In 2011, No Malice released a first-person narrative of his relationship with Jesus Christ titled Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked, where he turned to his faith for guidance in trying times as Gene Thornton and as Malice, one-half of the critically acclaimed Virginia rap duo Clipse.
From Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked and his solo debut Here Ye Him to now, Thornton (who goes by No Malice) has kept a safe distance from the music industry, telling Billboard that he doesn’t really keep in touch with the current state of hip-hop anymore. “I am definitely out the loop,” he says.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t staying busy: No Malice has his Reinvision podcast with Iceman, an enlightening listen on Bible topics of the day like “Tradition” and “Foreshadowing,” as well as a new documentary The End of Malice which is playing in select theaters across the country before its premiere on Revolt TV on March 27.
The End of Malice is not a direct film adaption of Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked. In fact, No Malice will be sharing another chapter of his story as he goes deeper into crucial life moments and his discovery of God with additional commentary from Pharrell and his brother Pusha T. Directed by Jonah Ingram and produced by Ditore Mayo, the documentary was done over the course of two years. In addition, there will be an accompanied soundtrack Movin’ Weight—a listening experience featuring instrumentals, interludes and new songs from No Malice. It’s all a warm-up to No Malice’s next album Let the Dead Bury the Dead due this summer.
Over the phone from Evansville, IN on the first day of The End of Malice tour, No Malice spoke about finding religion, Pusha T’s success and if the Clipse is officially over.
Billboard: How much of Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked is being adapted into the film?
No Malice: There are so many different perspectives to my story. The End of Malice is what I chose to share with my folks over here at I Am Second. It is very detailed, it goes in-depth. But it’s just a different side; it’s really not from the book. If you’ve read the book, you’re not getting what’s in the book.
What are you going to open up about?
What I’m sharing with the viewers—no pun intended—but my life has definitely been an open book. I’m just continuing to share one of the many, many perspectives. I am working on a one-act play, where I am going to be just engaged in the audience, telling them everything that I have went through and have experienced and shared from my point of view and how I see it. To really give even more clarity—that’s just something I am excited about. I can’t wait to do that. It’s going to be so crazy. I’m talking about things within the industry, family life, the supernatural things that I have encountered, the things that I have seen just from walking on this side. They’re in for a real treat.
In the trailer of The End of Malice, you say that “for a moment it seemed fun, but in 2009, knock, knock, knock. It was the devil, and he was coming for his stuff back.” In 2009, what happened that made you want to leave the rap industry and fame behind?
It wasn’t so much about leaving the fame behind or leaving the industry. What happened was I was no longer able to talk about those kinds of things that I would talk about in the way that I would talk about them. Anybody who followed the Clipse and know about our catalog in the music—you know that’s what they want. They want what they know the Clipse for. But this Clipse story is very much non-fiction. When you listen to Clipse music, you are getting true-to-life stuff. When I seen my manager, entourage, friends, family and the friends that we lost to death. Family going to jail and getting hit with decades, my heart could not just [be into it]. When I am sitting in that federal building, and you see the kids and the friends and the family members and you hear the judge say 300 months and you try to figure out, ‘What is 300 months? How long is that?’ You know, it was just wild.
So I didn’t want to perpetuate it and make people feel like it is OK. We love those things, we celebrated those things, and we championed some things. But now I am seeing the ramifications and so it’s only right I told the entire story. It’s not that I just decided to leave. You won’t get the same thing from Malice no more.
Your second verse on “Life Change” from Till the Casket Drops tells how you got back on track by finding religion. What’s been your life like now that you feel stronger mentally and spiritually?
I’ll only speak for me. I never go around trying to correct and fix people and tell ‘em what they should and shouldn’t be doing. I’m just saying for me everything was meaningless. Everything was just meaningless! I was like, ‘Yo, how much jewelry can you have? How many women can you have? How many cars can you drive? How many clothes can you wear?’ It just got crazy for me. And everything under the sun just seemed meaningless. I have true purpose and what I am willing to stand for. I have an unwavering foundation, immovable foundation. It’s not that my life is easier now or I found some kind of utopia. I just have purpose.
What is your purpose?
My purpose I believe and I get confronted with it every time I walk out the house, when I go to the mall, it’s always someone coming up to me saying, ‘I appreciate what you did.’ It’s always someone saying I have experienced some of the same things and I’m glad you spoke up about it. It was kind of like an icebreaker. We too busy being cool that we don’t tell the vulnerable side. Sometimes, you just gotta take off your cool and you will find that there are a lot of people going through a lot of stuff. When we hear about it in the industry, a lot of times it is too late. Somebody done killed themselves, somebody done overdosed, and somebody in jail. Somebody done something crazy and went off the deep end because you have to live up to this stuff.
I’m very conscious. I’m not bad mouthing anything or talking down on anything. I’m just doing what’s right for my life, and back to your question about the purpose—if it’s freeing to somebody and letting people know it is all right, and we are all human. Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down. Sometimes you got money, sometimes you are broke. It’s never constant perfection. But we try to live like that sometimes, and I just took off my cool that’s all.
In the book, whatever life hardships or health scares you faced, you always put your family first. Has that message gotten stronger since you’ve been open about your faith over the years?
As a man, you should put your family first. They’re a priority. Everybody likes to have fun and get out here. Everybody wants to do that. But anyone who doesn’t take care of their family, that’s lame. I never ride with that. If you got kids out here and you are not taking care of them, that’s lame.
What do you think about your brother Pusha T becoming G.O.O.D. Music president? As the older brother, do you still give him advice from time to time?
Every chance I get. We talk. We have deep, deep conversations, and he’s out here and he’s doing his job. I’m not surprised at all. I was on the road with my brother. We lived together. We grew up together. His greatness, that doesn’t shock me. I’m not in awe. I expect that from him. I don’t lose my mind when the world sees something advances. I don’t expect anything less from him. That’s how I view my brother. I view him as someone who is successful.
On The End of Malice, Pusha T and Pharrell are going to be providing some commentary in the film. How did they react when you approached them with the project?
It was like, ‘When and where? Let’s rock.’ What’s so dope about it is they get to tell you first hand from their perspective. My whole transition is very well-documented and you can even hear it in the music. Even before I was certain where I was going, you could see where I was leaning and where I was headed. It’s organic, it’s authentic, and it’s real. It’s not a ploy. Like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna do this now.’ This is me doing checks and balances over the years. To hear [Pharrell and Pusha T’s] perspective and their points of view, when they see the things that they witnessed—it’s things that even surprised me things that I didn’t even know. When they bring it up, it stands true.
You also have a soundtrack to accompany the documentary called Movin’ Weight.
Yeah, the guys at I Am Second put together this really dope soundtrack. I participated on it. I think I got like two cuts on it. It’s like a listening, movie experience. It tells a classic, preverbal street story. You got commentary from some hood dudes. They are going through something and you hear interludes. It just takes you on a wild ride. It’s crazy.
Are you back to rapping again?
Listen, I’m also working on my album. I plan on releasing that in the summertime. Let the Dead Bury the Dead. Y’all get ready for that.
You had Here Ye Him in 2013. It’s about three years since you released a project. What’s the message do you want to put out now?
To me, it’s no different than the music I was putting out. It still sounds very real, street hip-hop. It’s just minus the ignorance. I hate when someone tries to label me as Christian hip-hop or positive music. I think that’s crazy because the music is very hard. When you say what’s right, then you call it positive. Nah, that’s what you supposed to [have] been doing the whole time. You’ve just been doing dumb stuff for so long, when you do something right you start to label it, ‘It’s positive or whatever.’ I got a track on this soundtrack called “Best Believe It,” and it’s like one of the hardest tracks—period—coming out.
What motivated you to start rapping again?
I do it at my convenience. At my leisure if I feel like it, I will. If I don’t, I don’t. I don’t even know if I am qualified to being the quote unquote rapper. I know God has given me a gift, and when I have something to say, I’ll speak. And if I got nothing to say, I’ll shut up. You know what I am saying? And that’s just how it goes.
You and your brother have embarked on solo careers—I have to ask: Is Clipse done for good? Are they never going to come back?
I don’t mind you asking that at all. I’ma tell you that I learned to never say never, and I don’t shut the door on anything. I really don’t. In fact, I would like to see Clipse do it. But I just do things differently. When the people want Clipse, they want Clipse. They want what they know about the Clipse. I’m not trying to tamper with that brand or try to change it into something different. But what I actually know in my heart are parts. I’ve said it before, my brother and I would definitely make clown soup out of all these MCs. Now that much I know.