Most hardcore Hip Hop fans are familiar with Biggie Smalls’ popular song, the “10 Crack Commandments.” If you are not, please view the clip below (in the privacy of your home).
As you might guess by the song title, Biggie shares his tips for selling “Crack” cocaine successfully – and displays wit and lyrical dexterity while doing so.
I involved myself in several activities growing up: Chess, poetry, sandlot and high school football, fighting, Hip Hop emceeing, admiring and trying to meet young ladies, basketball and reading Black History.
I never sold or used drugs, so my firsthand knowledge of the enterprise is limited to say the least. What I do know, I learned from observation and the candid revelations of neighborhood friends and acquaintences who did participate in the street “pharmacy” business.
What I observed and heard about that life was not glamorous by any means, and needs not be romanticized by urban fiction writers, Hip Hop artists, or anyone else.
To describe cocaine as Black communal Kryptonite, is to understate the point. Drugs in the 80s and 90s nearly decimated our hoods nationwide and caused peripheral damage that continues: Women and men morphed into petty thieves, con artists and prostitutes to sustain their addictions. Rivalries between dealers that led to endless bloodshed, robberies and kidnappings. Broken families. Severed marriages. Drug-addicted newborns. Re-enslavement via mass incarceration. The decline of formerly viable Black institutions. Premature death and the destruction of human potential (to expose the ills of drug trafficking in
Black communities, I wrote Azie Faison’s powerful memoir, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler).
Therefore, while I involuntarily bop my head to Biggie’s music, I strongly reject the implicit or explicit messages of Biggie’s now legendary “Commandments” song.
We need no additional instruction on how to delibilitate or destabilize our own communities. Sadly, too many of us do a fine job of this already.
Therefore, we don’t need Ten Crack Commandments. What we need desperately, are suggestions for empowering and liberating ourselves from the oppressive grip of white supremacy, ignorance, poverty and untold suffering.
Some time ago – reminiscing on the days of my youth when I flowed over Hip Hop beats in Harlem – I playfully wrote a remake of Biggie’s song and named it “Ten Black Commandments.” One day I may actually record it for fun, but for now I’ll share it in written form.
We’ve been here for years, where they treated us like cannibals/animals/so I wrote us a manual/a step-by-step/booklet/so you can get/your mind free of uneccessary debris/
Rule one/know who you are and where you come from/your name and address, get it?/don’t be a dumb-dumb/society wants you and me to believe/we’re descended from savages and porch monkeys
Number two/always seek to self-improve/’cause being idle, is suicidal/we’re not here to complain and stagnate/but to evolve, get problems solved/ and be-come great.
Number three/never ever be naive/or believe/everybody’s who they claim to be/Many Black people met their demise/fooled by peeps who were agents in disguise
Number four/I know you heard this before/”Keep you head to the sky and fly”
Number five/take care of your family/all the fatherless kids/such a tragedy/ Our kids need affection, protection, direction/and discipline with discretion
Number six/revolutionary politics/’cause ballots and bullets usually don’t mix…/Black cooperatives, schools, and liberated territory… Now that would change his-story!
Seven/This rule is unappreciated/all that begging to the enemy, must be eliminated/self reliance/rain, sleet, hail, snow/is the only way for us to grow
Eight/ you’re so much more than your shape/face hair, derriere, bank account or weight/don’t put your energy in all things hollow/get your mind right and all else will follow
Nine/ a word called “solidarity”/working together with no polarity/lands, languages, religions and labels/can’t stop us from sitting at the table
Ten/self-determination/no rules or methods described by them, no cures or remedies prescribed by them/thinking for ourselves is how we win
Follow these rules/you’ll have more bread to break up/watch the Black community wake up/solve problems and make up/an agenda to take up/our liberation and self preservation
Disregarding these rules prolongs our sufferin’/that no President, Execedrin or Bufferin/can relieve, do believe, you and me, can’t be free, with ignorance, selfishness or greed…
Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment.
Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.