Tragedy Khadafi Interview
Tragedy Khadafi was also known at one point as the Intelligent Hoodlum. He has been rapping since a very young age and was also the youngest member of the Juice Crew. Tragedy is another artist that I feel should have elevated much higher in his main stream career but he has certainly pegged a high spot in hip hop with regards to all of his work and all of the work that he will continue to make. This guy is a true artist who puts his soul into his music; not to mention he also was a major factor in the group Capone N Noreaga coming to life. MusicalFury – What have you been up to lately? Tragedy Khadafi – lately I have been working on my next release called Saint’s Row, fine tuning it and preparing to drop it. I have also been working on a few other projects, going back and forth with Hell Razah. Also working on a project with Distrolord aka Phantom and finishing up last touches of my book. The book is mainly an inspirational book. It deals with hip hop and life and how to navigate through life as well as hip hop. MusicalFury – I heard the new album you had with Tragic Allies, G.E.M.S. and was pretty impressed, how did that come about? Tragedy Khadafi – Well I basically met one of the guys to do a feature and from that point on we built a relationship and went out there a few times and felt their vibe. I told them, this reminds me of Queensbridge in it’s early stages, Linn Mass. I was working with Purpose and also working with MC Neck, Code 9 and Relentless who is like an extended member. We had a real good energy out there and came to a point where we just did a project together. They had the same passion and motivation as me and it came out to be a good project. MusicalFury – What first inspired you to be a rapper or to get into music, period? Tragedy Khadafi – I think because of when I was growing up, I was always trying to find my way in things. I tried playing basketball which I sucked at and that was odd because my mother and father were really great basketball players. They were really into sports and really athletic and I tried my hand in it and it didn’t come quite natural but was just trying to follow in the footsteps of my parents. Most young people try to emulate their parents to a large degree. When hip hop found me I felt natural, I always loved music and found a peace in music. But, when hip hop found me it claimed me and I grew with it and embraced it. Then I started imitating artists that I admired and then I found confident enough to start my own project. It then became my history or my legacy. MusicalFury – How was life growing up in Queensbridge, especially being associated in the 90’s when there was like an army of talented rappers? Tragedy Khadafi – There is still an army out there of talented rappers but the industry is a lot different obviously but for me it was a great influence having people like Cool G rap, Roxanne, Biz, Marley Marl etc.. It was priceless the things I learned. For me, some of my pears who lived out there like Cormega and Nas, some of the rappers that came out under me. It was just great learning from artists who were like legends of their time, I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world. Then learning from up and coming artists like Mobb Deep, Noyd, Nature. Then there are others who are trying to make a name for themselves like Challace, Mr. Ruc, Killa Sha, Poet, Hot Day, Panic these are all individuals that I learned from or gave something to Tragedy and I added on to. MusicalFury – I know you were part of the Juice Crew from a young age so I guess Marley Marl must have seen something in you to bring in someone to the crew so young. Did that help you get your first deal at A&M when you were still the Intelligent Hoodlum? Tragedy Khadafi – Of course, it did more than help me, he was more than a mentor he was more like a father figure I got a lot of silent guidance, just being in that cypher or atmosphere. Imagine an artist like Kendrick Lamar growing up under like Dre. Snoop, Game etc.. Receiving all that information and experience, it was wonderful for me. I also got a funny story by the way. When I put out my own record with DJ Hot Day, he is a legend in his own right. We basically put out our own records and it was called Go Queensbridge. We were independent before dudes even knew what independent was. The game is different but at that particular time it was getting a buzz and shopping it and doing it that way but we needed funds and what not. The main goal was to get a deal and when I found out that Marley lived in the neighborhood I would go to his door every day. I remember Rakim and Eric B making check out my melody right there live. That was my platform into the game and into the industry, it was amazing. But I had a story when Marley actually recorded rhyming with Biz and that was like Kane’s debut and I remember stealing the song from Marley’s crib and kicking it to the block. Everyone was like what the fuck is this, they were gravitating to Biz but when they heard Kane they were like yo this dude is incredible but I had to take that tape and I just studied and studied that tape like a lawyer studying a bar exam. I couldn’t understand how he was rhyming to a beat that was so off beat. If you ever look that up, Get into it, but it didn’t get a lot of commercial success because it was like abstract, it is one of my favorite records. LL, T La Roc were like real lyrical MC’s. To me, at that particular time, LL was a lyricist. It may be hard for some of these similar ears to believe but dudes like Kool Moe B was a lyricist and you had a lot of MC’s but very few lyricists. I couldn’t put my mind around how G Rap could rhyme on tracks like it was a demo. Pun kind of ate off of G Raps plate like a repetitious flow. Kane’s cadence and delivery was so prolific. Just to be around that type of atmosphere was amazing to me, I am still amazed today. Sometimes I pull those joints up on youtube and be like dam this is legendary. MusicalFury – Where are you living now? Tragedy Khadafi – Actually right now I am out in west VA. I move around a lot, I am never in one place. I can’t stay in one place for too long so I move around a lot. MusicalFury – You dedicated your life to being a great MC and to a lot of hardcore hip hop heads, legendary. Did you ever have aspirations of being anything else besides an MC? Tragedy Khadafi – Since I could remember I wanted to be an MC, since 9. I alway always considering myself one day to be an artist making music. There were a lot of things that happened throughout my life though so it wasn’t always easy to focus on making music. I have been kidnapped and there were attempts on my life in the street so I couldn’t always focus on music. I had to learn how to survive at 10 and 11 years old. I look at the trials and tribulations I have been through and use that to measure my greatness. If you look to acceptance to people, they can let you down. If you are into any business where you service a talent to the people, there is going to be a point when you develop a dependency on acceptance. It is obvious in this music business that the tides shift. There was a time where we weren’t really making a lot of money in hip hop. There were only a select few who could live off of it and I am not living off the past but. A great rapper could be the one with the most record sales. Or people who tongue kiss a guy in front of a crowd. I would never compare myself to that kind of greatness because that is just not in me to do. It could give kids the wrong message. My brother Christ Kastro has actually written for me here and there because sometimes someone else can give you . For against all odds Cormega wrote the hook for the title song of Against All Odds. I don’t think titles should be thrown around so loosely when some of them don’t even write their own verses. I base it on the love and commitment I have for it and the respect I have for my fans, I don’t like to call them fans but supporters because they support what you do. MusicalFury – Who do you have the most respect for in hip hop? Tragedy Khadafi – There are a lot of artists I have a lot of respect for and to name them all would be crazy. I respect Tech 9 to the fullest, he has earned every reward that he has right now in his life. I watched his journey and watched him put adds into XXL and he never stopped, just kept on going. He has a great team and great force behind him but he basically spearheaded it. I have great respect for Kendrick, Joey Badass, Mayhem Lauren. I also have a great respect for Hell Razah, for someone to go through what he went through and continuously put his best foot forward and lend a hand to artists and to people and I think that says a lot about his inner spirit, I love that brother right there. He is so inspiring, I think about him and he just motivates me any time I feel lazy. MusicalFury – I know this has probably been touched on a lot in other interviews but you did have a large role in helping shape some other artists careers. Actually, on the first Capone N Noreaga album you were on just as many songs as Capone I think. Did you guys ever consider having the group as a trio? Tragedy Khadafi – Yea, we did but honestly, when that was being put together, there was a lot of other people involved too. You had quite a few guys who were real instrumental in that coming together. Initially, Capone was supposed to be a solo artists but was so adamant about Nore being in the group. Once I saw the chemistry that was created I knew that the best thing was to have them as a duo. I didn’t intentionally set out to be on that many songs but when we did LA LA, Stretch and his parents helped put this out, Capone’s mother also helped out with CNN and 25 to Life. After shopping a demo, a lot of feedback I had was yo you need to get on more records. I did it just to secure a deal and make it a smooth transition into the industry. I didn’t even want to rhyme anymore at basically help put out artists that I had a lot of respect for but actually that is what I am going to do soon because I want to focus on my son because he is incredible and I am going to take a real back seat position and get him ready, get out there and show his greatness as well. You can pretty much hear about the artists who I had influence on but it is all for the good because it helped another individual feed his family. I also mentored Havoc and gave him his name Havoc. I can’t say that I had an influence on Prodigy but Havoc definitely did and he had an influence from Queensbridge. MusicalFury – I have read certain things before about there being beef within Queensbridge, mainly from the Prodigy book but regardless it seemed like when it was time to make music people came together? Those QB albums were serious, both the QB finest and Lake’s 41st side compilation. Tragedy Khadafi – As far as I am concerned I don’t have any animosity with any other artists from Queensbridge. There was little animosity in the media or whatever but right now I am peace. I don’t let anything rent space in my head to not be productive. As far as animosity, of course you are going to have egos and what not. Cormega made a reference that QB was similar to Rome because it was destroyed by conflict. QB is similar because it stopped a lot of other artists to be propelled but QB itself is a legacy. Some may say the Bridge’s time is past but I don’t believe that at all. MusicalFury – Speaking of drama, I don’t know if you want to speak about this but recently I saw something on the Combat Jack show with Maino, he was talking about how you guys got into something at one point. Is everything cool with you guys now? Tragedy Khadafi – First and foremost I am going to say this, at one point Combat Jack was my lawyer and was always considered a friend. But as far as beef I don’t have beef with nobody. At one point there was a beef or incident but I don’t have beef at all with anyone. For someone to brag about getting jumped, I mean, I am from Queensbridge, growing up out there was like growing up as a Spartan anyway. So for anyone to like expect to be dazed or insulted off of 7 dudes on one dude I mean you didn’t do that to me. But, to me that is nothing to me. I was kidnapped when I was 14 years old, I was shot several times, stabbed, I am not glorifying it but that was not a big deal to me because I have had so many other things happen in my life that were more severe. If that is one of the pillars within your success you need to plan higher goals for yourself, that is nothing to brag about you know what I mean? Especially if you are a father or are trying to do something positive, we have enough negative things in this world as being a black man. We living in a very venomous racist world, so for anyone to brag about something like that, if that is one of your greatest accomplishments then that is sad. Combat Jack was a lawyer at one time and I consider him to be a good friend. When someone told me about it I didn’t expect it to be set up like that because they trying to character assassinate another person. I mean you got Marshall law coming into play, wars going on and people starving and stuff so for anyone to put any energy into that, it is silly to me, it is sad. As far as Combat Jack, he laughed which was kind of an insult because he was a friend. When I was incarcerated he wrote to me a few times and I considered him to be a friend but he is in the position to get ratings but I didn’t think he would exploit that, as a friend. The way it was asked or lined up, he kind of knew about it because aside from Cease, he asked what was the next big situation. I don’t hold any animosity towards him but since you asked I am going to speak about it and let you know how I feel, in essence I am a Lion. I am not saying that in an egotistical way, if you been through all the things I have been through, I know I am a good person and know the size of my heart. MusicalFury – I commend you taking a positive look at it because that is important. Would you ever consider doing a song with Maino? Tragedy Khadafi – Yea, if the situation was right I would do a song or talk to him. I grew up in the street and learned a lot from the OG’s and the best lesson is a paid lesson. The reason why I wanted to address it is because I am not going to let anyone take me on a ride and you were a gentlemen about it and I appreciate that. That happened in 2006 and this is 2013 which is years later. I am so passed that part in my life as he should be. You have so many people like myself who have been knocked down, not by that individual or people he was with but speaking in general, but you have a lot of people living harshly and can’t put their families in a positive setting. You have people coming home and trying to make positive choices after they made bad decisions in their life and going to prison. I want to be an inspiration to people who are coming home and want to be positive. Some of our greatest artists today had issues and were knocked down. Don’t let any of these negative energies make you feel belittled or knocked down and don’t be disillusioned by people who you think are your friends. The people who are in my circle who are true with me I have to be honest and real with them. The greater you are the greater your adversities are going to be. MusicalFury – A huge trend that goes around the social media sites/ blog sites is that hip hop has been going down hill. We know this theme because Nas even titled an album called Hip Hop is Dead but what do you think about the evolution of hip hop? I think that it was evolving nicely from when it first began to about the early 2000’s. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some diamonds in the rough out there but now it is just saturated with a lot of the same type of tight jeans rap. Tragedy Khadafi – I think that is the perfect question. In my book I touch on this and I was one of the biggest advocates promoting that hip hop is dead. I took a step back and have slightly different opinion. The whole reason why we were even embracing that idea is because we had the past to measure now which is sort of ignorant in a sense because you can’t change the past and a lot has changed sense then. As far as hip hop is dead, I can’t say that because a lot of dudes out now are hip hop. You got Sean Price, Starving B, Godling, Kendrick Lamar, Shabam Sadiq, mayhem lauren, rock marciano, Nore, Pete Rock, Large Professor, hip hop is not dead. The main stream is not necessarily hip hop but that doesn’t mean hip hop is dead. Hip hop is about change, hip hop is about growth and it becomes an evolution. The difference between then and now is that you had such a variety like Wu Tang and then Bad Boy and the artists they were coming out with. Big was hip hop even when he was mainstream. You had more of a buffet then which kind of all tied in together everything was the same. Hip hop is a culture and a culture exists on various degrees like music, dance etc… You had different degrees of hip hop then and you can tell a NY rapper from an LA rapper back then and now you can’t do that. Back then you can tell a down south rapper by his lingo, his aura that he was from the south. Everyone sound, at least on the main stream, too similar. There is less authenticity, at least on the commercial level. As far as I am concerned, if you were black you were born into a recession. I stopped listening to so called rap radio a long time ago and a lot of this has been designed, they don’t necessarily want to let a lot of Jay Z’s Happen or 50 Cent’s happen. Back then it was all free for all, a lot of money was floating around and everyone was getting a budget. The change has hurt the music because a lot of artists are fitting into the mold. You got dudes like Vinnie Paz who is an ill artists, dudes like Raekwon and Ghost, RA the Rugged Man. MusicalFury – One thing I like to ask the artists I interview is about another topic that I have a lot of interest in which is religion. What religion are you or, in general, what are your thoughts about God? Tragedy Khadafi – Oh wow, that’s amazing. I feel like God, number one, the word God derives from the Greek language and I know that my understanding or my view of the most high is greater than Gumar Asdubar is more than just wisdom strength and beauty. That is where God derives from but obviously God existed before Greek civilization and before man’s definition of God. I see it as being God being the all. We are all spectrums of that all, I am a part of that all and that all is a part of me. In terms of religion, if Christianity can help a person stop destroying their life or lives of others. If Christianity can stop a woman from not prostituting themselves I can support that Christianity. People have to learn things in degrees and their level of understanding. Religion is very confiding and is very closed in a sense where the only way I can get to Jesus is through you and the only way I can get through Jesus is through God. I am more of a spiritual person. In the history of man nobody has gotten out of their grave to do the impossible. I am not going to debate with anyone on their views because if it helps them then that is great. Do I believe in God? Of course, just as well as I believe in myself and believe in those that show me I can believe in them. I also encourage yourself to keep searching and understand what it is that you have been taught. I took my Holy Communion and all that but I broke out of that and started researching because I wanted to find my God. MusicalFury – Alright Tragedy, thanks for your insight on everything, it was an honor interviewing you, thanks for your time.