A Brief Survey of the Sources of Black Esoteric Thought - Spirituality in Hip Hop Part III: The Nuwaubians
As African American religious belief branched out and took on numerous forms during the 20th century, many flocked to alternative spiritual systems in an effort to find answers to the particular and unique absurdities of life in the Americas. Black esoteric groups have provided inimitable answers to the incongruities of American life by redefining and reshaping the images and historical platitudes of White supremacy. Dwight D. York, renamed Malachi Z. York, organized the Nuwaubian Nation to reshape the narrative of White supremacy by using a wide variety of differing belief systems. They argue Black people are not only divine but are otherworldly, and while on this planet they are locked in a mortal battle against other extraterrestrial beings.
York began organizing the Nuwaubians in New York City in the midst of a well-established and diverse array of African American philosophies; in New York the Zulus, 5%ers, Moors, NOI and Garveyites all jostle for ears, minds and territory in already congested space. This may be the reason why York moved the headquarters of his organization to Atlanta, Georgia in 1993. However, law enforcement bodies argue that York was on the run from charges of child-molestation and statutory rape. Still, another theory suggests that York went to Atlanta because he regarded the city as an archetype of the mythical Atlantis, a perfect setting to usher in the next evolutionary stages of humanity. Regardless of the reason for the move, in Georgia York attracted many followers and was able to purchase land where he began building an ancient Egyptian themed compound for his followers.
Like the MSTA, the Nuwaubians refer to themselves as Moors and don the Fez, as well like Noble Drew Ali, York claims to be divinely inspired, a receptacle of celestial knowledge. Further, Nuwaubian narrative of humanity centers on the belief that Earth has been colonized and enslaved by otherworldly beings, and York along with other African American leaders (Elijah Muhammad, Noble Drew Ali, Malcolm X, Father Ali and Yahweh ben Yahweh, to name a few) have been charged to teach the truth about the planet and its inhabitants. To support his ideas and movement, York created a library of booklets and pamphlets called “scrolls” (numbering well over 400) that reference various holy texts (including the Qu’ran, Bible and Torah) and lost books which support the idea of an Earth colonized by malicious reptilians. Additionally, the Nuwaubians share many similar philosophic qualities of other African American esoteric movements of the 20th century, such as: a leader whose beginnings and knowledge base is shrouded in mystery, alternate understandings of the historical record, belief in the inherent divinity of Black people, ancient glory to be regained with a promise of future utopia for Black people.
York was also involved in the music industry during the 1960s, 70s and 80s as a vocalist and a producer with groups: Jackie and the Starlights, the Students and Passion. He eventually organized his own production company called Passion Productions and used music as a vehicle to spread his spiritual influence. While little is known about his artistic endeavors in music, the influence of his movement directly ties into Hip Hop culture through the Atlanta based group OutKast, specifically on their second album ATLiens. To elaborate, the entire motif of this album was steeped in the theology of the Nuwaubians and was a clear departure in artistic and philosophic focus from their debut album Southernplayalisticcadilacfunkymusic. The creative direction unsettled many in the Hip Hop community, arguably because the overall motif and perspective of the Nuwaubians was and is largely unknown. However, close examination of the lyrics and theme of the album reveal a fascinating presentation of Nuwaubian theological understandings. For example, the song Extraterrestrial features the lyrics “out of this world like ET/coming across your TV/Extraterrestrial/straight from ATL”, clearly referencing the beliefs of the Nuwaubians while simultaneously suggesting that there something otherworldly about the Atlanta based group.
To expound further, “Elevators,” the featured song and video of the album, in many ways announced a clear departure from the philosophic direction of the first album by featuring imagery that was replete with Nuwaubian theological symbolic expression. To explain, the motif of the group evolved to display their shift in consciousness: Andre 3000 traded his Atlanta baseball cap for a turban; and their Cadillac, which dominated the motif of the first album, was demolished, making it clear that the group was modifying its paradigm. Moreover, instead of continuing with the parking lot/club playa scenes from the first album, “Elevators” displayed the duo meditating in the forest with others who were also seeking spiritual enlightenment. Finally, all of this was set as the backdrop to a chase scene of sorts, where Andre 3000 and Big Boi are leading a group of Nuwaubian pilgrims searching for a promised-land while being pursued by government agents looking to thwart their efforts. Upon reaching this promised-land, the wayfarers are greeted by extraterrestrials occupying a land dotted with great pyramids. The Nuwaubian trek displayed in this video attempts to project an apocryphal utopia, an appendage consistent with their theological approach.
OutKast was known for altering their motif and philosophy with each album to signify their evolution as artists, however with each offering, traces of their past mindset and artistry lingered, reminding listeners of their growth process. Their Nuwaubian experience also continued on subsequent albums, bleeding through in certain phrases, artistic styles and imagery. Moreover, there are other groups and individuals that have presented the beliefs of the Nuwaubians, such as Erykah Badu, the Roots and Killa Priest, but none as flamboyantly or loudly as OutKast. Again, what this suggests is that there is vibrant spiritual expression within Hip Hop culture yet to be fully explored, that pushes against accepted norms.
 Paul Easterling, “The ‘Nu’ Nation: An Analysis of Malachi Z. York’s Nuwaubians,” Julius H. Bailey, “Sacred Not Secret: Esoteric Knowledge in the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors,” Stephen C. Finley, Margarita Simon Guillory and Hugh R. Page, Jr., eds. Esotericism in the African American Religious Experience: “There is A Mystery…”. (Boston: Brill Publishing, 2015), 198-209, 210-224.
 Julius H. Bailey, “Sacred Not Secret: Esoteric Knowledge in the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors,” Stephen C. Finley, Margarita Simon Guillory and Hugh R. Page, Jr., eds. Esotericism in the African American Religious Experience: “There is A Mystery…”. (Boston: Brill Publishing, 2015), 210-211.
 U.S. v. Dwight D. York, a.k.a. Malakai Z. York, etc. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, D.C. Docket No. 02-00027-.
 David Cay Johnston, ”Wesley Snipes to go on Trial in Tax Case.” The New York Times, January 14, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/14/business/14tax.html?_r=0. The Nuwaubian compound caught the eyes of many in law enforcement, however, they also attracted many from the entertainment industry, including Wesley Snipes.
 Robert Dannin, Black Pilgrimage to Islam. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 18. Dannin discusses the track of the Fez for the MSTA specifically and African American Islam in general, however, the Moors themselves argues that the head gear is very ancient and is evidence of the Lost City of Atlantis.
 “A Personal Note From The Receiver,” http://holytablets.nuwaubianfacts.com/thereceiver.htm.
 Stephen Finley, “Mathematical Theology: Numerology in the Religious Thought of Tynnetta Muhammad and Louis Farrakhan,” Stephen C. Finley, Margarita Simon Guillory and Hugh R. Page, Jr., eds. Esotericism in the African American Religious Experience: “There is A Mystery…”. (Boston: Brill Publishing, 2015), 123-137. This chapter deals extensively with NOI concept of the Mother Wheel.
 Julius H. Bailey, “Sacred Not Secret: Esoteric Knowledge in the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors,” Ibid., 211.
 Malachi Z. York. Are there UFO’s Extraterrestrials In Your Midst. (Atlanta: Free Will Offering, Holy Tabernacle Ministry, 1995), 58. The Nuwaubians believe that Europeans evolved from reptiles. Further, they stake a claim to the planet Earth, while propagating the notion that white people are a group of covert galactic invaders whose ancestry is reptilian, as opposed to mammalian.
 Malachi Z. York "El's Qur'aan 18:60–82, What It Means Today" The Truth (Bulletin), The 7 Heads and the 10 Horns (1993), 12
 Outkast, Speakerboxx/Love Below, “Unfinished,” recorded 2003. Andre 3000 speaks to this point in the song: Unfinished on the double album.
 Outkast. ATLiens, “Extraterrestrial,” recorded 1997.
 Quincy Jones, III, The Art of Organized Noize, documentary release March 21, 2016 (Netflix). This particular song was produced by Andre 3000 and Big Boi, whereas the majority of their production was done by Organized Noize.
 Outkast. Aquemini. “Aquemini,” recorded 1998. Also, some of the clothing worn by Andre 3000 in videos and at award shows there directly influenced by the Nuwaubian Nation.
A Brief Survey of the Sources of Black Esoteric Thought - Spirituality in Hip Hop, Part I: The Universal Zulu Nation
There are many organizations within the Africana religious paradigm that are often over looked because of their fringe nature. That is to say, some movements are in danger of being lost in the annals of history because they lack a mainstream voice like African American Christian groups or because they have not attracted Hooveresque attention like many African American Muslim organizations. These movements I label Black Esotericism because, while they may be well-known in particular neighborhoods in certain urban locales, their culture and presence are largely unknown and histories often overlooked. Further, these groups, while not formally private organizations, remain mysterious and veiled to the majority of Americans, African descended or otherwise. With this understanding, I will examine the culture and religious make-up of the Universal Zulu Nation (UZN) as a Black Esoteric spiritual movement and as an organization which illuminates the religious underpinnings of Hip Hop culture.
To elaborate, one advantage that comes with studying the UZN is that its’ history runs parallel to the founding and flourishing of Hip Hop culture in the city of New York. As a matter of fact, one cannot study the UZN without discussing Hip Hop history and vice versa. The UZN rises out of the war torn Bronx borough much like Hip Hop. As well, much like Hip Hop culture, the UZN was created to redirect some of the more problematic energies which dominated the focus of young people throughout the city, such as violence and drug abuse, into something that was more productive to the impoverish residents. This effort of the UZN was nothing less than a spiritually centered movement that attempted to incorporate all aspects of an individual’s being into a force for positive growth and change. Emmett G. Price, III author of the introductory text Hip Hop Culture adds that after a prominent gang member was murdered in the Bronx street organizations “met to discuss the possibilities of finding a better way to handle their aggression and for having peace on the streets of their city.”
Impetus for the name of the UZN came from movies inspired by the struggle between European colonizers and the southern African Zulu people. Films like Shaka Zulu became motivators for young Afrika Bambaataa (born Kevin Donovan) to unite rival gangs in a common effort for unanimity and peace in the violent streets of the South Bronx. From its founding the UZN was amalgamation of street organizations, in particular the Black Spades, Savage Nomads, Seven Immortals and Savage Skulls. The endeavor to coalesce opposing streets gangs is very similar to the unifying efforts Shaka Zulu made in the early 19th century with the Zulu nation. Furthermore, Bambaataa’s push for unification was not just focused on nonviolence but an ecumenical enterprise centered on the spirituality of New York City’s young people. Evidence of this comes from their beliefs (or factology as they term it) which state: “We believe as Amazulu, we will not fight or kill other human beings over which proper name to call God. We will recognize them all to be the same one God. We believe God will come to be seen to the human eye and will straighten out the problems that Human Beings brought upon this planet so-called Earth.” It is clear from this first tenet of the UZN that unified spirituality is of primary importance for Bambaataa and his nation, not money, weapons nor a political agenda, but union of the human spirit.
Though the UZN is not a religion in the formal sense, it, much like the Nation of Gods and Earths as well as the Nuwaupians, has a mystical focus at its core dedicated to raising the spiritual consciousness and awareness of humanity. Evidence of this is made clear through the beliefs of the UZN: “We believe in one God, who is called by many names-Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, RA, Eloahim, Jah, God, The Most High, The Creator, The Supreme One.”  It becomes apparent from this passage that there is not just a spiritual focus for the organization but a conscious effort that chooses ecumenicalism as it top priority. The only substance of use for the UZN is unity, and spiritual unity seemed to be the most important material available for impoverished communities.
Investigation of the UZN reveals much in the way of not only the spiritual focus of the Nation but the spiritual focus of the Hip Hop cultural movement as a whole. To elaborate, Price states “former and present gangbangers and drug dealers would lay down their weapons and drug paraphernalia for a time at Zulu Nation functions and join the burgeoning Hip Hop community. Armed with the motto ‘Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun,’ Bambaataa, through his ‘Infinity Lessons,’ not only aimed to offer and expressive outlet but also encouraged intellectual pursuit via study, affirmations, and a systematic process of getting to know one’s self.” Bambaataa being the founder of the UZN as well as one of the fathers of Hip-Hop culture centered his focus on the spiritual well-being and advancement of the youth of the world at a time of serious crisis in the United States. Keeping these contributions in mind, it would not be completely outlandish to suggest that Bambaataa and the UZN are responsible for the reorientation of an entire generation of people headed toward an Orwellian state of being. Further, this reorientation was not just about the sound and style but the realignment of the human spirit towards love and acceptance.
In summation, the UZN, in an effort to quell the violence of their time, found a creative outlet for the rogue youth of New York City and developed a spiritual movement that directly contributed to the founding of new understandings of sound, style, and spirit. Further, as a spiritual movement the organization unified the youth under a banner of 'fun', a simple but powerful statement against violence and death. This notion of fun is a potent spiritual statement that is part of the core beliefs of the UZN movement. Fun: an incredibly complex and simple expression that requires more analysis with respect to the spiritual growth and enlightenment of humanity; yet as a spiritual countenance of the UZN and Hip-Hoppers the world over this word and concept speaks to an entire movement's effort to create social and spritiaul change throughout the world.
 Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn. Yes, yes, y’all: Oral History of Hip-Hop’s First Decade. (Cambridge: Perseus Books Group, 2002), 5.
 Emmett G. Price, III. Hip Hop Culture. (San Barbara: ABD-CLIO, INC., 2006), 9.
 Film: Shaka Zulu (1983). See also: Zulu (1964) and Zulu Dawn (1979).
 Website: http://www.zulunation.com/about-zulunation/. Emmett G. Price, III. Hip Hop Culture. (San Barbara: ABD-CLIO, INC., 2006), 9-10. Donovan was fourteen at the time he started organize the rival gangs of New York.
 Ibid., 10. Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn. Yes, yes, y’all: Oral History of Hip-Hop’s First Decade. (Cambridge: Perseus Books Group, 2002), 5.
 Donald R. Morris. The Washing of the Spears: A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation Under Shaka and Its Fall in the Zulu War of 1879. (New York: Da Capo Press, 1998), 40-68. Ian Knight. The Anatomy of the Zulu Army: From Shaka to Cetshwayo 1818-1879. (Mechaniscburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1995), 31-35. To explain, Shaka is well known for a number of reasons: he revolutionized the Zulus approach to warfare, he redesigned the primary weapon of the Zulus changing the long traditional spear (assegai) to a shorter more versatile weapon called the iklwa, as well he conducted a campaign of forced unification of the southern African kingdoms and nations into one all-encompassing Zulu nation.
 This effort was also allegorized in the movie The Warriors (1979).
 Webpage: http://www.zulunation.com/the-beliefs-of-the-universal-zulu-nation/.
 Webpage: http://www.zulunation.com/the-beliefs-of-the-universal-zulu-nation/.
 Jeff Chang. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. (New York: St. Martins, 2005), 105. Emmett G. Price, III. Hip Hop Culture. (San Barbara: ABD-CLIO, INC., 2006), 13.
 Murray Forman. The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop. (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2002), 141. The author points out that the efforts of non-violence and cultural upliftment for Bambaataa and the UZN reach global audiences with the release of the single “Self-Destruction”. Murray states: “KRS-One, Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, Heavy D MC Lyte, Kool Moe Dee, Just Ice and Afrilka Bambaataa, recorded the twelve-inch sing ‘Self-Destruction’ (1989, Jive Records), which entered the Hot Rap Singles chart at number one on March 11, 1989 and eventually went gold.”