Written by Nathaniel Thomas
Since its creation, Hip Hop has introduced and incorporated many new trends, from shell-toed Adidas to iced out medallions. These have been represented by one of Hip Hop's elements, the rap genre. Over time, we have seen Hip Hop culture morph and shift into many “altered ego” states from the era of Black consciousness (i.e. Public Enemy) to its cinematic and underground Mafioso persona. As we've entered a new decade, Hip Hop has taken on a new persona, which is the mystery of the “occult”.
Hip Hop, at least for the last several months, has been heavily using occult symbolism as a form of stylistic creativity. We are bombarded with these symbols via music videos and fashion statements. Particular symbols consist of “the eye and pyramid,” secret hand gestures, the goat’s head (better known in the occult as the “baphomet”), and one symbol that is being heavily used—the skull and crossbones.
We see these occult symbols displayed on clothing items such as belts, hats, tee-shirts, and jackets. Also, these symbols have been a part of a brewing controversy because of their implementation, and the implications of their meaning, in recently released videos by Hip Hop artists such as Lil’ Wayne, Jim Jones, and especially Jay Z. In this article, I will briefly explain these occult symbols and then let you decide what’s really going on in Hip Hop.
When many people see or hear the word “occult”, they immediately associate it with the word “evil.” In order to understand the occult, we must understand its meaning. The world “occult,” by standard definition, means “hidden from view” or “secret.” So, for example, if someone is hiding secrets from you, he or she can be said to have “occult knowledge”.
To start by looking back in history, during the twelfth century, there was a cabal that originally consisted of nine men who were known as the Knights Templar. This “secret society” became extremely wealthy due to their protection services used by Kings and Popes. They would hold bizarre rituals to initiate new members into their organization, which consisted of blood sacrifices, sodomy, and one that even promised reviving a comrade who died during battle. To perform this ritual, the Templar believed that they only needed a person's skull and two bones crossed in order to resurrect him from the dead.
Many of the Knights Templar went underground to avoid being captured, beheaded, or burned at the stake. While in hiding, many of them decided to travel the seas to make their living. They become mercenaries of the sea, calling themselves “pirates.” Their mission was to raid other ships to ensure their wealth. These pirates became the most feared at sea because of their brutal force. They used intimidation and fear by incorporating the skull and two crossbones as their logo on a flag, raising it high enough for opposing ships to see.
To this day, there are organizations that claim to be descendents of the Knights Templar, such as the “Freemasons” and the infamous Yale University fraternity group which, by no coincidence, is named “Skull and Bones.” Skull and Bones is a secret society referred to by some as the American version of the “Illuminati”. It is rumored that they simulate the same bizarre rituals for new initiates.
The skull and bones symbol was first adopted by heavy metal/rock bands. It became controversial when its exposure by the Hip Hop culture was seen in part as some sign of allegiance, but to whom remains a secret. So, is it a mere coincidence that in Jay Z’s video “On To the Next One,” there’s a person dressed in an all-white costume holding swords representing a Knight Templar? Can Hip Hop be sending a message and alerting us that the “secret” is finally out? Or can this just be another endeavor to add to Hip Hop’s creativity?
Another occult symbol displayed in Hip Hop is the “all-seeing eye” and pyramid. These symbols have also been used to also show allegiance to some sort of “movement” going on in Hip Hop. For years we thought that Jay Z’s Rocafella records hand gesture was the symbol of a diamond shape. It turns out to be a representation of a pyramid with the person using the left eye to look through it. The “all-seeing eye” can also be found on the back of the one dollar bill and on such corporate logos as AOL Time Warner and Columbia Broadcasting Station.
In ancient Egyptian mythologies, the eye is present in the stories of Isis, Osiris, Set and Horus (also known as Ra). It was also used in such secret societies as the Freemasons, the Ordo Templi Orientis, the Order of the Golden Dawn, and the infamous Illuminati.
If we go back to the lyrics of Mobb Deep's Prodigy on L.L. Cool J’s hit “I Shot Ya,” what was Prodigy talking about when he said “secret societies trying to keep an eye on me,” and what “eye” was he referring too? Also, why do so many rap artists implement the Rocafella hand gesture even if they are not affiliated with the label? Even those who are not affiliated with Hip Hop throw up this gesture, such as Bill Gates and Madonna.
Aleister Crowley, the most famous occultist, has a well-known quote—“Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”—that was printed on the sweat hoody Jay Z was wore on the set of his “Run this Town” video and at Yankee Stadium. Crowley's work also adopted the all-seeing eye and pyramid symbols, as well as the hand gesture depicting a goat's head, know as the “baphomet”. We have seen the baphomet gesture used by such Hip Hop artists as Kanye West, Beyonce, Rhianna, Jim Jones, and again, Jay Z.So what do all these symbols mean? What are they trying to tell us? Or better yet, what are we not supposed to know? It’s easy for us to say that it’s no secret because these symbols are displayed now almost everywhere in Hip Hop. The secret is not the symbols themselves but it’s the meanings behind these symbols that are the most important. Surprisingly, it may not be intended for us to know. Like Jay Z said, “It’s a secret society; all we ask is trust…”