“Walking out the door. All of us poor. I learned the difference between the snitches, the real ones, and whose soft. And the murderous hungriest crews. People jumping from roofs. Shotguns pumping. Made it through my youth. …To those niggas who are real. To the stick-up kid dreaming for meals. Let my words Guide you. Get inside you… This is survival.”—Nas
Malik has been branded a social deviant, a misfit, and a danger to society. He is the reason why you don’t let your kids wander the streets after dark. He is the reason why you lock your car doors. He is the reason why you stuff your iPhone and other valuables deep into your pockets.
News channels refer to him as a delinquent and openly mock his gangster lifestyle. They say he lacks morals. The book “The Bell Curve” states that his behavior is innate; it states that his life as a gang member could have been predicted, that he was predisposed to a life of violence and crime due to the structure of his brain, that he can’t help being what he is; others blame his behavior on structural issues yet even these people will clutch their purses or wallets tightly when he is nearby.
Rappers write about his life as a gangsta in their music, and Malik’s favorite rapper, Tupac, calls it “thug life.” But many of these rappers fake this “thug life,” the deadly lifestyle that Malik actually lives. Other people claim to be gangstas, thinking that you’re tough if you wear a bandanna or a du-rag, a white tee and sagging pants. They’re not. They can’t call themselves gangstas until, like Malik, they’ve been in enough life-or-death situations that they no longer faze you.
Some people say that Malik lives in Chicago. But when people think of Chicago, they think of a luxurious, affluent life: skyscrapers, the Magnificent Mile, the Windy City. Malik has never lived that life. He has only visited that side of town to rob people. Chiraq is where he lives, where gunshots and homicides are as frequent in his community as picnics and festivals are elsewhere.
For most of his adolescent years, Malik had been living in an abandoned house, desperate for food. But when he pleaded with people for change, just dimes or pennies, they shunned him, preferring to lose their change than to give it to him. As they walked out of the grocery store with bags full of food, they told him, “Sorry, kid; I don’t have anything for you.” When he went into the store begging for food, nobody would give him any. They just said, “Get out of here, kid,” and called the cops on him for loitering.
Ever since he met Ganglord Miles, Malik stopped feeling sorry for himself. He didn’t need that anymore; he didn’t need to rely on the pity of others. Ganglord Miles offered Malik and his brother a way out, a way to do more than barely get enough food to stay alive. With the gun and drugs to sell that Miles gave him, Malik could get food, clothing and shelter. Now the situation was reversed. Malik would no longer beg for food; instead, he would rob people of it. Those “No Loitering” signs were meaningless now; he could go into stores, stick them up, and take whatever he wanted.
Luckily for the people in Chiraq, Malik’s great leader, Ganglord Miles, had chosen to change the direction of his gang. Instead of the “Streets Disciples,” their initials now stood for “Societal Development.” SD members did some good in the community now, but they still had to make money, so they still dealt drugs.
Killing was now a last resort, such as when rival gangs attempted to steal their territory. Streets Disciples Killers vandalized their streets by tagging “SDK” in various areas, trying to intimidate them with this ghetto war-cry, but it didn’t faze Malik. He had killed before—but he didn’t like to discuss it.
As part of the societal development program, Malik volunteered at the food pantry, handing out free food to poor citizens. One day, Malik noticed a man walk in with sunglasses and a hood, as if he was trying to conceal his identity. Apparently, the man was ashamed to be in a place like this.
Ganglord Miles told him, “Sir, if you want service, you must take off your sunglasses and hood. We need to see your face.”
“Okay,” the man said reluctantly. “It’s just that I never thought I’d be here, desperate for help. My business went bankrupt because of the recession. I no longer have any income for food for myself or my children.” He took off his hood and sunglasses.
Malik knew this man. His name was John, and he owned a local food and liquor store, or at least, he used to. He had treated Malik horribly when he was the one in need. Seeing John’s face infuriated Malik instantly. Before John could react, Malik started punching him until John collapsed. Straddling John’s stomach, Malik kept punching John until his face was bloodied and his nose was crooked. Getting out his knife, Malik shoved it dangerously close to John’s jugular vein.
“Look at me, bitch!” he shouted. “Do you remember me?”
John said to Miles, “Get this crazy kid off me. Who the hell is he?”
“You better remember me like your life depended on it,” Malik told him.
Seeing no sign that Miles would intervene, John struggled uselessly against Malik before finally giving up. “You’re that kid I gave those apples to,” he said.
This had happened when Malik was weak, naïve, and powerless, before he had met the great Ganglord Miles. He had been 8 years old and hungry enough that his stomach had felt as if it was twisted in knots, having not eaten for two days. He had noticed a store owner throwing his apples in the trash.
“Please,” Malik had begged John, “don’t throw those apples away. My brother and I would love to have them.”
The store owner had said, “Kid, wait here and I’ll get some fresh apples for you in the store.”
Malik had felt so happy and relieved at the thought of getting something to eat. When John came back, he had an entire case of apples with him, which he handed to Malik. Expecting a rich, luscious mouthful, Malik bit down on one of the apples but his teeth slipped off it. These weren’t edible apples; they were plastic, decorative apples coated in a thin layer of glossy wax.
John had started laughing at him.
“Get a job, kid, and get off of my property,” John had said, and then he had called the police, reporting that Malik was loitering.
Malik pushed the knife blade harder against John’s throat.
“Payback’s a bitch, huh?” he said.