X-Clan Interview: Return From Mecca

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by Alex Shtaerman

One of the most critically acclaimed groups of conscious Hip-Hop’s golden era, X-Clan’s 1990 debut LP, To The East, Backwards, stands unequivocally on par with Hip-Hop’s greatest classics; yet following the 1992 release of their well-received sophomore set, Xodus, the group disbanded and hasn’t been heard from since. As we head into the fall of 2006, all of that is about to change as the Clan prepares to re-emerge from an extended hiatus with the release of Return From Mecca, the group’s first album in nearly fourteen years! Reinvigorated by the renewed leadership of the Grand Verbalizer Brother J and armed with a blazing hot new single in “Weapon X”, X-Clan is back and ready to drop some serious knowledge for the new millennium cipher. Don’t sleep.

Read the Return From Mecca album review.
Click here to listen to “Weapon X”, X-Clan’s brand new single.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Since dropping two highly influential and critically acclaimed albums in the early 90’s, X-Clan has been dormant for nearly 14 years. What happened during that hiatus that kept you from releasing music as a group?

BROTHER J: Basically I took a hiatus because of the state of Hip-Hop. When the golden era ended – that [freedom] of choice of the people that were buying our music – I as an artist didn’t choose to run the rat race. We didn’t always have to have the golden coffin in front of us, but if everybody’s minds are totally being shut off and they want to sing Christmas jingles instead of getting with the knowledge – if you’re [aware] of the music that’s happening today, I call it “jingles” because everything is based around a hook and a beat like if it’s a commercial.

When the era of [that type of music] came in, people found out they can make a lot of money doing that. I basically said, that’s not the kind of music that we project, so I chose to dive out of the game as X-Clan in like ’93. I put out a project in ’95 called Dark Sun Riders just to put a little taste out there for all the artists that were wondering where we went. My stay at Island Records at that time had to be short lived because the era of R&B was becoming stronger and because I was refusing to do R&B songs. I had to move on and learn to get into the independent market.

I moved out to California [several] years later and I basically stayed underground and studied the market to see what’s going on for real and [see] why the underground market was bigger in the west than the east; and I found some answers. Eight years later, after reassembling the X-Clan and adding on some new members, some of the mentors and peers that I was working with during the hiatus, I am now prepared to re-present the group.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What are some of the issues that you’re going to be addressing on your new album Return From Mecca? We’ve seen the world go through many changes since we last heard from X-Clan. What, in your view, are some of today’s most relevant topics?

BROTHER J: Well, the one thing that we’re going to begin to address is the issue of wisdom that’s lacking in our youth right now. The youth basically are depending on wisdom from the computer rather than their elders. Eventually our generation will be [gone] so I don’t want to be the kind of elder that was avoided for a computer fix. I want someone to come and say, hey man, you traveled around the world and done a lot of things and inspired a lot of people, can you tell me about this, or what about that? I want to give [our youth] the insight that a cold machine is not going to give them.

The [X-Clan] Millennium Cipher is going to address millennium issues and the type of things that have kept us backwards. Another thing, for instance, is the treatment of our women. It’s gotten to the point now where if the mother is disrespected, then the daughter is disrespected. And as the daughters are being disrespected right now they’re giving birth to the next seed, so we’re just continuing a channeling and a recycling of life that totally disrespects each other. This creates a hatred foundation. [It’s] an f-ed up attitude when children get into [a state of mind] where they think they can control [their own life] at thirteen or fourteen years old. When those hormones start tripping up they feel like they can run the world. They feel like they can go out like – hell, I can make my own money; old men will pay me $1000 a day just to flip on a pole and rub their balls or some shit. This is the kind of mentality that the young girls are dealing with.

The type of mentality the young brothers are dealing with is – I’ma be a player, I’ma pimp these hoes and make ‘em do what I want them to do. We have a disrespect between man and woman that has become so deep that corporations have chosen to invest in our civil war amongst each other. And it’s not just young men thirteen or fourteen years old; these are grown men acting like children, these are grown women acting like children. So when someone can invest in hatred, it’s ridiculous.

RIOTSOUND.COM: As far as the actual sound of X-Clan; what would you say is the biggest difference today as opposed to the early ‘90’s? How are you going to approach things in 2006 in order to break through the materialism and commercial clutter that we see all around us?

BROTHER J: One thing is that I had to assemble a team of experts that know how to take samples and keep the tradition of Hip-Hop alive without putting a price tag on us. The older artists have had such a problem with the sampling that Hip-Hop does. Hip-Hop is like a chameleon, we adapt to wherever we are. And instead of being respected for that, they put laws around us. So I can’t make ya’ll another 1990 album where I’m sampling Billy Squier and all kinds of things like that. I have to make an album now that has quality producers that have musical experience, so they can create the new “More Bounce To The Ounce” and so they can create the new Billy Squier break [beat].

You’ll see a lot of veteran producers on this album that have basically opened the doors for X-Clan to be matched with the Dr. Dre’s of the game or whatever the top production in the game is. Some of these cats have worked in those top camps before. And it’s not like they’re taking his chemistry because Dr. Dre is somebody I respect, there’s no way that I can imitate or fill his shoes at any time but I’m going to try my damnest to get there because he controls the market that I want to touch. Every time he drops something it’s like E. F. Hutton, everybody’s listening and everybody wanna be a part of it. I want that kind of [recognition] for conscious music. [Editor’s note: E. F. Hutton & Co. was an American stock brokerage firm founded in 1904. The firm became one of the nation’s leading and most respected financial institutions; best known for its commercials which included the catch pharse, “when E. F. Hutton talks, people listen”. During the 1980’s the E. F. Hutton corporate conglomorate disintegrated due to a variety of corporate money laundering scandals.]

RIOTSOUND.COM: Since the group’s inception, X-Clan has been at the forefront of the Blackwatch Movement. Can you explain to the younger fans what the movement is all about and what kind of purpose it has and also how you are expressing that purpose through your music?

BROTHER J: When I joined Blackwatch I didn’t join it in the aspect of being an artist. I joined because I was interested in learning how to be a street soldier. I was interested in learning what [Malcolm X] was learning in the Nation of Islam. I was interested in learning what Marcus Garvey was trying to impress upon the Improvement Association. I was interested to know what all of the grass roots soldiers, Black Panthers, Blackstone Rangers or whatever the case may be, I wanted to know what they knew. And if I had [Professor X], the son of activist [Sonny Carson], who was very powerful in Brooklyn, working with me, then you goddamn right I was enthused to be there.

I was a security individual for about two years minimum to be in the Blackwatch Movement. And even when I did my music I continued to grow along the protocol of the house. The Blackwatch Movement was originally put together for Hip-Hop artists that felt like they had to get off the ego for a little bit and get back into learning knowledge of self and understanding what it’s like in the higher realms of manhood and the higher realms of womanhood; there are a lot of sisters in our circle as well. So Blackwatch combined Black nationalist aspects and Hip-Hop knowledge into [one] house.

When I say Black nationalists, this was a Brooklyn organization that was created because Black youth and Black adults are not getting respect as human beings. This is something we have passed on as the wrong kind of baton. So ignoring it like – ok, let’s get together and have everybody come down and shake hands and be as one – it wasn’t going to happen like that because when you have humanist organizations, people have the option to leave there and go talk about you when they get to their dinner table. They don’t have to share the same turmoil and depression that you go through. No race wants to deal with the next race’s drama.

So we’re responsible for our own and there’s nothing wrong with us saying that as a people – hey, I’m tired of my people always made to look drugged out and wild eyed; everybody Black gotta always look desperate or rowdy and loud and extra. Why don’t they look at some of the ancestors that we have like [some] of the fist scientists of this planet or like Imhotep, one of the builders of great things. Why don’t we look at some of that history and get the books to start writing our history correctly. Stop putting “lone pony” notices on some of our leaders that break the political bracket or other leaders who have been involved and unsung all these years.

I learned a lot about David Walker last year; no one gives him love. I put him on the record “Weapon X” so people can look him up and be as amazed as I am. [Editor’s note: David Walker was a revolutionary African American anti-slavery leader born in 1797. Although not born into slavery, during his youth Walker witnessed a multitude of unspeakable atrocities including an episode of a son who was forced to whip his mother until she died. After moving to Boston and later becoming involved with the nation’s first African American newspaper, he became a leading spokesman against slavery. In September of 1829 he published “David Walker’s Appeal”, a document that aroused slaves to revolt against their masters. Described for a moment in history as “the most notorious document in America”, David Walker’s Appeal led to horrified slave owners initiating laws that forbade slaves from learning how to read. David Walker died shortly after publishing a third version of his appeal in 1830. While some contend that he died as a result of tuberculosis, others maintain that he may have been poisoned.]

I continue to learn everyday brother. I don’t come out here as no guru of math and knowledge and all that. I’ve studied a lot of true and living science which can really be good but it can be bad if we don’t stop and take a pause and meditate and go to the library or go sit with an elder and say, tell me about this person, or tell me about when the knowledge of this person first hit the streets, how did people react to them? Tell me about the reaction to James Brown and what he said about “Mind Power” and it wasn’t about the commercial pop stuff that they were doing. [James Brown] is an incredible performer that has empowered our communities for years. Why can’t we give these people respect in a different eye?

RIOTSOUND.COM: Your classic 1990 debut LP is titled To The East, Backwards; what’s the significance of that title, what were you referring to?

BROTHER J: My father and I used to build on sciences a lot and he used to always tell me to look to the East. My father was part of the Masonic tradition, so [he was not] able to divulge as much information without me researching for myself. I had go find out what that meant. As I found out, the East is a center and a foundation place of knowledge, it is the motherland. When we look to the East, that’s what we’re dealing with. So my [idea] for the album was To The East, Backwards; meaning not [walking backwards] but that we are turning backwards, we’re becoming primitive and we have to move forward.

RIOTSOUND.COM: If there’s one thing you want Hip-Hop fans around the world to understand about X-Clan, what would it be?

BROTHER J: I want them to know that racism is a distraction and the true empowerment of us all is to really realize where we all come together at. What’s the common denominator? If the Hip-Hop culture is going to be the common denominator for us then we have to stop judging each other where a [record] executive will tell me – Black people don’t buy records, Black people don’t come to concerts; Black people don’t care about any of this promotion and marketing that you’re doing but there’s a White audience that will appreciate you. And I’m saying – when it used to come to Hip-Hop we never used to have colors dictating what we did. We’ve always had White fans; we’ve always had Mexican fans, Filipino fans. Our fans come from around the world, we’ve never had a problem.

The industry and the media has made it a problem where they try to divide us. The racism started from the industry, the racism didn’t start with us. The fact that X-Clan was just out there in appearance as far as we embrace indigenous [symbolism] to a point where we wearing the gold, we wearing the jewelry, we wearing the hieroglyphs and all of these things and we’re knowing what we’re doing. They made us seem like we were saying – fuck you if you don’t look like us. Or like – fuck you if you’re White, we make with this African level. Shit, there’s White people living in South Africa forever that study more [African related symbolism] than any of these people on this side. You can’t take over a place unless you know what [the people there] are about.

History has provided the knowledge for conquerors of our motherland. And I’m saying to people here in America that they have to be strong enough to have the leadership of what it means to take the motherland back. You can’t just go over there like – hey, I’ma bring about 100 people over there on a ship and we gonna start getting our shit back, we’re gonna get our land back. There are so many different things you have to go through man. And [X-Clan] is about the conditioning that is required to even think about something like that. We have to provide the conditioning for people to learn knowledge of self, which is first. You can’t be a soldier unless you know what you’re capable of doing. So these things add into what we do as a group and how we do our music and how we put it forward.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You got the new album Return From Mecca dropping October 31st. What else should fans be looking out for as far as X-Clan goes?

BROTHER J: Right now you can check for the mixtape called The Underground Scrolls that is basically providing a window to what we’re offering. As people come to the tour shows and they say – well, what the fuck does Brother J sound like in this day and time? What does the crew sound like? What is the production really like? If they don’t want to wait till October, they can pick this up right now [and see]. We’re working on tours right now for the fall for what they call “Black History Month”. After the Jurassic 5 tour that we’re doing right now, we’ll be getting back home in September and we’re going to do a tour that’s going to be called “Clash Of The Clans”, which is going to be Rza and Wu-Tang with X-Clan and also Roc Raida [of The X-Ecutioners] . So that’s going to be silly right there. We’re going to have turntablism and we’re going to have veterans in the game doing it from the perspective of their clans, putting down the knowledge. I think it’s going to be exceptional. Also KRS One and I are planning a tour on the lecture circuit for February. We have a new record [together] called “Speak The Truth” that’s going to be on the X-Clan album that’s coming out.

For more news and info on X-Clan stay tuned to www.XClanMusic.com and www.MySpace.com/XClanMusic