I recently caught up with Supreme Understanding, whose seminal book “How to Hustle and Win: A Survival Guide to the Ghetto” should be required reading for all of us trying to navigate this harsh wilderness we call AmeriKKKa. The same way we all read/had our own copy of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”, and our parents before us carried “Roots” around like it was the Bible, “How to Hustle…” speaks to our reality. It resonates in a way that isn’t preachy or condescending. The jewels in this book come from a man who has seen, heard, and done it all and has now dedicated himself to sharing his experiences so we can elevate ourselves from the oppression we face daily. – Tiffany High
H.I. What inspired you to write this book?
S.U. I’ve been putting in work in the community for several years now, either just being in the streets or trying to help people in the streets. It’s not something you can avoid seeing. Even if you’re doing dirt, you know there are problems that need to be addressed. Ain’t nobody out there selling dope because it’s fun. I was out there in the streets. I remember how it would turn my stomach every time a mother would pull up with her kid fresh from pickin him up from school to pick up some…. you know. It don’t matter where you come from, if you have even a little bit of touch with reality you’re gonna say, “Ok, something needs to be done”.
One of two things happens: Either you see how fucked up the world is and you get an “I don’t give a fuck” attitude and say, “fuck the world”. Or you see how fucked up the world is, and work on changing it. Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to just disconnect and say, “fuck the world” than it is to say, “I’m gonna change the world”. I was gonna be one of those people that was gonna say “I don’t give a fuck, fuck the world”, but I happened to get knowledge of self when I was about 15. Dealing with the Five Percent (Nation)…we have to be obligated to change the world. You ain’t about to walk away from that. So over the years I looked at different ways to go about it. I started a non-profit. I tried mentoring kids in my neighborhood. I realized I need a way to be in every place at the same time ‘Cause I had come up with a formula that was working for the people that I was talking to. It just wasn’t getting to enough people. So I said, “Ok…book!”
H.I. What kind of feedback have you been getting so far from readers?
S.U. “Man, I haven’t gotten one negative review yet! I’ve had everyone from 15 year old dope boys to 50 year old grandmas say this is the best book they’ve ever read. And that ain’t no sales pitch that’s the truth. Little dope boys be like “Yo! I don’t even read, but I been reading this and I been trying to get my homeboys to read it. Now my homeboys don’t wanna give the book back!” I had Freeway Ricky, who basically brought crack to the streets of America, say that every hustler in America needs to read the book. On the other hand, I had community activists and Black scholars like Mwalimu Baruti and Stic.man from dead prez say that every Black revolutionary needs to have this book… and now I got rappers reading it! I got it to Shaka Zulu and Ludacris, Stic.man was down from the beginning…but now as I get out to the rappers, the industry gives it’s seal of approval. Then I can have everybody. The only people that I think could give me any kind of negative feedback is gonna be what we call the 10 percent. Those are the people that profit by keeping everybody else blind and ignorant.
H.I. What is/are the primary message(s) you hope stick with readers after finishing the book? What’s the “moral of the story”?
S.U. The number one reason why you’re pissed off and not givin’ a fuck is not your fault. You were born into a world that didn’t give a fuck about you. Born into a world that’s gonna be against you from day one. You were told that you had an equal opportunity and that if you just went to school, stayed out of trouble, and said no to drugs then you were gonna make it and be successful and you knew that was a muthafuckin’ lie. You could probably figure that shit out by 3rd grade, which is why studies say that 3rd grade is when Black boys stop givin’ a fuck about school. Why? Because by 3rd grade they have enough intellect to figure out, “that stuff you’re telling me is a lie”. That’s when most people remember, “That’s when I started hearing that Christopher Columbus stuff and I started really hating school.” On a subconscious level they realize that it’s a white mans world and that the game ain’t made for them. So everybody’s hustling, but everybody’s hustling to lose. Like Young Buck said, “It’s a white man’s world so if we winning, we losing”. That’s where the title comes from (How to Hustle and Win) because everybody’s hustling but nobody’s got a formula for how to win. A lot of these rappers are really telling the truth [and] want to say what’s really on their mind but they can’t because their A&Rs and managers are telling them they can’t. Just like 50 Cent and them…they had to change the name of “Guerilla Unit” which started out being “Guerilla” like some urban military, to “Gorilla Unit” like some monkeys! Now you got dudes out here talking about they’re gorillas! And you gonna rep that like that’s alright? We real twisted and we don’t realize it. But I think the book will give people a perspective like “Oh man, THAT’S why it is the way it is! I don’t give a fuck what you learned in school. Ain’t none of that gonna work until you get the fundamental understanding that you are in a game that is not for you! You are in a game that is against you.
H.I.What would you say to a potential reader who thinks maybe this book isn’t for them? Did you have a target audience in mind?
S.U. On the website (www.HustleandWin.com ) I have a document called, “Why We Need ‘How to Hustle and Win’”. It goes over why men need it, why women need it, and why young people need it. Men need it because it’s directly for them and for their problems and what they’re going through. It has information that they’re gonna want, presented in a way they’re gonna appreciate, with a formula that they can use. That’s for any man of color. I go into all the histories of the ethnicities, I go into similarities between them and Black Americans and all that but the truth is everybody of color’s been fucked over in the same way. And if you are a Mexican thinking that you got some kind of closeness with white folks that Black people don’t have, then you are so twisted in the game, you need this book plus about ten others! Don’t think that because you some other ethnicity that the problems of Black America don’t pertain to you. Indian and Arab people learned that lesson the hard way after September 11th. They didn’t think racial profiling had anything to do with them until September 11th happened and they were getting spit on, pulled over on the side of the road, and stopped at the airport every day. Anybody that wants to understand what’s going on with people of color in America, this book will help them out.
H.I. With a youth culture (whose lives revolve around television, music and video games) that generally doesn’t read, how do you suggest we get this book in the hands of those who would benefit from it the most?
S.U. My goal ain’t really even to sell directly to them. My goal is to sell to people who will give it to them. My goal is to sell it to that dude who’s 40 years old and who’s been around the block and been in the streets for a minute, and got some boys around the block that he tries to talk to every once in a while. My goal is to get him the books, and have him give those books to the boys. I’ve had young people buy books, but typically that may not be what happens. More realistically, it’ll be somebody like you that’ll buy 3 books and give 2 to some boys that you know. And I guarantee you the 2 that get the book will have their homeboys reading it, and before long one of them will be like “Yo, I need to go buy my own copy.” But young people are just not in the mode of buying books. That may be something that changes as a result of this book. It’s 336 pages but every [section] is only like 2 or 3 pages long. So if you got a short attention span or you got ADHD, you can read this book! You can be on Ritalin and still read this book! You can not take your Ritalin and still read this book!
H.I. Where can people buy the book?
S.U. They can check their local Black bookstore and if its not there, they need to have the bookstore demand the book. They can also log on to www.HustleandWin.com and order the book.
H.I. When can we expect Part 2?
S.U. The official release date [of Part One] was Juneteenth (June 19th). Part Two will probably drop around the same time next year. So Part Two will be out around June 19th, 2009. I gotta give people a chance to really absorb Part One and soak it in, you know what I mean?
H.I. Your life in itself is such an inspirational story. Any plans for an autobiography?
S.U. At first when I was writing the book, I thought about making an autobiography that would also be educational–like in between every section of my life, throw in what I’ve learned. ‘Cause with people nowadays, you gotta make things real plain and explicit. You can’t make it subliminal and hope somebody’s gonna catch it. If you listen to rap nowadays, ain’t nobody besides Lil Wayne and a few others that’s really trying to hit you on another level. Soulja Boy is really an example of where we’ve gotten to psychologically. And I’m not saying that to knock Soulja Boy…his lyrics are retarded, but the dude is brilliant. Being so young and having such an intelligent marketing campaign… Dude was on Limewire uploading his song and calling it whatever was hot at the time. Like when 50 Cent came out with “In The Club”, he would upload his song and call it “In The Club”. So when people would think they were downloading “In The Club”, they would be hearing his song. This is what he’s doing at 15 years old! So I’m not saying Soulja Boy himself is retarded, I’m saying he makes retarded lyrics…for retarded listeners.
H.I. What piece of media most influenced you (be it a book, movie or music)?
S.U. Really, man…. LIFE! No book taught me better than life. If I had to name a book or some kind of media that really hit me…it wasn’t no music. People be talking about WuTang and Public Enemy woke them up. That music might’ve made you think, but if you ain’t follow up, you wasn’t gonna get woken up just by listening to some Public Enemy. You had to go read a book after that. You wasn’t gonna listen to KRS One and become smart. The first book I read that was on some real shit, when I was like 14, I read this book called “White Lies, White Power”. It was about white supremacy and racism. Another book I read that was cool was “From Niggas to Gods”. But really like I said, life is educational. ‘Cause you’re gonna learn one of two ways in life. Either you’re gonna learn on your ear or on your ass.
H.I. If you had a book club, what would be required reading this month?
S.U. Let’s say we’re like 3 months into it so we wouldn’t be on the baby books anymore! Required reading would be a few chapters out of “The Isis Papers”, a few chapters out of “Makes Me Wanna Holler”, a chapter out of “Blueprint for Black Power”, and a chapter out of “Why Black Men Love White Women”…that’s another title like mine where there’s more to it than meets the eye. He goes into politics, race, socioeconomics…he goes into, not that it’s a good thing that Black men love white women, but why the destroyed, oppressed, exploited, dehumanized Black man thinks that having a white woman is probably the only trophy and success he’ll attain in this world.
H.I. Anything else you would like to add? That you want our readers to know either about yourself or the book?
S.U.“How to Hustle and Win” is a movement, and every movement needs an economy. With this movement, I set it up where it can be economically profitable as well as rewarding. Anybody can buy the book wholesale. You just have to get at me and let me know what kind of distribution you’re gonna be doing and what kind of community you’re working in. I think if we address the people at the bottom, and show them, “here’s why you’re at the bottom, here’s why you feel the way you feel, and here’s your tool.” The bottom–the lowest segment of our population–are gonna be the ones that lead social change and change the world. ‘Cause everybody in the world is watching them. I’ve been to Thailand, Japan, Africa…everybody’s got their eyes on the Black man in America. So it’s like all the Black man in America’s got to do is rise up and the whole world will rise up with him.
Supreme is an author and scholar. He has seen all sides of the game and is using that knowledge and wisdom to give his brothers the tools necessary to rise up and avoid the traps and pitfalls that surely await them in this world. All one has to do is crack the cover and let it all in. We sit around and complain about what’s going on with our young people and the state of Black America without offering solutions. Through his book, Supreme is offering us a way out…so let’s get free!
For more information, visit www.HustleandWin.com