Hustle Mindset

Leader of The Five Percenters


Clarence 13X was the founder of the Five-Percent Nation, a religious movement many hip-hop artists follow or respect. Also known as the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE), the five percenters’ main teaching is that the Black man is divine, which is where the slang of affectionately referring to one another as “God” derives from.

It was formed in 1963 after the former student of Malcolm X broke away from the Nation of Islam due to ideological differences. According to an article by Rock The Bells, Clarence 13X began teaching impoverished youth in Harlem a new way of life, which included the belief that the Black man is divine and the original man.

Some saw Clarence 13X’s teachings as Black supremacy, while others saw them as instilling much-needed confidence and self-esteem into Black men. Many hip-hop artists, particularly ones from New York and its surrounding regions, belonged to the latter school of thought.

Five-percenter ideology can be found in many hip-hop lyrics. The Wu-Tang Clan is among the most notable groups that frequently referenced the movement’s teachings in their songs. Other popular MCs who infused the ideology into their rhymes include Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Busta Rhymes and others.

However, some hip-hop artists directly reference Clarence 13X in their songs. Here are seven mainstream and underground MCs who give Clarence 13X a shoutout.

1. Nas

Undisputedly one of the greatest MCs of all time who continues to produce award-winning albums to this day, Nas referenced Clarence 13X in his song “U.B.R (Unauthorized Biography of Rakim).”

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Nas released the tribute to Rakim, whom he looked up to, in November 2004. In it, he rhymed:

“This biography was unauthorized / I spit it how it was given to author Nas / William changed his name at sixteen to Rakim Allah / Cause Clarence 13X had New York on lock / Gods on every block, jams in every park.”

2. Jay Electronica

Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Jay Electronica has been hailed as one of hip-hop’s most gifted MCs and producers.

He’s signed to Roc Nation and kept hip-hop fans in anticipation of his debut album for over a decade after dropping a couple of songs that people hailed as flawless in 2009.

On his 2009 song “Exhibit A,” Jay Electronica raps:

“It’s the most poetical, Nat King unforgettable / Clarence 13X Allah’s rhapsody from Bellevue / I’m splitting atoms, spitting flames, bringing change / Things will never be the same / I got the rap game singing At Last like Etta James.”

He mentions Clarence 13X in his songs pretty frequently and has also shouted him out on other artists’ songs he was featured on, including on Rhapsody’s “Jedi Code” from her 2012 album “She Got Game.”

3. KRS-One

KRS-One is legendary hip-hop royalty. Period. He is cited by some of the most iconic MCs as an influence and is known for his conscious lyrics.

On the song “Build And Destroy,” KRS-One speaks on various topics and ideologies in Black culture. He also mentions Clarence 13X.

“That’s worse than always talking about sex, let’s build / It ain’t enough to study Clarence 13X / The white man ain’t the devil I promise / You want to see the devil take a look at Clarence Thomas.”

4. Brand Nubian

Brand Nubian has been a staple in hip-hop since 1989. Like Wu-Tang, the group is known for using lyrics to espouse its five-percenter ideology.

On their song, “Soldier Story,” the group shouts out Clarence 13X in its opening bars, along with other iconic Black leaders and MCs throughout history.

5. Sean Price

Sean Price was a member of the underground hip-hop Boot Camp Clik and duo Heltah Skeltah. He was an artist for over 20 years until he died in his sleep in 2015.

On his song “Weed & Hoes” Price raps, “F**k college, Clarence 13X Smith gave me the knowledge.”

6. Lord Jamar

In 2006, Bronx MC Lord Jamar dropped “The 5% Album.” Its 20th track is a full biographical tribute to Clarence 13X. In it, he raps about the Five-Precent Nation founder’s life.

“Greatest story never told, Clarence Smith / Clarence 13X, to the Father Allah, let’s go. … 1963 is the shit to me, cuz that’s the year that the God made history / Looked himself and said it ain’t no mystery,” Jamar rhymes.

7. Billy Woods

The son of an English professor and writer turned freedom fighter and politician, it’s no surprise Billy Woods has a knack for words.

The New York-based rapper references five-percent teachings and Clarence X on his song “Heavy Water,” which was released in April. He raps:

“Time to be bold, screamin’ in a demon creole / Knowin’ that the native is the way to see our people / As if through a peephole at the evils they try to keep close / Shit is hard but regardless, the Gods is given cheat codes.”

Later in the song Woods says, “Clarence 13X had the white girls sick / Shimmy down the steps with a wink / Yakubian experiments, gain of function in the kitchen sink.”


As part of the New York State of Mind Tour WuTang, Nas and Busta Rhymes all perfromed in front of a sold out audience at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia on September 16, 2022. (Joe Glorioso / All-Pro Reels / The Vinyl via Flickr)

Jay Electronica performs at The Budweiser Made In America Festival on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Michael Zorn/Invision/AP)

Rapper KRS One arrives at the 2008 VH1 Hip Hop Honors show, Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

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