Professor Pitt is a thirty-two-year-old African American filmmaker who created a trilogy on the theme of “Kung Fu Meets Hip Hop” called “The Hip Hop Dynasty” and “Hip Hop Dynasty Parts II and III.” He is also a rap artist and practitioner of martial arts, and for Pitt, warriorhood is a particularly special and important concept, in both his life and work.
FOX: You use the term “warrior”
frequently. When did you first pick up on that term?
PITT: From training in martial arts. But with meditation it is even more of a reference — of being still, of fighting voices in one’s head that are irritating me. Or like when meditating, when you get an itch in your nose, you are not supposed to scratch it or move and that decision not to go after the itch is being a warrior, is fighting the physical urge to do that. Usually when I meditate, as soon as you commit to meditating, it’s bam, in the back of your head, or bam, your foot starts throbbing. That’s the warrior fight. I got this from my teachers of martial arts and meditation.
FOX: Give me examples of what you call the “warrior fight.”
PITT: For me the warrior fight first begins with overcoming yourself and your own demons, your own stuff, which is the hardest. It means to keep going in training, which is fighting yourself. And then externally the true warrior’s fight is not to fight physically or to engage in any kind of fight unless it is the last resort. Me, being African American, you run into many situa-tions where people are pushing you to come out physically. For me that’s one of the fights — to not come out physically, because once we come out physically, everything is already designed to destroy us. We’ve given them a reason to do what they love doing — locking us up and giving us charges, labeling me in spite of what I do for humanity and the community. The minute I jump into that fighting character all the good stuff I do gets wasted, and they just look and say: “There’s that animal again.” So that is a big fight with me.
A warrior is being a good man to my wife, ‘cause that’s always a struggle, the man and woman thing, how to be graceful in how the stuff comes out, to be as graceful as possible.
FOX: Not returning physical for physical, that sounds a lot like the nonviolence strategy of King and Gandhi. Do you see a connection there?
PITT: I don’t really agree with Martin Luther King’s strategy back then. Every time I watch those movies, I think I would definitely have died back then. If you have nothing to lose and someone is going to beat on you for no reason and guess what, “we’re coming to kill you tomorrow” — I believe in Malcolm X on that. If someone is trying to take you off the planet, take them off first. For me, there is so much at stake among African Americans and for me to stay present for my people. I feel like I have the world on my shoulders, and I don’t have the right or the time to be wasting my time in negativity like that.
But I’ve got to give credit to King and Gandhi. They were strong, very strong warriors. They were among the strongest warriors on the planet for what they did. They did not get drowned in the whirlpool of negative physical energy. If they had, we would not know them as the great people that we know them as because one of those instances would have taken them out. That is what evil wants them to do.
FOX: You talk about the “warped warrior” message that society is selling. Elaborate on this.
PITT: I consider the warrior’s handbook to be these principles: inner peace, tranquility, love, power, strength, honor, majesty, and respect. I think these are things that all people want. We have to fight for them, no freedom comes free.
And I think the warped warrior’s handbook is missing lots of those qualities, like honor and inner peace, tranquility — all these are missing. The warped warrior is thinking power, strength, majesty — having money and having a plush lifestyle, a kingly or queenly kind of lifestyle. The warped warrior is somebody who wants to prove to the world that they are the strongest and have all this money and power, and they have no honor among themselves. No happiness.
I don’t equate having money and power without honor as being happy, because if you have no honor and people around you have no honor, then someone is always plotting to take what you have. And you are thinking there is a plot to take what I have. If the person is without honor, he probably plotted to get his. So it’s like an endless circle of mental torture.
Hip-hop is delivering the warped warrior message. So many people are erasing their lives because somebody stepped on their shoes or somebody looked at them the wrong way or bumped into them and spilled their drink or blah, blah, blah. Suddenly in those ten to seventy seconds they get wrapped up in, “I want to prove to the whole world that they can’t do that to me and that they can’t do that without paying for it.” They may even be triumphant in those seventy seconds, but as soon as it’s over they realize they got pulled into something that’s bigger than them. Now there is karma and justice coming after them. Maybe they killed the person, but whether they killed them or not, there’s karma coming back around. Maybe the police don’t get you, but these people have family members. The streets talk. Or they go to jail and ruin their lives.
Maybe they’re thirteen or fourteen or fifteen, and they’re forced to live most of their life in jail over that warped warrior mentality — they had to show the world right then that “Hey! You can’t step on my shoe” and their life is lost. And some people go through that life, even while they’re in jail, and feel because they’ve adopted that warped warrior handbook so deep in themselves that they did the right thing. They did what they were supposed to do. They stood up, they showed their gang members or their peers that they couldn’t be messed with. Now they’re in jail, where they have to face a whole other group of gang members and prove themselves again, and they just get wrapped up in a whirlpool of unhappiness, just pure unhappiness.
There’s nobody sitting in a jail cell — I don’t care how much they stick their chest out — that’s happy. I’ve been in jail — not prison — for three months. Nobody there is happy. The loudest mouth that’s acting so cool is probably the most scared character in there.
FOX: Where did you get the positive warrior handbook that you gave out?
PITT: I was writing a song called “My Understanding of Life,” and I said it in there:
“I meet the man or woman who leads me to the keys to the warrior life for which I seek.”
That’s the question I ask myself. Someone lead me to the keys for the warrior’s life that I seek. The royal life that I seek is inner peace, tranquility, love, power, strength, honor, majesty, and respect. That is the question I asked myself: What is the key to a warrior life? After I did that, I thought, “That’s serious.”
FOX: It applies to more than you. How old were you when you learned this?
PITT: It was just last year.
FOX: Do you see a difference between a warrior and a soldier?
PITT: Oh, 100 percent.
FOX: What’s the difference?
PITT: The soldier does what he is told no matter what. And a warrior does what is right, what his heart feels. A warrior should be connected to the universe, should be very reverent and connected to whatever people want to call God. I say “Mom” and “Dad” is God, sun and moon. Some people say “Allah.” I say them all, all of them have a feminine counterpart. As long as the warrior is connected to that, they are dealing with what’s right.
A solider is a piece of a body like a finger or a hand. If I tell my hand to slash someone’s throat, it’s going to do it; it’s not going to think twice. And that’s what a soldier is. Anybody who gets involved in the armed forces and thinks they can hold on to their reverentness, they are going to be in a battle because if they say “Go kill your mom,” guess what? That’s what you gotta do.
FOX: How do you recommend developing warrior energy when you are young? And if you missed that opportunity when you are young, how can you develop it later in life?
PITT: When you’re young, through martial arts, and when you are older, through meditation. Meditation is harder for children because they have so much energy. Like with my sons right now, if they come and say, “Hey, Dad, I want to put out albums too,” my test to them is that you have to go to these seven days’ or several months’ meditation thing, so that you can fight yourself, ‘cause I’m too distant from inside of your brain to ever really know what’s going on. But if I know that you are sitting, I will go there with you. If I know you are there and connecting and sitting down, you’ve got to face yourself. That’s what America’s about — distraction — so we never get a chance to face ourselves.
FOX: Do you have examples of people in your life who are mentors or warriors, examples of warriorhood to you?
PITT: All of my teachers, Eddie Deutch and Seefu and models of warriors like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. People who have gone through having the whole nation being at them — a point that I have not faced yet. I’m not rich yet or in everybody’s eye yet. They say when you are poor, everyone is your friend because you’re not intimidating to anyone’s lifestyle, and once you are of stature with money or power, suddenly the people that were your best friends and always willing to help you are the people that now have to deal with their ego problems, just overall ego problems. And you may be the center of their ego problems, you know what I mean?
FOX: You get a lot of projection.
PITT: Yes! And you know I don’t know what that feels like, how Malcolm had various death threats and so forth, but he went up to that podium, you know what I mean? That’s a warrior — in his mind, where he was at, his job wasn’t done, and he had to keep on going forward no matter what, for the people. Because the people at that time, he knew if he stepped down and disappeared that it would break the heart of the community, and the community needed that heart at that time. I haven’t faced that problem yet, and I hope I never do. But look at the world we live in.
So those guys of course, and Jesus — I don’t believe all the teachings about his death but I believe all the stories of people persecuting him and stuff like that. A friend of mine says all prophets of the world go through their stoning period, where they have to get their lashes or whatever and nobody sees what they’re doing. Prophets are supposed to be messengers from God, but that just means, “I’m sending him or her so I don’t have to get involved. Because if I got involved, I might just wipe everybody off the map and start all over.”
FOX: It’s that bad.
PITT: Yes. The prophet is supposed to come and say what he says, move on, and die. And then the word — what he or she brought — is supposed to carry on and build. I hold myself as one of those people. A lot of people who have taught me things to make me a stronger warrior; they don’t step outside to tell people what to do, that is not their role. I’ve taken that role, taken that burden.
FOX: So do you think warrior and prophet are really the same thing?
PITT: Yup. There are prophets in many degrees, it depends on how deep or high you go. A mother is a prophet when she is telling the kid, “Do not touch that electric wire. If you touch that wire, you’re going to die or hurt yourself really, really bad.” She may be saving the life of a future prophet. She is saving a life. The prophet goes to many levels.
FOX: Anything else you want to say about the warrior?
PITT: The more of a warrior you become, the less judgmental you become. Because you go through more and more stuff and you realize that all of us have an inner fight — like for me, giving up smoking weed or something like that, the voices never stop. Some-times I ask, “Wow! Do you ever stop?”
It doesn’t matter if I’m cool or if I’m not, if the opportunity presents itself, there’s a voice inside my head that says, “Go ahead and smoke.” Knowing that about myself, I know there’s a voice in everybody else’s head that’s always asking them to do something in the opposite direction. I know you don’t win every battle, and if you don’t win every battle, then I don’t win every battle. You get less judgmental.
It seems to me kids judge — and the media is like a big child as far as they try to judge every single thing and make sure everybody else judges with them. Judging comes from nonexperience. The more of the warrior you are, the more humble you become and the more unjudgmental. Everybody is on their own path and has their own
time to come to the realizations that they do. When I tell people I’m not smoking, I say, “That’s me.” I’m not trying to put any judgment on you because you’re sitting there smoking and I’m not. Everybody has their own time of evolution.
As a warrior I realize that all cultures uphold their warriors from the past, but today’s warrior has to be understanding of other cultures. It’s relatively easy to be a warrior in one’s own culture, but it is important to recognize warriorhood in a variety of other cultures given how diverse the world is today.
Develop perception and understanding before moving forward. Here, too, judgment must often be suspended. For example, I like to look strangers in the eye, but some cultures feel to look a stranger in the eye is to steal their soul. Given the melting pot we find ourselves in, we all need to tread lightly on one another’s cultures and ask questions. “In your culture, what is customary? Or what is disrespectful?” Opening a dialogue is so useful because we learn instead of offending one another.
– Fox, Matthew. “Spiritual Warriors .” The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine, New World Library, 2009.