WHITE BOIZ: THE ORIGINAL CONVERSATION
photography by theo jemison
At the beginning of 2015, my good friend Eric Coleman from Mochilla confided that Shafiq Husayn of Sa-Ra Creative Partners and Krondon of Strong Arm Steady were finishing an album. I asked what they were calling themselves. Coleman paused before answering: “White Boiz.” In a world where being “Black” is constantly being dissected, what does “White” mean? The rhyme is never without reason. A devoted student of Noble Drew Ali and the Moorish Science Temple of America, Shafiq was Krondon’s guide into a world of history, knowledge and symbolism obscured by modern culture. After years of discussions and debates, Shafiq turned on the MPC and Krondon stepped in the booth, both committed to bring the core of their conversations to wax. The result is Neighborhood Wonderful, out now via Stones Throw—a hard-hitting hip-hop LP equal parts high science and street corner content. So just how does high science and heavenly glory translate into rap music? I spoke with the two Master Teachers to find out. White Boiz perform on Thurs., Nov. 19, at the Regent Theater with Peanut Butter Wolf and more. (Win tickets here!) This interview by sweeney kovar.
I’m sure this is the first question everyone asks, and I’ll ask it too: can you break down the science behind the White Boiz idea?
Shafiq Husayn: White Boiz’ Neighborhood Wonderful is a venture into society that looks at the duality of things, to keep it short and simple. In the context of the white conversation, depending on what circle you’re in, white will mean something specific to you. Everyone knows that white means purity. Purity means God and God means the ruler of the land. A group of people have taken that construct and applied it to what you would call ‘race.’ We know there’s only one race—the human race. So that gives way to the conversation: ‘What is really white?’ White Boiz and the album Neighborhood Wonderful is our way of saying let’s have a conversation—let’s talk about it.
Krondon: We’re in agreement with that. When we were coming up with the concept, the basis of our conversations was to truly look at what the meaning of ‘white.’ Us being brothers of knowledge, we saw the breakdown in that understanding in society today. Obviously the perception over time changes, so in this time ‘white’ means something to this society in America today. That doesn’t necessarily mean that is the truth or that it is accurate. Like with all things, the perception over time changes. We’re bringing it back to what the original essence of what that term means when you place it upon a people or society. We’re taking it back to where it started. Not a racial term or a thing to describe a particular sect of people but more of a state of mind and state of spirit and state of being.
In the imagery you’ve released from the album—the teaser video, photos and even the cover—there’s heavy references to the Moorish Science Temple of America.
Krondon: My initial experiences with the M.S.T. of A. were based on the teachings of Noble Drew Ali. Not delving too deep into it, but the basis of those teachings. Even prior to me recording with Shafiq, our conversations in the beginning were about us connecting the dots as brothers together. He opened my mind up to the intricate workings and the foundation of the M.S.T. of A. This was years before we even recorded one record. I have to give my brother Shafiq the personal credit for opening me up to the intricate workings. Growing up studying all things Black or so-called Black, of course I came across the teachings of Marcus Garvey, Noble Drew Ali, Master Farrad, all these people. I wasn’t able to get an in-depth idea into the M.S.T. of A. until brother Shafiq enlightened me. Then I was able to do more homework and research on my own. Then I was given some literature on my own. Then I attended some meetings and met some brothers. It was an organic thing for me to grow into that understanding of what that religious corporation really is and what it represents for not just our people but for the world. To touch on what you mean about the symbols in the imagery and particularly the flag we made, I have to say that the things I was exposed to in the M.S.T. of A. allowed me to see how America is made up and designed. Personally, as a man, the teachings allowed me to see America for what it really is. That’s why it was really important for us to put the Moor stars as the stars on the flag. By the way, when we were having the flag made, Shafiq didn’t even know about it. That was something that I pulled in at the last minute. The Ahk didn’t even know I was doing that.
Shafiq Husayn: I had no idea. It just happened, and check this out—Krondon is not even an official member of Moorish Science Temple of America.
Krondon: Not at all, but I am a believer and a follower of the understandings and the concept of what it is to be a Moor. I bring brothers to the temple. It’s really about us knowing truly who we are. Not who the preacher says we are on Sunday. Not who the newscaster says we are on Monday. Truly who we are and what position we have here in America. That’s the most important part. What position do we have as a people here in America.
For some reading this interview the concepts and the terms associated with Moorish Science Temple of America may be foreign. Can you break it down and explain whom you’re considering a Moor in present day?
Shafiq Husayn: A Moor is what you might call an African-American, but you have Moors who are all over the planet because of the Moorish Empire or the Moroccan Empire or what later morphed into the Ottoman Empire. In the context of the Americas, it was never discussed that the Americas were actually a part of the Moorish Empire—actually the capital seed of the Empire. That was a conversation missing from the history books because of the bearing of the Moorish history inside of that. You can’t talk about the United States of America without talking about Moors. Impossible. That right there illuminates another dynamic on the social conversation of ‘What is White and Black?’ or ‘Who are the White people and who are the Black people?’ Take it out of white and Black—what is a US citizen versus an American citizen? I’m at the DMV and the sister at the counter is generalizing America with the United States. I had to tell her you have other nations and governments that are in the Americas too. You have Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Belize. The United States does not make up the Americas. They are a portion of states that come together to form a unit called the United States of America. If you go back you’ll learn they were called the British Subjects of North America. That’s in the history books. There was a Continental Congress. George Washington was a general before he was a President. In whose government was he a general? Who was the president? If you can’t behold these simple truths that are before you, then all this high science and heavenly glory—you ain’t ready for that yet!
Shafiq Husayn: You ain’t know your ass from a hole in the ground, is what they would say. Let’s have a conversation. That’s the philosophy behind White Boiz. Now let’s talk about creativity—every artist should have some kind of intention behind their music because your intentions dictate your expectations. When we put on this white garb and put on these names and monikers, there’s an expectation out of this. The expectation is we intend to provoke thought! The thought is the cause of it all. The thought is why in today’s society we got people walking around talking about this person is a White person or a Black person. 200 years ago, the thought behind that word was different. Krondon and I, 200 years ago, could be considered free white men. We would be considered slave-owners, or let me put it this way—we would be considered Slav-owners. 13th Amendment bans slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States except by crime or punishment. Ask the question: What is the difference between slavery and involuntary servitude? We ask that because involuntary servitude is what we suffered against our will. At one point, slavery was what you agreed to for services in exchange for your labor—you would go home. Involuntary servitude, they owned everything about you. They’ve attached another group of people to that word, ‘slave,’ when it was for Slavs.
Who were Slavs?
Shafiq Husayn: Czechoslovakians, Yugoslavians, basically Eastern Europeans. My point is: names and terms get redefined through eras. In different social circles, names and terminology are used differently to express whatever everybody agreed to. Who agreed to ‘Negro,’ ‘Black’, ‘Colored,’ ‘Afro-American’ or ‘African-American’?
Krondon: I didn’t agree to that shit!
Shafiq Husayn: Who signed up for that? I don’t remember a census coming out from us to vote for the Black President. Where is the Black flag? Where is the constitution for the Black people? Where is Black land? Even if you say African-American, we’re talking about two separate continents. Each of those continents have more than fifty sovereign nation-states with constitutions, with presidents, monarchs, kings, flags, histories, embassies, consulates, passports. What are we talking about now? What is happening?
You mentioned sparking thought as an intention behind this endeavor—do you have any more specific actions or thoughts you hope to elicit with this work?
Shafiq Husayn: We’ve been talking about White, right? Let’s talk about Black. If you look at its etymology, ‘black’ comes from the word ‘bleak’ in German where we also get the word ‘bleach.’ If you say ‘black’ what is the first shade it shades to? Grey, and then from grey it fades to white. It never passes through the color spectrum. Now let’s talk about color. What is color? It’s anything that has been painted, stained, varnished or dyed. Inanimate objects—things that aren’t living—you can paint that and it can be washed away. When did the real living thing get turned into an adjective? ‘Black person’ is not real. White Boiz is a reset. When you have a painting you want to paint over, what do you do? You take some primer and you white wash it. You might still see remnants of the old piece there but it’s a blank canvas. It’s taking the concepts out of the linear conversation of Black/White and now we’re going to put it in color—in real life. Everyone has had their chance to white wash the first stone that was here, the Moorish history, so we’re going to white out the white conversation. It’s a reset because it’s the original conversation. White means purity, purity means God and God means the ruler of the land. Amin.
Krondon: We want what’s happening right now. We want what is happening to you. When you saw it, when you got the album, you had all these questions. Now you’re privy enough to know Shafiq and be one of us so you’re able to call and email and send out a kite and get us on the line. For those that can’t do that, which is the majority of the world, they gotta talk amongst each other. They gotta research and go online and utilize this information highway that we have for more than just porn and promo music…
Shafiq Husayn: …and fuckery.
Krondon: They should go and engage in some history and engage each other, the way you’re asking us these questions. They should ask their mothers and fathers, their uncles and cousins these questions. What we’re saying overall is that the conversation needs to be had.
Shafiq Husayn: If Black lives matter, then this conversation about what ‘Black’ is matters. There is polarity in everything, so within the so-called Black conscious community, there is a divide on topics. The common things we agree on are like the need to have our own voice and so on—the divide comes in the way to achieve that. You have one perspective who says we need to assimilate and you have another group that really wants to go back to how it used to be—a reset. There is a duality in everything. You may have foreign sympathizers to our plight and obviously you have oppressors who still want to carry out atrocious and heinous acts on our people. That’s why there is always going to be a conversation whether it’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ or something else. Our people is not going to get any redress by identifying themselves with a title that is at bare minimum culturally ambiguous. ‘Black’ and ‘African-American’ is still culturally ambiguous—at bare minimum. There is not nationality attached to that. Everyone else has some flags that they can pull out on their day. What does the so-called African-American Negro Colored, descendant of a legacy of slavery and Jim Crow-ism have? What flag do we pull out? That conversation matters. Who is the father of racism? Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, German scientist, anthropologist, psychologist from the 1700s—what some would call a renaissance man. He is the one who came up with the modern day racial classifications. This is the 1700s, bro! This concept of Black/White back then was a new thing, so to speak. It didn’t mean anything in the context of what we’re meaning now. Just like how hip-hop—in its inception and in its purest form and then through the different eras—it has morphed into this new age form. Is it in its purest form? No, there are remnants of it. Just like there is only remnants of the Moorish history. You see everybody else wear our stuff and acting like us, but the people who are party to the contract don’t know they’re party to the contract.
It sounds like you have some strong and specific intentions with this work—I’m curious about your process of creation.
Krondon: It started off as a personal admiration of each other’s craft—what we each represented in music. Then the conversation quickly illustrated how similar our minds were and how similar our backgrounds were and where our mentality brought us in music today. It just continued on until an album was made. We had more conversations then we did studio sessions. It’s the conversations that shaped the music.
Shafiq Husayn: That’s a very good point. This shows you the professionalism between the both of us. What he’s saying is the time to actually perform tracks and make tracks … it’s like really no time. That thing doesn’t really take much time to do. It’s the philosophy and intention behind going into the vocal booth or getting behind the drum machine or keyboard that’s now spearheading this.
Krondon: True indeed!
Shafiq Husayn: Our technical prowess and abilities are already there but we have to plant an intention behind it now.
I especially love the guests on the album. Can you tell me a bit on how D Prosper, Chace Infinite and Blu landed on the project?
Krondon: We had ideas going into this on who we wanted but the scheduling and timing didn’t allow us to get everyone on the crusade. Chace Infinite is probably my personal favorite MC. He’s also on of my mentors and biggest supporter in music my whole entire career. It was so spiritual for me. He’s honestly the only rapper that I truly cared about being a part of this. Spiritually he’s one of my soul mates. He actually had another verse for us that did not make the album, but that’s neither here nor there. Chace was the only one to do multiple records for us. If you know Self Scientific, if you know Chace Infinite individually and what he’s doing with A$AP and all of that, you know that he’s one of my biggest influences. Blu is just a genius with words to me. He’s a big fan of mine as I am of his. I’m really big into omens and I felt like it was a good omen to have Blu a part of this thing. You see how we used him and D Prosper as kind of guest trumpeters or guest violinist that we brought to our jazz jam session. D Prosper is a musical savant and he’s been behind some of the best things to happen in music in the last 10 plus years. Spiritually it was very important to have him be part of it as well. Again, I stress that these were spiritual decisions more than just, ‘Oh, they’re dope rappers’ and so on. Of course they are extremely talented and extremely acclaimed in their own individual ways but for Shafiq and I it was spiritual. The same goes with everyone else—Thundercat, Iman Omari and Jimetta Rose.
Was most of the production made from scratch? Or was Krondon able to peep into the Shafiq Husayn archives?
Shafiq Husayn: It was strictly Krondon peeping into my archives. There may have been some songs we touched up but most of the production was gems from the archives.
Krondon: I have to be honest—as an MC coming from Strong Arm Steady, with this LP I was able to do and express exactly what I wanted to. As far as the music goes, you already know brother’s music—there was so much! I sat up for months just listening to music. I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t pick music from any other place but my spiritual energy. The thing that made the album a whole was that spiritually it was connected in what it was that we were doing. I didn’t speak to the music until the music spoke to me. The first record we ever recorded was ‘Bloomingdale’s.’ That’s the first beat that I picked and that’s the first record that we recorded and this is after a year of vibing and conversation, three months of studio sessions just listening to music. Then I heard the ‘Bloomingdale’s’ beat and I knew that was the first one. I asked him what the name of the beat was. He said it was called ‘Bloomingdale’s.’ I’ll never forget—I said ‘Is that right?’ I went into the other room and wrote the song because—no bullshit—the music was telling me about every woman that I met that were schemers and scammers, that led tricks and beat niggas over they head, that had four or five kids and was out with me every night. The music was telling me, ‘Do you remember that time?’ When I heard the beat for ‘Mary’s Son’—this is before there was any instrumentation on it, before any Thundercat or Chris Dave or anything—that beat spoke to me. It said, ‘It’s going to be OK. Your momma wasn’t there, your daddy was gone, you had a baby at 14 and look, it’s OK!’ This is my most honest record. It’s the most transparent as an MC that I’ve ever been.
Shafiq Husayn: We keep overlooking the big elephant in the room. Krondon is Albino. For all intents and purposes, he is a ‘Black’ man. His momma and daddy are so-called ‘Black people’ from the ‘hood, the real ‘hood, from the seed of what you call Gang Bang L.A. It don’t get no more ‘nigga’ than this nigga. So what is that in the context of what you would call a ‘white’ person? Krondon has a whole other science on that. He gave a bar out on The Breakfast Club radio show in New York that’s still resonating within the M.S.T. of A. I’m going to let Brother Love go in on that. Back to the father of racism, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach—he was basing his findings on what he called phenotypes, cranial science and other features like the nose. Based on that he came up with a system to say who was intelligent or who wasn’t, who was superior and who was inferior. That’s where the ‘who’s better than’ from today came from—that’s why we call him the father of racism. You have to now deal with where did you come from, Johann Blumenbach? Who are you? Albinism is a pigmentation demonstration. It still doesn’t have anything to do with what you’re talking about.
Krondon: You got white people like Brother Ali. I love Brother Ali but nobody wants to ask Brother Ali what he really is though. Hello? Anybody heard me? He can rap, be Muslim with a name like Brother Ali and yet no one wants to ask him what he really is. A white man with a white mother and white father—albino though—who has a Black wife and came up Sunni but because he’s Muslim and wears a kufi and does his surahs, no one wants to ask him. His being albino has made him as an individual racially ambiguous. To a lot of people, he is racially ambiguous. You gotta know that’s my brother. I gotta send Ali this album. I’m trippin’ not sending Ali this album. Here’s a white man who is proved a white man but racially he holds no moniker. If you talk to Ali, you might can’t tell. He was raised in the Midwest, the whitest part of America, he’s a Muslim who raps and sounds like Martin Luther King. He’s racially ambiguous. My point is that if we fit genetically and we speak about what we know as the 36 shades of Black, and we speak about what my brother said earlier regarding where the word ‘Black’ came from and it’s original origin, then who are we talking about? The Holy Father’s genetic make up. This is just how he made us. You can’t change how he made us, it’s just how we’re made. It’s what they call the gene pool. It has a beginning and it has an end. This is just the truth. If Brother Ali and Krondon are both Albino. If I have a baby with a white woman, Black baby. Right? If a white man has a baby with a Black woman, Black baby. Right? When we speak about ‘White’ and the true essence about what race is, Brother Ali and I are representations of what God truly is, even without melanin. You gotta take that. If you want to look God in it’s purest forms you have to look at my brother and I and see what God is telling you through us two individuals. We’re reshaping how we view these things because propaganda can be confusing if we don’t really do our real homework on what it really means to be these things. How did these titles and monikers that we put on ourselves come to be?
WHITE BOIZ WITH PEANUT BUTTER WOLF, J. ROCC AND SAMIYAM ON THURS., NOV. 19, AT THE REGENT THEATER, 448 S. MAIN ST., DOWNTOWN. 8 PM / $10 / 18+. REGENTTHEATER.COM. WHITE BOIZ’ NEIGHBORHOOD WONDERFUL IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM STONES THROW. STONESTHROW.COM/WHITEBOIZ.