From Kody Scott to Monster to Sanyika Shakur: The Life and Transformation of an L.A. Gang Member

Murderers are, most commonly, not the average eleven year old boy. Gangs are not inducting and recruiting the average eleven year old boy. Kody Scott was not the average eleven year old boy. He was however, a fairly normal and average boy in Southern Los Angeles, where he grew up with his mother and five siblings. It was where he ultimately became a member of the Eight Trays Crips gang. In his book Monster: the Autobiography of an L.A Gang Member, Kody writes of his life as he was inducted into the gang, as he grew within the gang, and as he finally pulled himself out of the gang. His entire story allows readers further incite into a world where little is known and understood.

For the people who join gangs they have a range of different reasons for joining. For Kody, as early as elementary school he had decided that he no longer wanted to be a victim. “Early on I saw and felt both sides of the game being played where I lived. It was during my time in elementary school that I chose to never be a victim again, if I could help it. There was no gray area, no middle ground. You banged or held strong association with the gang, or else you were a victim, period.” (Shakur 100) His childhood was also full of hardship, violence and instability, something for which the gang world offered a new kind of family and a refuge. (Shakur 103) Kody entered into the Crips gang in 1975 at the age of eleven. That night of his initiation he became a murderer and his journey through the Crip world began. The night started with these words “‘Bangin’ aint no part-time thang, its full-time, it’s a career. It’s being down when aint nobody else down with you. It’s gettin’ caught and not tellin’. Killin’ and not caring, and dyin’ without fear. It’s love for your set and hate for the enemy.” (Shakur 12) The night ended with Kody gunning down a rival gang with a 12 gauge shotgun sawed off, with pump action.

The ferocity and quickness that gang life engulfs its members is unbelievable. When reading Kody’s autobiography one minute you’re reading of his initiation into the gang world, the next you have witnessed more accounts of violence and death than you can easily recall. One minute he inhabits grade school the next, no one and nothing matters to him as much as his set within the Crips.

His relationship with his family greatly decreased as he became more and more invested and involved in the gang life. Kody immediately rushes onto his path of gaining his sets respect and gaining a reputation. The ultimate prize is the title of O.G., Original Gangster. “…I had escalated from little homie to homie, and was putting in much work and dropping many bodies…For I had learned early that there were three stages of reputation to go through before the title of O.G.—Original gangster—would apply righteously..” (Shakur 14)

Through his pursuit of success in the gang world Kody puts nothing ahead of his reputation and respect. From his ruthlessness he gains the nickname of Monster, “In 1977, when I was thirteen, while robbing a man I turned my head and was hit in the face. The man tried to run, but was tripped by Tray Ball, who then held him for me. I stomped him for twenty minutes before leaving him unconscious in an ally…The police told by standers the person responsible for this was a ‘monster.’ The name stuck and I took that as a moniker over my birth name.” (Shakur 13) To live up to his new nickname Kody became progressively more violent and vicious. He began to develop the reputation and respect he worked so hard for. His years in the Crips are a whirlwind of battles against rival gangs and against rival sets. Yet Kody believes he is a warrior fighting to make his home safer “gangbangers think of themselves as making others fearful in order to make themselves safer.” (Brumble 158)

While amidst the ongoing war that Kody finds himself a combatant in, the outside world continues on and he meets his future wife and mother of his children. He does not put them first until much later in his life. He continues to fight for his set, often being captured and sent to jail. The number of times and different kinds of jails Kody encounters is exceptional. However jail and what it provided became one of the most prominent reasons Kody gets out of the crips gang.

Kody dropped out of school after sixth grade and did not retain much of his education. Jail allowed and provided a way for Kody to educate himself. He became literate, and some of the jails even had trade schools that the prisoners could participate in. Jail was the most beneficial in its contributions to Kodys education. Early on however, it did nothing to dissuade his actions as a gangbanger. It wasn’t until much later that Kody began to use the education he had gained from jail to question the ways of his life. While in jail he was introduced to Muhammad Abdullah, he led the Muslim worship services at the Youth Training School (the jail Kody was in at the time). Muhammad introduced Kody into the Muslim world and gave him pamphlets to read such as Message to the Oppressed. He introduced to Kody and his fellow gangbangers the idea that what they were doing was self destructive; they were killing each other when their “real enemy” (white people) is out killing them. They are less of a threat when they are turned in upon themselves (Shakur 219). This is the beginning that leads Kody eventually toward his freedom. This leads him towards Islam, and toward the CCO, the Consolidated Crip Organization. The CCO was an organization of the Crips that formed alliances with other gangs, such as the Bloods. As a policy they would not disrespect or bring violence upon their allied gangs. After he began to find fault with the CCO and their leadership he was introduced to the New Afrikan Independence movement. This was a final influence that led to his retrieval from the crips “I received the ideological formulation material and it redeemed me. It gave me answers to all the questions I had about myself in relation to this society…the science was strong and precise…once I overstood the New Afrikan ideology and pledged my allegiance to the Republic of new Afrika’s independence, I began to see cripping in a different light…” (Shakur 352)

Kody Scott spent thirteen years in the Crips before he pulled himself out. He went from Kody, to Monster Kody to Sanyika Shakur. He went from only caring about his crip family to realizing the importance of his wife and children and putting them first. However Kody wrote his book from solitary confinement for assault charges he received as a “normal civilian”.

What Kody has done in his life is beyond words awful yet also somehow remarkable in the way he was able to right himself. He changed the way he thought and how he looked at the world. He gave us his novel, a story so intricate one must read it themselves to fully grasp. His novel provides a view into a world that is not much well understood. As Kody said in his book “there are no other gang experts except participants.” (Shakur xiii) He has provided the world a firsthand narrative of his expertise on the subject, hoping to warn and inspire those youth who are facing what he once faced.

Works Cited
Brumble, David. “Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams, Gangbanger Autobiography, and Warrior Tribes” Journal of American Studies 44 2010: 155-170. Internet.
Brumble, David. “The Gangbanger Autobiography of Monster Kody (Aka Sanyika Shakur) and Warrior Literature” American Literary History 12 2000:158-186. Internet.
Horowitz, Mark. “In Search of Monster.” The Atlantic. N.p. December, 1993. Web. 4 Nov, 2010.
Shakur, Sanyika. Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1993. Print.

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