Filed under: Interviews,Print Work,Steady Bootleggin'
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Here’s one from the vaults – an interview with Brother J from the end of 2006 that was published in Modern Fix. I lost the original transcript where we discuss his production but until I get a chance to re-type it this will have to do. His comments on the BDP situation are especially interesting. I’ve also included the X-Clan Vs BDP tracks that preceded them recording together.
X-Clan hit the rap world hard when they unleashed their sound in 1990. They were one of the first groups to heavily dig into the vaults of Parliament-Funkadelic, which in itself set them apart from the fast James Brown-based sound of many New York groups of the time. Beyond that, they brought a hard-line pro-Black message that was so powerful that they had the most pasty-faced teenagers throwing on leather Africa medallions. Years later, front-man Brother J continues to bring his distinctive vocal technique and uncompromising message to the table, regardless of whether or not anyone’s willing to lend him an ear.
Robbie: It’s good to hear you guys back in action. What’s the new line-up?
Brother J: I extended the group from the first generation. We had four members in the beginning. Two of our brothers’ passed – brother Sugar Shaft and brother Professor X. Professor just passed in March and Shaft passed in ’95, and from the hiatus between the last album and this one, I’ve been putting together the team that will be able to help me tackle the new millennium.
Are they any of the same guys from the Dark Sun Riders project?
Two of the brothers from the Dark Sun Riders project – Ultraman Ra Hanna and Master China – are still involved with me and the X-Clan now. The Dark Sun Riders are going to be an extended family of lyricists and producers that I’m gonna introduce in the later part of 2007.
Wasn’t Professor X once the manager of the Latin Quarter?
That was Architect – Paradise. He used to bring me and Shaft to the back door to see what was really going on in hip-hop. That helped me mature in the kind of style that I developed into. It was when hip-hop was so young and everybody was into it for the love. There was no money involved, because nobody knew what their worth was, including the promoters that were doing it. All they knew was that it was a good crowd every night they threw an event. Everybody that I saw on that stage from Mele Mel to Ultramagnetic, the first shows of Public Enemy, KRS-One… there’s so many people that performed there at the Quarters. And MC Serch, too. [chuckles]
He would have been the only white kid in the place back in those days.
Well, the only one that was really up there grabbing the mic and getting loose, man. He was doing the dances and keeping the crowd live – there really was nothing that he wasn’t doing.
Speaking of KRS and Serch , there was a stage when X-Clan had a difference of opinion with both of those guys in the early 90’s.
Yeah. It was something to where we just tried to kill the floodgates of MC’s that were just following a white rapper getting on the mic. We wanted them to see a skilled artist who paid his dues get involved. Black artists don’t have a support system like white artists do, and especially back at that time. You remember how Markey Mark and the Funky Bunch was? That was some of the corniest music in the world but they was doing astronomical things. What we were just trying to say was either respect Serch for his dues and what he’s done, and stop just getting behind it because it’s a white artist.
It’s interesting that the new album has a song with KRS-One, considering that things got pretty serious between you and BDP – obviously that all got cleared up.
The original situation with me and Kris wasn’t a beef, it was more of a misunderstanding on the audience’s part. The audience really put us in a position where we were beefing and trying to make problems. All I was trying to state was that black people were not ready at the time for “humanism” views – we don’t have our house clean. We’re being seen as buffoons, we’re being stereo-typed as “man tans”. Basically “Amos and Andy” type artists. A lotta people from the black community wanted to get our weight-up first before we started to extend ourselves and say “Everybody, let’s move forward!” Because there’s too many things that are swept under the rug with this racism thing and lots of things that we experienced from our older artists who inspired us, from the times of Marvin Gaye and Isaac Hayes. For artists to jump out there like it’s all good, like “OK everybody, let’s get in all in together now!” without addressing those issues – some of my elders were concerned. So it wasn’t saying that we don’t see things universally and we don’t wanna get along, I have friends along every race and ethnicity in the world, it’s not a question of friendship, it’s a matter of movement. So my thing was to him [KRS] “You must learn”, take some time back and sit back and let’s build, sit down with some different elders and see it from different perspective before it goes out there like that. And the crowd instantly took it and said “Ohh, you beefing with KRS, the greatest MC of all time!”, and the only reason they did that with me was because they were scarred to say it themselves. The audience was so busy talking behind Kris’ back, instead of sitting down with him as a man and sayin’ “Yo man, I don’t feel that we’re ready to step up to certain levels. Let’s sit down and build with the community, let’s sit down and get this message out to the youth”.
It seems like the last couple of years have seen a lot of acts that carry-on like minstrels or buffoons or whatever you want to call it.
Yeah. The music game is crazy now, it’s like Christmas jingles. Cats are just making commercials, like you sing for a bar of soap, or you sing for a pair of sneakers, that’s how the songs are starting to sound. And it’s making our seeds think simple. They’re not reaching for higher intelligence, they’re not reaching for higher learning because the music is no longer inspiring them. We want to make a change, we want to make a effort to make change. We’re not gonna come out here and say “X-Clan is the savior”, but we’re gonna try our best to try to say “Yo, there’s a better way to write”, and you can still sound as good as Game and 50 and all of these other cats that are hitting the waves with good music. They’ve got good production. I think they’re lyrics are kinda simple but I think the production is dope.
With the label situation these days, compared to the days when the majors held all the keys, do you feel that there’s more avenues for independently released music now?
If you’re independent, have experience and know how to take good product to the top then it doesn’t matter what label your on. If I came to Suburban Noize with a lame album, they’re limited on what they can do. I’m not dealing with an independent that just was born two weeks ago. It’s a machine that has an infrastructure and a strong following. Kottonmouth Kings helped build a strong foundation at that label. Now with X-Clan coming in, it just brings in another side of all this. They think that Suburban Noize is just a label that serves white kids, white skaters and so on. I go to their shows and it’s so much variety of people and cultures in their spot. When I go out and do shows with them, I don’t feel no difference in the love, man. The one thing Kottonmouth does represent as a common denominator for both of us is freedom – we’re freedom fighters. We’re all in the United States right now, suffering because of oppression through politics and government. It’s not a race thing, everybody’s suffering! I don’t care how rich or poor you are, there’s serious problems in this country that we have to address and start to realize that the generation that the baton has to be passed on to, they’re fucked-up in the head! It’s looking like the kids that I’m seeing nowadays are rebels with no cause. Our world is going to be in shambles. If someone turned off the internet tomorrow, all these kids would be lost. They wouldn’t know how to research. They wouldn’t know how to communicate with people. They wouldn’t even know how to go to a library and pick up a book.
X-Clan - “Grand Verbalizer, What Time Is It?”
X-Clan - “Fire & Earth (100% Natural)”
BDP - “Build & Destroy”
X-Clan feat. KRS-One - “Speak The Truth”
Bonus: X-Clan - “A.D.A.M”
Dark Sun Riders - “Jewels Of Evol”
“Heed The Word Of The Brother” video:
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