A veteran of New York hip-hop, Tragedy Khadafi was there from the start. Still a child in the late '70s, he lived in the infamous Queensbridge Housing Projects and witnessed some of the earliest days of rap's incubatory phase before getting into it himself as a teenager. Working under a variety of different monikers, the music he made and his presence in New York's hip-hop circles would be highly influential for the wave of artists that included Mobb Deep, Capone, and Norega. First making records as Intelligent Hoodlum before changing his name in 1997, Tragedy Khadafi stayed on a consistent grind of new material that spanned several important eras in the development of rap and hip-hop culture.
Born Percy Chapman in 1971 to a single mother in the projects of Queens, New York, Tragedy Khadafi grew up surrounded by music. When he was nine years old he first heard hip-hop, which itself was just beginning to develop in the South Bronx and other New York neighborhoods. It was when he heard LL Cool J's "Rock the Bells," however, at a community function in Astoria that Chapman knew that he wanted to rap, too. Calling himself Jadeski, he hooked up with DJ Hot Day and, as the Superkids, they self-released a couple of songs in 1986. These caught the ear of Marley Marl, who eventually ended up encouraging Chapman to split from Hot Day and join his influential group, the Juice Crew. He recorded some tracks for Marley's 1988 album, In Control ("The Rebel," "Live Motivator"), but before he could see their release he was sent to the Elmira Correctional Facility for three years, at just 16 years old. While in jail, Chapman began reading the work of Malcolm X and upon his release he entered community college with the intention of studying black history; he was still interested in hip-hop, but he wasn't planning on pursuing music as a career. However, after meeting Joe Fatal at a show, Chapman was convinced by the MC to get back into rap. Signing with A&M, he released two albums under the name Intelligent Hoodlum, the 1990 self-titled record and 1993's Tragedy: Saga of a Hoodlum. Changing his name to Tragedy Khadafi, the rapper began to work with other artists, even discovering the duo Capone-N-Noreaga on the streets and helping to conceive their spectacular 1997 debut, The War Report. He worked collaboratively with other artists throughout the '90s, recording with Mobb Deep and acting as part of the group Iron Sheiks with longtime friend Imam T.H.U.G. His first album as Tragedy Khadafi, Against All Odds, was originally slated to come out in 1999, but was pushed back two years. The album marked the debut of HeadRush Napoleon, who would show up again on future albums. In 2003 Still Reportin' hit shelves, followed by Thug Matrix in 2005. Two mixtapes arrived the next year, Blood Ballads and Thug Matrix 2, and in 2007, Chapman was arrested for drug dealing and went to prison. Before his sentencing, eighth album The Death of Tragedy was released in the summer of 2007. While locked up, he continued releasing music, appearing on 2009's Lethal Weapon, a collaborative album with Trez that included guest spots from Big Noyd, Willie Stubbs, and others. He was released ahead of schedule for good behavior in 2011 and back to music-making like never before, prolifically releasing new songs, mixtapes, and collaborations. Among a bevy of EPs and lesser projects, more fully realized albums were added to his imposing discography, like Immortal Titans (a collaboration with rapper BP) and The Builders, both released in 2018. ~ Marisa Brown