him do it.” But, you know, it came to light that really he didn’t have no power like that. Like, he’s just a figurehead or whatever, [but] as bad as he wanted it [played] I’m sure he did what he could do. I guess he talked to somebody and they was like, “Listen, if you edit it, alright, we’ll play it. But you gotta take that out and that out ….” And we was like, “Fuck you.” [Laughs] We was like, “You ain’t taking shit out!” We was on some real militant shit back then.

DX: And what was the scene specifically they edited out? ‘Cause I think on YouTube you can only see the edited version now.

Lord Jamar: Well, there was a representation of what people would consider “the devil.” And he was dressed in a corporate suit … a Black man painted in White face, and he had a blonde wig, and he had some little horns coming out of his head. [Laughs] And he was like proliferating poison and shit like that. We also had [a scene] where they had like a pig and the pig was like sectioned off – you know how you see sections of the pig where it says “rump” or the “ribs”? But [ours] was saying like “drugs” and “poverty” and shit like that.

DX: Switching gears here to a different but no less serious subject, on Grand Puba’s “I See Dead People” from his most recent solo album, 2009’s Retroactive, you spit, “I know we got a Black man in The White House / But there’s still Black fams with the lights out / Still got the bad man at the crack house / Mr. Pres, can you tell me what’s that about?” Three years later do you still have the same doubts about President Obama’s ability to usher in the substantive change he originally campaigned on?

Lord Jamar: Uh … yes. [Laughs] First of all, let me just say he had me gassed up like everybody else in the beginning. I went and voted for his ass. He fucked up by doing that, by getting me involved, because I started watching the muthafucka. And he went ahead and reinstituted a lot of policies that George W. Bush had implemented and were about to be expired: Patriot Act shit and all kind of shit he’s done [kept in place] on the low.

We act like we’re happy to have a Black man in The White House but at the end of the day he’s not really doing anything for Black people per se. And it’s not about Black and White really, these days it’s about rich and poor. He’s not doing nothing for the poor people really. So it’s all rhetoric, man. They act like its two different sides; it’s all one side. And he was somebody they needed at this time, at this juncture in history, where we’re at psychologically. Like, “Let’s let a Black man in there to implement this shit.”

DX: Kendrick Lamar recently caught hell for admitting that he doesn’t vote. If it’s not too intrusive a question to ask, do you vote? And if so, or if not, why?

Lord Jamar: Well I just told you I voted for homeboy, but that’s the first time I ever voted in my life. And I don’t plan on doing it again. Why? ‘Cause, what’s gonna happen is gonna happen. … There’s a lot of shady shit out there. And if y’all really feel like they’re counting these votes and that they matter, you’re sadly mistaken. Bush and [Al] Gore [in 2000] showed us that. They showed us that the count don’t matter, what the people say does not matter; it’s what the Electoral College says that matters. So, it’s already been decided who’s gonna be in there.

DX: Yeah, I think the outrage coming at Kendrick was really more because he’s younger and feeling like maybe he doesn’t understand the history of what Black folks went through to get voting rights. That somehow he’s betraying that history. And I don’t think that’s what it is; I think it’s just he’s looking at it like you, in a practical, real-life way.

Lord Jamar: Right. Look, we went through a lot of stuff to do a lot of things, and we’re betraying more than just that. Trust me.

DX: Switching gears again to another one of these light topics. [Laughs]

Lord Jamar: [Laughs] Shoot.

DX: You can be seen rocking the red dead prez shirt two years before Let’s Get Free in the video for Brand Nubian’s timeless warning to one-hit wonders, “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head.” You then went on to produce a third of dp’s debut, including the cool-out classic “Happiness.” So given the pivotal role you played in their early career, I was just curious to know why you haven’t worked with them since?

Lord Jamar: Well, you know – First of all, I’m the one that discovered [dead prez] and signed them to Loud Records and all of that. You know … there were some personality clashes at some points during the making of the first album. And, that led to – See there’s really a real album before Let’s Get Free. It’s untitled; it’s just the stuff that we recorded that got them the deal, and that got them like [a cult following]. We had like a hundred people following us [around to performances] - literally disciples – before they were even signed or anything like that, from this particular demo that we made. But as soon as they got signed they wanted to start doing some other stuff. You know, it’s cool or whatever. But, there became a little clash there and it was best that I just let them do what they was gonna do.

But we’ve since got things cool. And, we have done some stuff together. We did a song together but it just didn’t come out. I might do some stuff with them in the future though.

DX: I just have to ask, since it’s the topical, in the news question, you care to weigh in at all about the recent Twitter-generated uproar over stic.man possibly writing parts of Nas’ Untitled album?

Lord Jamar: Well, here’s the thing, I know for a fact that [stic.man] and Jay Electronica are students of Nas. They weren’t there for Illmatic; they weren’t there for none of his classic shit. People are talking about an album that quite frankly we don’t remember in comparison to those albums.

That being said, if that was the case, so what? So what? Like, somebody was trying to say, “That’s like Barry Bonds. That discredits all of his shit.” No it doesn’t. First of all, I can see why something like that would happen. And if he did do that it was smart to get those two dudes to do it – if he did get them to write.

This is the scenario I’m thinking it was, this is what my third eye is telling me: We on a major label; you’re on the roster to put some shit out, but you’re going through some shit; you might be having writer’s block; Kelis is getting on your fuckin’ nerves … just shit is going on, man; I can’t think clearly right now, but I gotta get this bread; as rappers we gotta keep that income coming in; I’m on the roster; I gotta stay competitive; I need to have something in the marketplace; they’re on my fuckin’ back to put something out; what do I do? Let me fuck with some dudes that I know love my fuckin’ style - I hear that I fathered their styles and all of that – and maybe I can get some inspiration off these dudes at the very least. We in the studio; fuck, they came with some shit. Aw, that shit is hot! And he’s like, Shit, fuck it. Like, why not?

I know Nas. First of all, I met Nas when he was like 16. When I was running with Large Professor, he was running with Large Professor. Those sessions with Eric B. & Rakim, I was there: when Nas used to sound like a young Kool G. Rap. I know he’s a Hip Hop nigga; I know he wrote his own shit. But everybody can have that point when it’s just like, Yo man, I can’t even do this right now. Shit, who knows?

Brand Nubian was never the type that was under pressure like that as far as like, Yo, you gotta put something out. We putting shit out when we ready to put it out. Like, I’ll find some other shit to do. I put out a fuckin’ solo album six years ago, [The 5% Album], and niggas been beggin’ me like, “Yo, put somethin’ out!” I work off of inspiration, not just because I gotta have some shit out in the marketplace. But, that’s not how everybody do it.

DX: I don’t wanna end this interview on an even heavier note, but I saw your tweet [@lordjamar] regarding the passing of Chris Lighty. You wrote that “he was an integral part of Brand Nubian’s career.” I wasn’t aware of that; how was Chris integral in Brand Nubian?

Lord Jamar: He was our manager for those years we were with Rush [Artist Management]. And especially when [Grand] Puba left the group, and me and X was like carrying on the Brand Nubian name, he was somebody that was there behind us, giving us that confidence like, “Man, do that shit; you got it!” Like, “Don’t worry about that shit; you good.” And I’m like, “Yeah! Baby Chris believe in a nigga.” And then it was like, man, we been on the road and just all kind of shit we done been through together. I done fuckin’ … I can’t even go into it, man. Mad stories with this dude.

And even up until this day. Like, a lot of those executive dudes from back in the days, once you not hot no more they’re not fuckin’ wit’chu. But that dude right there, if I called him he’s calling me back like five minutes later. When I first got on Twitter, he was retweeting mad shit. One day I said, “Yo, how come Brand Nubian’s never been on that VH1 Hip Hop Honors?” He retweets that and he says, “Good question.” Yo, within five minutes he hits me back – and I hadn’t talked to him in years, keep in mind – with the lady’s name and number who runs the VH1 shit like, “Yo, hit her up.” I’m like, Wow, that’s some crazy shit.

My man Ca$h Out that’s out right now, I was fuckin’ with him like two years ago down in Atlanta. And I called Chris about him, just to get a little advice. And we was just choppin’ it up, and he was just telling me some shit. And it’s like … now they saying … I don’t know, man. I don’t know what to make of it. It’s like, I don’t take nothing on face value. They’re saying suicide – I don’t know. He didn’t seem like the type of guy that would do that. But I ain’t been around him like that in a long time so I don’t know. But, it just feels funny to me. Like, it’s weird.

Whatever the case may be, he was a good brother; he was always a good brother to me, man, and it’s a shame that he’s gone.

Purchase Music by Lord Jamar

Purchase Music by Brand Nubian

RELATED: Sadat X Explains Why "There's No Girl Rapper Better Than Him," Hopes To Work With Harry Fraud

Share This

Add New Comment

In reply to:

{{inReply.author.name}} :

{{inReply.content}}

Cancel Reply
  • * required field