The Khalil Amani Reader

Hip-hop/Spirituality/Freethinking. Speaking for all underdogs!

Pre-Tupacian “Thug Life!”

By Khalil Amani


With all the hoopla surrounding Seattle Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman claiming and redefining the word "thug" and all, I know you think you know what a thug is—a goon, a street-certified gangster with a nice knuckle-game and a penchant for criminality, but that ain’t the origins of thuggin’. I don’t care if you’re Debo, Monster Cody, Tookie Williams, Kimbo Slice or Suge Knight! They are/were no thugs! A lot of you niggas locked down think you’re a thug. Some of these rappers think they’re thugs. Trick Daddy used to rap, “I’m a thug.” Rappers Bone Thugs & Harmony perpetuated thuggery, Papoose labels his movement “Thugacation” and Tupac tatted himself up with “Thug life.” Have you ever asked yourself, “What is a thug?” “How did that word enter into popular American jargon?” “What is the history behind being a thug?” The historical truth is that we have borrowed the word “Thug” from another people and bastardized it. Some call it “Acculturation”—the borrowing between cultures.


To put it bluntly—if you haven’t killed a man with your bare hands you ain’t no thug! This would disqualify 99.9% of you claiming to be thugs, because the original thugs were religious murderers from the 17th century (1800's). Let me explain. The word “thug” derived from the word “Thuggees” (which is pronounced Tug-gees). The original thugs or Thuggees were from India and devoted to the goddess Kali who was the Divine Mother of Hindus, responsible for life, death and creation. The Thuggees were a rogue group within Hinduism that believed that murdering innocent people would counter the positive creativity of the god Brahma who populates the earth. The Thuggees were not thugs, as we understand thugs. They were religious emissaries doing their god’s work. They usually worked in groups of threes, claiming to be travelers, pilgrims, merchants and soldiers.


Unassumingly, they would befriend travelers and offer their protection. Once they gained favor with their victims, they’d strangle them to death—two holding the victim down and one strangling him or her with a scarf. The Thuggees believed that the victim would go to Paradise for their sacrifice.


(Thuggee practitioners killing victim for the goddess Kali)


Again, the Thuggees were not “thugs.” They lived normal lives, working as nurses, policemen, doctors, etc. They murdered for their goddess Kali and if the person they murdered had any valuables that would just be an added bonus. From these Indian religious quacks called the Thuggees, the word was transplanted to our shores and reincarnated in the hoods of America as “thugs.” From a sacred religious practice to a destructive secular force—“Thug life” lives on.


Tupac didn’t know squat about this kind of “Thug Life!” (Or perhaps he did, having read the works of Machiavelli and all! Many of you niggas ain't read a book since "The Cat in the Hat!") Tupac, like many in the hood, helped glamorize and perpetuate the thug persona without the knowledge that “thuggin’” was once a holy religious practice, however demented and warped.

But in Tupac’s last days he tried to define his “Thug Life” movement by saying that he was speaking to those that had no voice or place in this world—a ghetto “Jesus” of sorts. It is they whom would understand his message. So, in some terms, Tupac spiritualized his Thug Life message and made it more about finding hope from nothingness—creating order from chaos.


Killing is wrong, whether it be for religious purposes or not, but if you claim to be a thug and you ain’t barehanded murdered someone, you're just a pseudo-thug.


Khalil Amani is a blogger for AllHipHop. He also writes for DJ Kay Slay’s Originators Magazine & Straight Stuntin Magazine. Amani also writes for Hoodgrown, Maybach and Sext Magazines. He is the author of six books, including the ground-breaking book, “Hip-Hop Homophobes…” 07). Amani is gay hip-hop’s self-proclaimed straight advocate. Visit The Coonerific One at Follow on Facebook/Twitter @khalilamani. Youtube @ yahweh 12

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