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Keeping an Eye on Prodigy
The evolution of hip-hop's conspiracist
3:33, that’s a sign from the heavens
Look up, baby
Albert “Prodigy” Johnson was smoking a blunt when he saw his first UFO. “I’m high a little bit. On weed.” As he and a car full of friends made their way home from the studio, the rapper was distracted by “a giant bright green fireball the size of a planet” zooming overhead. The other passengers in his car didn’t see a thing. A student of numerology, he noticed that the time was exactly 3:33 AM when the sighting occurred. He interpreted this as a sign from above—the lights in the sky were meant for his eyes only.
Prodigy, aka P, aka one-half of the platinum-selling hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, wasn’t a stranger to fringe topics. He had encounters with shadow-people. He mentally summoned a UFO. He was also fascinated with conspiracy theories about the Illuminati and the New World Order.
His distrust of the system started at an early age after his grandmother warned him to “never put all of your money in one bank.” His skepticism soon extended to other societal institutions. In his 2011 autobiography, My Infamous Life, P expressed opinions on religion (“[it] was created to control people”), politics (“the U.S. government was really a puppet for the British Royal family”), and the media (“misinformation is released through movies, books, religion, education, and news to confuse us”). His main assertion centered on the belief that secret societies were controlling the world through manipulation.
Over the course of more than 15 solo and group albums, Prodigy refined his message about the elite’s mental takeover, peppering his rhymes with references to 9/11, fluoride, and Satan worshiping politicians. While many point to William Cooper’s paranoid magnum opus, Behold a Pale Horse (1991), as the primary text for his conspiratorial worldview (P claimed to have read the book six times), a thicker line can be traced to a dubious character known as “Dr. Malachi Z. York.”
York was the leader of a pseudo-spiritual movement known as the Nuwaubian Nation. The Southern Poverty Law Center labels it a cult. Nuwaubians preach a form of black supremacy that combines UFOs, ancient aliens, and the Nation of Islam with a healthy suspicion of government and major religions. York’s pamphlets were prevalent in the 1970s underground black theology circuit. By the early 1990s, his popularity and followers grew, and he relocated his flock to a small town in Georgia. There they constructed a permanent compound and spread the Nuwaubian message in the deep South.
York’s ‘divine’ mission was severely hindered in 2002 when his arrest for child trafficking landed him in prison for 135-years. Before his downfall, he was a prolific writer, managing to publish a never-ending stream of Nuwaubian literature. Many of his tracts had zany cover art and amusing titles like: Is God an Extra-Terra-Astral? (Extraterrestrial), The Fallacy of Christmas: Santa or Satan, and Leviathan 666: The Beast as the Anti-Christ. It was this last book that really struck a chord with Prodigy: “LEVIATHAN 666 just helped connect all of the dots to make me see it’s all real.”
Prodigy declared that “nobody alive on this planet has the comprehensive understanding that Dr. York has on such a vast array of topics.” Indeed, the Nuwaubian “Sovereign Grand Master” outlined everything from how sun cycles impacted school shootings to the fact that William Shakespeare wrote the King James Version of the Bible. He also revealed how homo sapiens evolved from a union between dinosaurs and ETs and even explained where Bigfoot fit into the whole picture: “There Is Another Species Of Extraterrestrials Called Sasquatch.” According to York, the hairy hominids were telepathic, smelly, and hailed from the same galaxy as the Reptilians. As corroboration, he clipped Weekly World News articles and referred his readers to books by authors like David Icke and Erich von Däniken.
In a letter written from prison, Prodigy called York “the truth” and insisted that his lessons had “set [him] free from illuminati mental inslavement [sic].” He was introduced to Nuwaubian doctrine in the early 1990s, describing it as “the exact moment in time [he] discovered that the entire planet was being lied to.” York’s books stirred him mentally, turning him into “the enlightened one of the crew.” Soon these teachings found their way into P’s verses. “I started rapping about the Illuminati, secret societies, and the corrupt government.” He acknowledged that people would resist at first, so he inserted clues in between lines filled with standard rap fare—a way to “mix the medicine with the food.”
I’m not under the spell, I’m not trapped in the cycle
They can’t pull the wool over my eyes, I see the truth
For all of our lives, we’ve been lied to
After his exposure to York, P began “looking at the world differently.” His eyes were open to a reality that he felt had been intentionally obscured from view.
“I saw hidden messages and symbolism while almost everyone else just saw the outer layer of information. The things I was learning about the origins of symbols, secret societies, and civilizations gave me the ability to see the spell we’re living in and those responsible for casting it. It’s all around us. It’s rather spooky.”
Prodigy agreed the planet’s inhabitants were in a trance, hopelessly brainwashed by The Spell of the Leviathan. York’s revelations were the antidote. “That man’s books boosted my intelligence level beyond this physical dimension and gave me the information I needed to step out of the sleep spell that almost all of us are in.”
Yorkian themes were integrated into P’s worldview. In one online post he speculated about the existence of unseen lines of earth energy, explaining how “WHEREVER THESE LINES CROSS, THE EARTH PRODUCES NATURAL ENERGY THAT SHOOTS UP AND DOWN IN A VORTEX OR DOUBLE HELIX SHAPE.” He borrowed this idea from York, who maintains that “A Double Helix Of Energy Is Projected From The Top Of The Pyramid.”
P’s cynical outlook on organized faith was also consistent with Nuwaubian sentiment. He felt that people were forced into following “fairy-tale religions” designed to “control our minds.” York elaborates on this point in his book, The Luciferian Conspiracy; tacking on Reptilians and Grays for good measure:
“All Religions And Religious Doctrines Younger Than 6,000 Years, Have Been Fabricated By Reptilians, Who Use A Species Of Greys, They Breed, To Indoctrinate People ... These Malevolent Beings Created ‘Organized’ Religions, And Controlled The Masses For Thousands Of Years.”
Prodigy even confesses to following nurses around the hospital after the birth of his daughter, worried that they might try to spike her routine vaccinations with “microchips and diseases.” His paranoia was stoked by York, who warned that hospitals had a horrific method for stunting a newborn’s spiritual evolution:
“One way this is done is by an injection with a hypodermic needle into the base of the baby’s brain with a drug called PCP … known as Angel Dust, which can reduce an angelic being to mere dust when it is injected into the Hippocampus area of the brain.”
While Prodigy revered York’s ideology, the respect wasn’t reciprocated. In 666 Pt. 1, York rallied against mainstream hip-hop for its violence, drug use, and promiscuous sex. He blamed it on a conspiracy within the music industry to suppress inspirational black artists:
“These principalities in high places only allowed certain groups to make it while certain groups never get a chance at a hit record. This type of indoctrination has produced artists such as Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur whose lives they surrounded with death and violence.”
York warned of a darkness spreading within the rap game, but claimed artists were unwitting accomplices: “Most of your Black stars sold their souls to the serpent reptilian and some don’t even know they did.” Entertainers mindlessly pursued money and fame, unaware of their involvement in a larger scheme. Ultimately, their allegiance came with a steep price: “Many rap artists have been sacrificed to the beast.”
Prodigy internalized this part of York’s message. In verbal attacks against fellow New York rapper, Jay-Z, P accused Jay of being a tool of the Illuminati; a gullible pawn who chose to “promote the lifestyle of the beast” instead of following the righteous path. He later clarified his stance, stating in various interviews that record executives might be “involved in the agenda,” but there was no concerted effort to initiate individual artists into the cabal. “It’s way bigger than that. It’s different than that. It’s not what people think.” The Illuminati were more concerned with the full-spectrum domination of every human on the planet than with which pop-star was covering up one of their eyes in a photo-shoot.
Through York’s philosophy, Prodigy realized the impact music had on the subconscious mind. York represented it as a spiritual battle: “Along with the music, they have also mastered ‘hook lines’ that etch themselves into your brain, everytime [sic] you turn on the radio. Words along with hypnotic music are repeated over and over again to the point of saturation and it’s this repetition that is the key to obtaining your soul.”
Perhaps as a result of York’s elaboration, Prodigy took an unconventional approach to music. He often eschewed the chorus and rarely stuck to the popular song formats that commercial radio stations preferred. At times his vocals sounded at odds with the beat. This was by design. Prodigy didn’t want his listeners to get comfortable. He was trying to wake them up.
York may have been Prodigy’s main source for alternative information, but William Cooper’s presence loomed large: “Behold a Pale Horse was the first place I’d heard of the Illuminati.” In fact, Cooper also left an impression on York. He frequently wove Cooper’s brand of UFO mythology into Nuwaubian dogma. According to York, the world was populated by shape-shifting Reptilians and Grays. An expert on alien biology, he claimed that some species had “a hole in the back of their necks from which mucus is excreted.” He shared this notion with Cooper, who likewise believed that the Grays lacked a digestive system and expelled waste through their skin. York’s 666 Pt. 1 even cites Pale Horse in its bibliography.
Cooper’s impact on Prodigy is most visible in his attitude concerning “Hegel’s dialectic.” A timeless conspiracy talking-point, the concept is named after 18th century German philosopher Georg Hegel. He advocated for a system where opposite ideas were encouraged to clash in order to birth new, synthesized resolutions. Critics allege that this methodology fosters a culture of division instead of unity. Conspiracists like Cooper take it a step further, believing it’s deliberately used by those in power to manufacture predetermined outcomes.
Cooper identified the Cold War as an example of a Hegelian-inspired plot—a “conflict situation that was being artificially created to bring about the New World Order.” He believed that both America and the Soviet Union were controlled by the same hidden hand. By owning all sides of the issue, the elite could dictate the result. “They’re the ones who create the problem to give them the solution they want.”
For his final musical trilogy, Prodigy stole a page straight out of the Illuminati’s playbook. In 2017 he dropped the esoterically-titled album, The Hegelian Dialectic: The Book of Revelation. It was the first of three related records designed to inform listeners about the reality of the world’s situation and inspire them into action. By revealing the secret controllers that were humanity’s true enemy, and stoking division between the opposing sides, P was embracing Hegel’s tactics with the intention of “dismantling” the current system. The project’s second installment—The Book of Heroine—was released in 2022, and the conclusion is supposed to materialize in 2023. “The last album is The Book of the Dead, and that’s the solution. Problem, reaction, solution and the solution is civil war.”
Race don’t matter, your faith don’t matter
The enemy is government tyranny
Despite an appreciation for York’s diatribes and Cooper’s rants, P didn’t fall victim to their most controversial theories. He understood that humans share a common adversary—the hardest part was getting people to put aside their differences long enough to recognize it.
Five months after The Hegelian Dialectic hit shelves, Prodigy departed the earthly plane due to complications arising from sickle cell anemia. While alive, his fascination with ‘conspiracy theories’ was more than a diversion from the harsh realities of his surroundings. Possessing an “appetite for hidden knowledge” opened doors to understanding society, power dynamics, and the intricate web of human existence. The information he uncovered led him to question established narratives and challenge the status quo. Conspiracies provided Prodigy a lens to examine the world critically. By decoding the hidden layers of reality, he obtained a sense of empowerment.