Tragedy Khadafi
Lyrical Homicide

tragedy.jpgFrom the Juice Crew to C-N-N, Tragedy Khadafi is a true New York O.G. But the Queensbridge native doesn’t dwell—he’s ready for The Death of Tragedy. What’s next?

In 1988, at the age of 17, Percy “Tragedy Khadafi” Chapman became the youngest member of the world’s biggest hip-hop clique. Established by producer Marley Marl, the Juice Crew super group featured timeless artists like Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, MC Shan and Masta Ace. Originally performing under the pseudonym Intelligent Hoodlum, Trag released his first song, “The Tragedy (Don’t Do It),” with a group called The Super Kids, in 1986. After hooking up with Marley Marl in ’88, Trag kicked off a career that would span two decades. Mixing militant and social messages on tracks like “Arrest the President” and “Black and Proud,” the Queensbridge native recorded two albums in the early ’90s, but failed to achieve the notoriety of his Juice Crew brethren.

After his original team fizzled, the Intelligent Hoodlum changed his name to Tragedy Khadafi and started his 25 To Life Entertainment imprint, signing two young Queens rappers named Capone-N-Noreaga. Under his tutelage, C-N-N released their classic 1997 debut, The War Report, on which Tragedy appeared on nine songs. Shortly after, Trag and C-N-N went their separate ways and the Queensbridge OG began to focus on his solo career, releasing two critically acclaimed albums — 2001’s Against All Odds and 2003’s Still Reportin’ — solidifying his place as one of the underground’s most revered artists. Now, after releasing two volumes of his Thug Matrix mixtape series in ’05 and ’06, Trag is returning with a new street album entitled The Death of Tragedy and a role as executive producer on Havoc’s new solo LP, The Kush. XXLMag.com tracked down the elusive Queens veteran to discuss his new projects and reflect on his longstanding career.

Why did you call your new album Death of Tragedy?
The Death of Tragedy is more of a street album/mixtape. I didn’t treat it like a mixtape, though. All of the music is original. Honestly, if it was an album, I would take a little more time on it and do things a little differently. You didn’t see any ads [or] promotion. I just threw it out there to get some feedback [and what] I’ve gotten has been positive. A few heads say it’s a little short, but that’s ’cause it’s a mixtape. But the Death of Tragedy is basically an exodus for Tragedy, and [now] Khadafi [is] gonna step it up. There was a time when I considered my life a tragedy. But it’s not a tragedy anymore. I lived through [it].

You released your last album, Still Reportin’, in 2003. In retrospect, how do you feel about it?
For an indie project, I was real happy with it. I wish I would have done the deal with a different company. I’m still tryin’ to get money back — my backend. When I was doing that album, my son fell out the window in Queensbridge. He fell from the third floor, down the garbage ramp. I damn near suffered a nervous breakdown. Then I got an attempted murder case. Some dude tried to pop off at me in midtown [NYC] and I defended myself. Then, in Atlanta, some chick said I raped her, which I got justice on because I didn’t rape anybody. Also, me and N.O.R.E. got locked up. Somebody called and said we had sub-machine guns in N.O.R.E.’s Hummer, which wasn’t true. The police came on some S.W.A.T. shit [and] threw us on the ground. They disrespected us ’cause they couldn’t find nothing in the car. They took us all down for a blunt clip of some weed. All of this happened in Union Square [NYC]. It was in the Daily News and all of that. So I was going through mad trials and tribulations, but I kept going to the studio. So when I hear people say that’s one of your best albums, you don’t even know what that does for me. I wanted to quit at that time. I didn’t want to make music or leave the house I was so depressed. Still Reportin’ is one of my most important albums.

Being that you came up in the era of the Juice Crew, how has it felt to watch hip-hop evolve throughout the years?
It’s interesting to me. When I look in retrospect at everything, I still feel young in spirit. To me, I’m still a young artist in my heart. I kind of forget how long I’ve been doing this. I think I purposely make myself forget so I don’t come off as a hip-hop dad when I’m on the mic. I have certain individuals in the game call me for advice, like, what do you think of this? How do you think I should do this album? Then reality really sets in, like, You fathered a lot of dudes. I don’t take it to the head; I take it gracefully. I’ve been blessed to be around individuals who call on me [to] help broker their deals and get them in good situations. I recently brokered Havoc’s deal [with Nature Sounds Records] and A&R’d his first solo album [The Kush].

How did that come about?
Havoc is an artist I basically raised and mentored. I gave him the name Havoc. Plenty of times me and him will be chillin’ and he’ll say, “You know you’re the illest out of the ’hood. You’re nicer than all of us.” And I take that to heart. That’s Havoc, man. He made his way. He put his flag down. Mobb Deep is a significant landmark in hip-hop. It just feels good to be here and be able to have input and influence. I listen to dudes and I hear sprinkles of my style or influence in dudes. It’s all good, ’cause this shit is all interdependent.

Give me an example of an artist who’s been influenced by your style?
Sometimes when you listen to certain things…I was in the barbershop the other day with my mans listening to some Nas [and] Nature joints. I could tell they were listening to C-N-N and going off the vibe of that era. Just like we were listening to Wu-Tang. When they dropped as a collective unit, we were like, “Wow, these dudes are doin’ it.” We vibed off their aura. I can look into dudes and see how they rocked off my aura or C-N-N’s aura. I see the influences. I primarily see my influences in a lot of artists. Most magazines and people in the industry won’t accredit me to that, but I can hear it.

It is frustrating to not get the credit?
Oh, definitely! I was reading an article Twista had in XXL and he said something that stood out to me. He said, “I cried many a nights.” A lot of artists won’t admit it, but he admitted it. And I respect him for that because whether you cry physically on the outside [or not], you cry inside when you strive to reach something and it’s not being appreciated or credited to you. That’s a tough pill to swallow. I would read certain articles like, Damn, I basically put that dude or producer together, but I don’t see nothing attributed to the contributions I made. Sometimes it does bother you, whether you ate off it or not. There are things that I strive for to do that I fell short of. Realistically, I don’t even blame nobody ’cause I gotta look at self and push harder. But there are definitely things that I strived to do—there are projects that I wanted to do that just didn’t happen. Hell yeah, it bothers you.

What’s your relationship like with C-N-N now?
I haven’t spoken to them dudes in some time now, but for the most part, I’m always going to have love for them brothers. I wish them the best. We may not all agree with each other’s decisions in life, but a part of growing up is getting past little frivolous things that don’t matter. We created a bond amongst each other at that time. It may not be as strong as it once was, but it never really diminished. At least that’s what I would like to believe. When we do speak, it’s like we never parted.

Last year you and Maino allegedly got involved in a fight. What happened?
Basically, the artist you just mentioned, we were going to do a deal. What happened was, a contract was presented to that artist and he signed off on it. Anyone who does business or has any concept of businesses knows that an agreement is not fully executed until it’s signed by both parties. The individual you just mentioned signed off on it, but it wasn’t signed off on our end, the label’s end. Basically, I was pushing for the deal. I presented a situation to him, but the company I was dealing with at the time, they didn’t particularly believe in him as an artist. They didn’t want to do the deal anymore. They didn’t want to put money behind it, so they backed out. At that time, his numbers had changed so I couldn’t get in touch with him. So me and my peoples go to the T.I. party. I see him, so I called him over. I’m thinking it’s all good. Obviously, if I knew the agenda of that night was to assassinate Tragedy, of course, I wouldn’t have walked into a trap unprepared. But it was a weak move. A bunch of hyenas jumped on a lion. That’s basically the gist of it, which I think was very unprofessional. It bothers me because you would think we as people or as artists would get past certain things. I seen interviews where dude was getting all out of character and talking a whole bunch of reckless things that ain’t gonna benefit him as an artist or man. I don’t even give it energy. My mind is on bigger things. I don’t got beef with nobody.

  • LowEndofDaChi

    Is it just me, or does dude look like Aries Spears from MadTV?

  • the one

    Trag fathered all them Queensbridge niggas. NaS on down the list.

  • ALBANY4LIFE

    Good lookin on this interview.Trag is definetly one of the most influential artists out of NY in the 90s.He combined street tales with knowledge of whats goin on in the world abroad.I know a lot of people probably never heard of him that will comment,like the first fuckboy,but hes a legend in his own right

  • Rich Arte

    wasn’t Tragedy Khadafi one of the outlaws that was down wit Pac???

    Just wondering.

  • og bobby j

    @ Rich Arte

    Nahh..that was Yaki Kadafi
    named after the Lybian Colonel Gadaffi

    I thought the same shit for a minute too

  • LowEndofDaChi

    ALBANY4LIFE Says:

    September 27th, 2007 at 12:14 pm
    Good lookin on this interview.Trag is definetly one of the most influential artists out of NY in the 90s.He combined street tales with knowledge of whats goin on in the world abroad.I know a lot of people probably never heard of him that will comment,like the first fuckboy,but hes a legend in his own right
    ————————————————-

    It’s called a “joke”, you fanboy you. I’ve listened to some of fam’s music, being an 80′s baby myself that grew up in the golden era of the 90′s listening to the WU, Nas, Jay etc…Dude is not a dominant factor, however, so referring to him as a “legend in his own right” is definitely an overstatement. His beat selection=ass, rhymes=boring, style=corny. Admittedly, he was associated and worked with some big names out of QB, but eventually they would go on to eclipse his stature in the game. And anytime a nigga refers to a project w/all original concepts and production as a mixtape…well, that indicates that brother himself knows it to be potentially garbage.

    So drop dude’s cock. Please, cause he’s not ill.

  • triplesixninja

    tragedy khadafi is a trill dude!

  • doegirl4life

    Yo this dude is serious with his too bad he had so many shortcomings, somthin about him is inspirational but that don’t mean im gonna buy his records. Alot of oldskool cats tryna come back, but all they’re getting is cheap exposure it’s sad

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  • Reggie Osse

    Whaddup Trag!

  • Freddy(Vega$)

    This nigga is a legend and everyone needs to pay homage!! great interview!!

  • Dream

    Trag always trying to talk like he’s this/that, onto bigger and better things, I used to have respect for homie and I won’t put it out there, but ya know what it is Trag, you shitted on people that looked out for you, I’m leaving my real name here for you and anyone to see, no need to mask my name, ya know who this is and you already know what you did to home girl wasn’t a good look, I coulda put the shit out there on the internet a long time ago, but decided to leave it alone, I know folks would love to know what’s up…Trag ya know what it is. Maybe one day you’ll be man enough to holla.

    • no names

      Dream ,what trag did ol girl?

  • Dream

    What you did to homegirl is worse than what Maino did to you, you’re talking about “maino being a man” or some sh*t like that? Trag you don’t believe in what you spit.

  • grapes

    So, homie’s gonna release new shit. Looking forward to it, we been waiting.

  • Governerkhan

    This nigga was droppin real shit way back in the day. Got to give props. Peace.

  • phurdrick

    A great interview…what a nice gift from xxl.com…on Maino that fighting and stuff…I would be upset too,if I signed off on a record deal,then was told it fell apart because your boy didn’t do his part…everyone has their own story about what went down…I just hope those two can find some kind of peace,before shit get really ugly…money can be a bitch when you don’t have it!

  • http://hustle.biz keka -hustle.biz

    what? yall crazy.. yall need to check out trag catalog.. some of the best songs in hiphop history got his fingerprints on it… i just dont understand why he doesnt get the credit he deserves… (he is kinda arrogant, but, if i did as much as he did and was as underapreciated as he is.. maybe) … but, cop his last 2 albums “against all odds” and “still reporting” or just down load any of his joints.. (well, i aint going to lie.. i aint realy feeling the last 2 joints i heard from him.. but, everything else.. for the last 20 years.. CLASSIC!) and, i dont even comment usualy.. but, i had to say something on this one!!

    peace.

  • Dr Flav

    We need the “hip hop dad,” Tragedy. Our music genre is lacking a mature voice, hip hop is not a young boys game like these execs and aspiring artists want you to believe, its a little over 30 years old.

  • east coast bishop

    TRAGEDY IS THAT DUDE. LOOKING FORWARD TO NEW MUSIC. THE WAR REPORT MIGHT HAVE SAID CNN ON THE COVER BUT THATS TRAGEDYS ALBUM . YOU GOTTA KNOW THAT. DUDE SAW THAT WHOLE ALBUM THRU AND STOLE THE SHOW ON VERSE. I DO HOWEVER WISH HE HAD BETTER BEATS RECENTLY CUZ TRAG ON A BANGER IS PRETTY MUCH ALL YOU NEED.

  • Neil Nice

    Tragedy aka The Intelligent Hoodlum is the truth…word is bond!!! All real heads should check for his first release The Intelligent Hoodlum and the remix to his classic song called “Street Life (Return of the Life Mix)” Peep unkut.com for more real shit ya’ll…

    One Love.

    -NN

  • http://www.myspace.com/freeradicalz Seeker

    Obviously some people here don’t understand Tragedy’s history. Several times in the eighties and nineties he did bids. That is largely the reason he never was able to blow up as some of his Juice Crew counterparts and CNN have. There is no question the man is a legend, if for no other reason then being involved with one of the greatest crews of all time, and being a heavy influence to a borough’s sound that produced Mobb Deep, Nas and the list goes on. Peace.

  • RD

    Trag is dope as hell, but he overrates himself, listen to Intelligent Hoodlum and then listen to Illmatic, he fathered Nas, how? There’s a world of difference between influenced and inspired. Nature too, WTF. Nature doesn’t sound anything like Tragedy or CNN.

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  • INFAMOUS

    I see a lotta real hip-hop catz at xxl recently…Tragedy, Havoc, Sheek…
    keep up that good work…

  • Bronxbred

    To Lowendofthechi in response to Albany4Life: I respect your opinion on not feeling like Trag is a legend; your entitled to that although I disagree. People have a tendency of equating record sales and popularity as an indicator of someone’s influence and impact in Hip Hop. Trag was one of the first MC’s to incorporate the “intellingent hoodlum” ethos so prevalent in today’s artists. Trag and the Super Kids were one of the first young cats to rhyme on the mic and do it well enough to be respected by older established artists well before Da Youngsta’s or Lil Bow Wow. Being that I’m a 70′s baby, I can wax poetic about “back in the day” but that’s not the point. I feel that most people don’t know the history of Hip Hop culture well enough to know who did what, so it’s easy to dismiss someone as “not being relevant” because they lack the knowledge to know that artist’s true contribution’s to the culture. You’re entitled to your opinions to Trag’s music and talent; his perseverance and history in Hip Hop is well documented and can be rightly labeled as legendary. All those artist’s that you named…Nas, Wu, and Jay acknowledge and respect the God’s contributions to the game. Respect due to Tragedy Khadafi and the whole QB…true Hip Hop legends.

  • ILLERCLIP

    Trag is Queens Bridge’s blood. His style flows in the veins of all the MC’s that ever came out of that spot but you never see it cuz he stays under the surface.

  • az$$rugerman

    BronxBred is speaking the truth. Reguardless of your fame or popularity with the general(mainstream)public, if you can MOTIVATE a gerneration of Rappers (QB = nAS, C-N-N, Mobb Deep, nATURE, Cormega) to follow in your footsteps and spit that FLAME, give the man some love. NO, im not saying to give him credit for all these artists succes as a whole or individually, cuz that’s not the case. But just think twice or do some of your own research on what Trag brings to the table. He can paint you a picture lyrically better than most MC’s in the game TODAY. TRAG is dope like SOME uncut white girl, so FIX UR FACE haters!!.. but i honestly still feel that CORMEGA got a better flow..

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  • ras bandulu

    this was “intelligent hoodlum”back then,he drop the hoody and picked up the kufi on some malcolm x shit…. still got fiya QB stand up