Jay Z frequents basketball games, accompanied by wife, Beyoncé, but last week the award-winning rapper drew extra attention when he wore a chain blinged out with a medallion associated with the Five Percent Nation, the New York Post reports.
While at a Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center in his hometown, the rapper was photographed wearing the symbol, associated with the controversial offshoot of the Nation of Islam. The Five Percent Nation is said to believe that white people are "devils" and are "wicked" and "inferior" to black people.
"The rationale is that the black man is God and created the universe, and is physically stronger and intellectually stronger and more righteous naturally," Michael Muhammad Knight, an author who has written two books about the group, told the Post. Knight, too, has seen his share of controversy after shunning his upbringing in a white Pentecostal home in West Virginia. He converted to Islam at 15. "Whiteness is weak and wicked and inferior—basically just an errant child who needs to be corrected."
As for Jay Z, he was asked whether the symbol meant anything to him, to which he replied, "A little bit."
Clarence Smith, a former student of Malcolm X, founded the group in 1964 in Harlem after a disagreement with the Nation of Islam about the nature of God. Smith believed that all black men had God in them, the Post notes.
The "Five Percent" in their name comes from the Nation of Islam's belief that only 5 percent of people are "poor righteous teachers" who will enlighten others about the truth of existence. Another 10 percent are those responsible for promoting belief in a "mystery God," thus controlling the remaining 85 percent of the population.
While some decry Jay Z's apparently supporting what is viewed as a black extremist group, the group itself isn't that impressed by the rapper's bling.
"Jay Z is not an active member. No one has vouched for him," Saladin Allah, a representative of the group, told the Post. "It was always understood that you don't wear the regalia if you don't totally subscribe to the life."
Read more at the New York Post.