A country with police brutality, discriminatory voter ID laws and forsaken black communities may tell people otherwise, but CrimDella “BlackZeusX” Brathwaite and his Black God Pantheon are intent on convincing oppressed people everywhere that a divine energy is inside of all of them—and it’s up to them to embrace it.
“Can’t lie homeboy, I got God in me,” he spits on “Hotep,” the eighth installment of his #ZeusXStyle YouTube series. “If you got God in you, then mob with me.”
Brathwaite was empowered since he was a child during the 1990s, growing up in Harlem and soaking lessons from his father Elombe Brath—a respected Pan-African activist—and five older brothers. After one of those siblings introduced him to hip-hop, he began writing his own rhymes while revering legends like DMX, Jay Z and Eminem. He vividly remembers two early incidents of exposing his raps to others: one high school classmate said his lyrics were weak, but later, a friend named Roger was impressed after perusing through his notebook.
“The first situation helped me grow because something clicked in my head to prove them wrong. The second was a confirmation from the universe that I could do it,” he said.
He, Roger, and four other artists formed The Kingdom—a crew that only stayed together for six months, but whose members left a lasting impression on each other through collaboration and positive reinforcement. Crimdella graduated high school and went to State University of New York at New Paltz, where he studied psychology while continuing his rap career. He built a buzz on campus by placing two freestyles on area mixtapes and recording songs.
He kept recording after graduating from college—he has independently released five projects since 2009, steadily building a fan base over the years—but he also began working with young people. Carrying the baton of activist roots inherited from his father, he counsels black and Latino youth professionally and academically to help them find jobs, complete resumes and college applications, and build their communities. He plans to use his music and his job as dual ways to connect with people in special ways.
“They don’t always see educated black men in their neighborhood. That isn’t to say that they don’t exist, but there a lot of people who get out and stay out,” he said. “It’s important to build that relationship with young people so that I can talk with them through music just like artists did for me when I was young.”
Crimdella’s music represents the community he works with on a daily basis, giving insight into the black and brown experience in America while injecting fun, youthful energy whenever it calls for it. Police brutality, flirting with women, and braggadocios rhymes are all delivered with the same honesty and relatability.
The latest and most potent example of his skill set is #ZeusXStyles, his new series of YouTube videos. His organic combination of empowering, knowledge-dropping lyrics and instantly contagious hooks is building steam in New York City. “Columbus (ft. Monotone)” cleverly addresses the hot button topic of
cultural appropriation, and “SUNGOD (ft. O’ye)” sees Crimdella exchanging traditional Christianity for a focus on African heritage, individual spirituality, and embracing the divinity in himself. The latter idea is the fuel behind the Black God Pantheon, Crimdella’s crew of similarly-minded musicians and artists: Monotone (aka Apollo), BbStarD (aka the Black God Ptah), Real Ishmael (aka The Black God Ausar), Precious Gorgeous, Kita P, and Ashleigh Awusie.
“As black and brown people, we don’t get to see ourselves in divine light much. In almost all portrayals of divine beings, whether it’s in drawings of Jesus or in films like ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings,’ everyone is blue-eyed. It’s almost like we’re being told that we are not worthy of divinity,” he said. “When I call myself a black god, I am not saying that I am God because I will die. God won’t. What I’m saying is that God lives in me and my relationship with it is one that only me and it know and so because of that I can create what I want to create because I believe in that power.
“I want more people who look like me and come from similar backgrounds and neighborhoods to understand that,” he adds.
With the #ZeusXStyle series continuing to gain steam and the Black God Pantheon’s material on the way, Crimdella’s message is loud and clear for anyone willing to listen.
Written by William E. Ketchum III // www.speechismyhammer.com
Produced by Choi David // @choidavid420