Sanyika Shakur is one of the country’s most infamous gang members. Known on the streets as Monster, he let everyone inside the life of an L.A. Crip with his best-selling memoir, “Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member.”
Born Kody Scott, Shakur joined the Los Angeles gang the Eight Tray Gangster Crips as a young boy. After years of admitted violence and murders, Shakur went to prison where he claimed to have been reformed. While imprisoned, he joined the Republic of New Afrika movement and wrote his memoir in 1993.
Shakur spent 36 months at San Quentin State Prison and did a five-year stint at Pelican Bay State Prison, mostly spent in solitary confinement. During this time, Shakur converted to Islam.
He was released in August 2012 after serving two-thirds of his six-year sentence. Then on July 10, 2017, he was sent back to prison for an assault conviction and was incarcerated at Centinela State Prison in Imperial, California.
When Shakur published his autobiography, “Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member,” it received numerous rave reviews, including from Michiko Kakutani, writer for The New York Times. She wrote that “Monster” is a “galvanic book” and even titled her article by describing the book as “Illuminating” and “Raw.” Shakur wrote it while still in jail. According to Shakur, he made $800,500 from writing “Monster.”
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In 2008, Shakur wrote a novel called “T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.” Then in November 2013, he released a book of essays, “Stand up, Struggle Forward: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings on Nation, Class, and Patriarchy.”
Shakur was initiated into the Eight Tray Gangster Crips when he was just 11 years old. According to sources, his first gang action occurred that very night and involved “a sawed-off shotgun and shooting at a rival gang.” The source also stated Shakur “quickly becomes an important member of the Eight-Trays. Following his initiation, Scott works his way up the totem pole of importance. One act that increased his standing is beating a man so badly that the police say whoever did it was a monster; the word becomes his gang name.”
Sanyika Shakur once explained how he got his gang nickname “Monster.” “Well, America produced me,” he explained. “The community as a whole is sick.”
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In his autobiography, Shakur claimed he killed numerous people. He himself was shot six times in one incident. He was shot again and survived. He was still a teen at the time and soon after he was arrested for a robbery. He was sent to Juvenile for four years.
While in jail, Shakur met Muhammad, a Muslim religious leader. He took part in sermons and immersed himself in readings about Islam.
Shakur used his time in prison, he said in his memoir, to change his ways and outlook. There he learned a lot about the C.C.O., better known as the Consolidated Crip Organization, which does not support Crip-on-Crip violence. He later became a member. It was during this time in his life that he changed his name to Sanyika Shakur.
When he got out of prison for the first time, he left the Eight Trays forever and joined N.A.I.M. (New African Independence Movement).
Shakur returned to criminal life with another sentence to jail in 2007 for violating his parole. “In 2006, I was put on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, the LAPD’s Top Ten Most Wanted List, and became a fugitive with a $50,000 bounty on my head…Well, once I’d been captured by a joint effort of U.S. marshals, FBI and LAPD, this guy recanted his story and said he’d lied, and this and that. But by then the die had been cast. They spent $50,000 on paying an informant to tip them off, and I spent $50,000 on attorney fees to avoid a life term,” he told the San Francisco Bay View.
“They brought in special attorneys for the prosecution and came with all kinds of propaganda and what have you. And we deflected all of that. I ended up with six years with 85 percent for carjacking, even though the guy recanted and two others were actually caught in the car and no one could corroborate his story. I was sent straight back here to the Bay. I’ve been validated with an indeterminate SHU term since 1989. As it stands, I am due out in 2012.”
In an interview with the San Francisco Bay View, Shakur explained how he became politically conscious.
“Yeah, well, when I was a criminal movin’ with the street organization, I had a nascent overstanding about us being essentially one people. I didn’t overstand ‘nation’ then, but I overstood that we were a distinct people. See, I started bangin’ in the mid-‘70s, so the vapors or the residue of the Black Liberation Movement were still palpable. There was still a consciousness there, dig?
“And I’m not trying to romanticize it or anything, but we thought we were like the Panthers; I mean that in the sense that we were outlaws. And again, I’m speaking of having a real rudimentary overstanding of politics, as perceived from the mentality of an adolescent.”
Shakur started to identify himself as a New Afrikan. When asked to explain what that meant to him, he replied to the San Francisco Bay View: “Well, when I got to San Quentin in January of ‘86, on the tier was study material from the Black Liberation Movement (BLM), a lot of material from the Black Panther Party, the African People’s Party, the African People’s Socialist Party etc. And as I said, I read it all…They identified more with Malcolm and Black Power than with Martin and Negro Civil Rights. Cats were pushing a Nationalist line, recognizing, if only rudimentarily, that we were more of a nation inside of this empire than a disenfranchised “minority” of citizens of the empire. One can’t be disenfranchised, if you’ve never been enfranchised, feel me?
“So the empire, the capitalist-imperialist, was yet again morphing to live by implementing a neo-colonial system of Civil Rights and integration, and the Black Liberation Movement rejected that. And the material it printed to agitate, educate and organize clearly reflected this rejection of colonialism and neo-colonialism. Well, that’s what I was turned on to when I hit the tier. However this was ‘86, and by then the BLM as a whole had been defeated.”
He explained that reading old material was not preparing him for the state of the world as it was.
“We found ourselves stumbling blindly around the issues. We’d not taken into account the dynamism of our enemy’s ability to morph . So I’m reading all the material, but I wasn’t getting well. It wasn’t cleansing me. It wasn’t washing my eyes, my mind of colonialism. I could quote George, Robert Williams, Huey and Malcolm, but I couldn’t make coherent sense of ‘86 Amerika. So I became frustrated and I began to study for new tools to fight with,” he said.
He then began looking into the Black Liberation Army Coordinating Committee (BLA-CC).
“I got in touch with Sundiata Acoli, who in turn sent me to Owusu Yaki Yakubu, who was using the pseudonym Atiba Shanna at that time, and he began to send me the New Afrikan ideological material and things just cleaned up. What the comrades in the BLA-CC had done was go back and reformulate, rebuild and reboot all the theories of the failed BLM and tie them together in a current ideo-theoretical line that corresponded perfectly to what was happening and what happened and what we should do for the future.”
He felt better connected to them.
“So once the ‘rads in the Army sent me this material, I could for the first time really feel the reality of our situation. And these were cats who had been on the frontlines of the BLM – in its armed formations – cats who were righteous revolutionaries. And too, I began to look at all the others who’d accepted the New Afrikan ideology – practically all of the POWs: Kuwasi Balagoon, Jalil Muntaquim, Sekou Odinga, Abdul Shanna, Sundiata Acoli etc. etc. etc. So that was it for me. I dug into the ideological formation, overstood it and pressed on, in concert with those who’d proved themselves worthy in countless battles with the beast,” he said.
He added, ”To be New Afrikan is to recognize that you are a member of a distinct culture, that you are a citizen of a nation unto itself in the belly of the beast…To be a New Afrikan is to be guided by the New Afrikan Declaration of Independence, the New Afrikan Creed, and the Code of Umoja and the Nguzo Saba. It is to have allegiance to the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika and to struggle to establish our sovereignty beyond contradiction. It’s revolutionary nationalism.”
Monster and rapper Tupac Shakur (2Pac) became close friends.
“In 1996, as Shakur was on the run from police for a parole violation, he met up with Tupac on the set of the x-rated version of Tupac’s music video ‘How Do U Want It’. This would be the last time that Kody would ever see Tupac,” according to Wikipedia.
On September 13, 1996, Tupac Shakur died after being shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Monster said he initially suspected Death Row Records founder Suge Knight was behind the death of his number 1 artist. Monster later interviewed Knight for Vibe Magazine, as he had also interviewed the alleged gunman, Orlando Anderson, for the same publication.