Take Heed as the Legendary Brother J of X Clan Drops Funkin’ Lessons (Interview)

X Clan came into hip hop at a point when racial tensions in New York were flaring up. The group dawned African garb, crowns, ankhs and walking sticks. Their presence was strong and vital to the community. I remember marching with them in the streets of Brooklyn as a teen in protest of racial discord. X Clan weren’t just powerful activists, they created hip hop music to awaken the masses. I was a troubled teen and their music helped me change my life. It inspired me to learn about my culture, our ancestors, people who fought and died for our rights. I’m sure X Clan had a similar impact on many others just like me who needed guidance. The eloquent, vibrant, poetic delivery of bars from Brother J together with the incomparable production from Paradise the Architect and Sugar Shaft (RIP) mixed with nuances of African drums fused with hip hop made for some inspiring music way ahead of its time. We can’t forget Professor X (RIP) with his clever remarks in the songs like, “This is protected by the red, the black, and the green with a key …sissy!” The fans loved it! That was his signature.

I had the extreme honor of building with Brother J of X Clan. I am so humbled and I can honestly say I’ve learned so much yet again. It’s not often you get to speak with one of your influences. Brother J is an amazing individual still giving back to the community in various ways. Please join Weekly Rap Gods in paying homage to a legendary hip hop group that motivated, uplifted, and inspired through their music.

Enjoy the exclusive interview with Brother J of X Clan, as he offers such great insight on the industry.

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INTERVIEW

Phoenyx: You seem to have unique taste. Who are some of your musical influences?

Brother J: Parliament Funkadelic is definitely one of my influences. Parliament as a band and a collective were futuristic and still the sound of their time. They transmitted their own lingo and code and created their own pocket in the industry. James Brown is a heavy influence as well as the Godfather of soul. Master Brown had his own band of unique musicians, stage discipline, and respect from the underground to Pop mainstream. His message to black people was clear and rhythmic (amazing vocal as well).

Sun Ra is also a heavy influence for his high intelligence and powerful wisdom. Edwin Birdsong and the Lumpen also make this list.  I enjoy music and creativity, these are just a few honorable mentions.

Phoenyx: How did you become a member of X Clan? Tell us about the members and the message you wanted to convey.

Brother J: X Clan was a group concept created by Brother J and Anthony Hardin (Sugar Shaft). It originally was supposed to be a neighborhood collective of talent from Flatbush and Crown Heights (Brooklyn). When Shaft and I joined the Blackwatch Movement created by Lumumba Carson (Professor X) I saw we didn’t need to create another youth movement. Some of the elders and children of Sonny Carsons black nationalist efforts were behind Lumumba’s idea to blend Black Nationalism and Hip Hop. Creating our own lane. I was 17-18 years old at the time. Architect Paradise introduced me to Lumumba as a candidate for lyricism for the Blackwatch Movement. We did club security for Hip hop functions, which allowed me to study the game from behind the curtain. I was heavy into Sacred geometry, martial arts, and learning revolutionary history — modern and ancient.  The movement gave me elders to reflect to, so I could learn from a true and living perspective. The message was liberation and black improvement as it was with Marcus Garvey. We were just extensions of the liberation movement in music.

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Paradise, Brother J, Professor X, Sugar Shaft

Phoenyx: X Clan made a powerful statement in hip hop music and fashion. People expressed a great sense of pride from listening to your music. Did you ever think the people may not receive your message?

Brother J: I never gave any thought to how our style or garb was received. I’m everyday African in America. I have no problem exposing the universal fashion of my culture. So I would rock Timberlands and a dashiki or an expensive suit with beads instead of ties. A crown with the symbol of life on the front, headwraps, etc. Our music had to match our walk of life. I produced a collage of samples and rhythmic poetry to separate us from common rap. Composed thoughts formed into bars reflecting the time and history of our people — the good and the bad. If anything my lyrics should reflect is that we are not 3/5 of man. Our intelligence as Africans worldwide is a worthy conversation.

Phoenyx: I remember marching in the streets of Brooklyn against injustice. Tell us about the Blackwatch Movement’s mission. What made you all feel a social obligation to the Black community?

Brother J: Blackwatch mission was to connect the new generation to the builders’ mentality of our elders, to connect them to other people in the world that go through the same injustice we experience. Community violence, police brutality, commercial programming, the list goes on. Point being all people have struggles. But as members of the black community, we speak from where and what we know. People were dying and being bamboozled, that was fact enough for me to represent the early stages of the Blackwatch. For example, the rally for Yusef Hawkins was not for show of numbers, it was a sincere response of angry neighborhoods who lost one of OURS. Like a Treyvon Martin, but in the 90’s. The village is family, no matter how diverse we are, the movement is the best way to gather that understanding. The respect of our “disappointment in the system” gets less and less everyday or every time we lose a life. The movement was not built to rally every death that occurs, it was built to explore crisis prevention options and survival tactics for man, woman, and child.

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Phoenyx: What was your favorite project to work on and why?

Brother J: I don’t have a favorite project. I am a producer who can write and spit, those projects were reflections of my journey through time. I am inspired by elements of those projects though, I can hear where I have mastered certain things as a veteran artist. I am a soldier of content and discipline, I’m glad that any of my writing has touched my people. Honored to be a part of the freedom fighter fuel here in America.

Phoenyx: Lately, there have been many racial killings and profiling going viral as a result of social media. How can we use social media as a positive way to fight injustice? Do you feel some incidents are just a hashtag and a trend?

Brother J: You can’t build social freedom from social media. The revolution will not be televised or digitized. You can filter like-minds to a page, but to actually activate a cause requires human interaction and time spent. A comrade or fellow soldier is like family, not a pen pal. Awareness of certain matters that affect our community is good, but activism and being present are main ingredients for mobilizing true change. Humans of positive like-mind need to interact more.

Phoenyx: What do you think shifted hip hop from the positive raps that empowered black people?

Brother J: Money through commercialism and a change in the generation shifted positive music. In a commercial world the most successful money-maker gets the following. Positive rap does not focus on money, and it is not a big money maker unless it is compromised to fit into the POP mainstream. Most positive artist are stronger on the underground Mainstream, where the rates and the spotlights are less. It can be lucrative, but it is a process of time, dedication and patience. POP music expedites everything with budget funding and heavy rotation, which is expensive. I don’t think the average grassroots artist can afford a “Drake style” album promotion package. If hip hop collectives started reinvesting in the best of their circles, they could present a people’s champ, which is a better investment than trying to put the whole posse on board. If you’re a hometown hero, you already have a starting audience, easier for distribution to see the kind of boost you need for stardom. Positive artists instead try to be the alternative to goofy rap. I always felt they reach for the wrong lane. Why go to a pop label if you don’t want to play by the rules of the game. Seek small independent brands with good distribution and just make good music. Your words can’t save the world, it can inspire. But that’s about it. Do good with the money you make, and stop trying to get music labels to “save the whales”.

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Phoenyx: Who are some of your favorite artists out right now?

Brother J: I groom artists new and veteran so I have honorable mentions that folks may not know. To be fair, I’ll work with some popular names. I like the genre flexibility of the Childish Gambino and he can spit too. He reminds me of the energy and production experimentation of OutKast. The film writing and roleplay opportunities are impressive. I also like The Roots. Black Thought has always been above grade. The band in addition, just nails the coffin on goofy rappers. Slaughterhouse for keeping the flow alive and the pen relevant. Masterful Nas and Damian Marley sound like the future of positive rap. The combination made street and roots one. Jay Z is still impressive and the most consistent. He dominates whatever they thought a Brooklyn rapper could ever become…and his flow is still relevant. Lauryn Hill is to me the Jordan of female lyricists. Kendrick Lamar is impressive, not only expanding Dre’s production to the new generation, but he got fools back into making songs and getting lyrics involved. Big Sean is dope too..good writer, excellent techniques like Myka 9 of Freestyle Fellowship. I like game changers. I like how Jadakiss and D Block kept mixtape artists in check in my city.. step your game up. I like Pusha T’s flow from The Clipse days, and how he has evolved into fuel for Kanye’s label machine. I like Seal, Lenny Kravitz, Badu, Jill Scott, Capelton, Soundgarden, I hear a lot of the new generation cloning and not studying divine artists and composing.

Phoenyx: What do you think about the evolution of hip hop?

Brother J: I think the evolution is still deciding itself. It’s Creativity vs Commercialism. The artists are now learning how to get paid in a world where music content is free without a brand protecting you or sponsoring your get down. I like the hybrid techniques of today’s new generation.. mixing the spit and the singing creatively. It get a little “glee” like listening to the radio. But I don’t listen to them pop stations unless I’m in the car. It doesn’t bother me, but it does influence the young heads. I’m hard on lyric content being clean because I want the new generations to hear and learn all flows without being cursed or taught some ish they don’t need to absorb. Selling keys of dope and popping pills is not young entertainment. That’s adult option. Common sense.

Phoenyx: Any closing remarks?

Brother J: Blessed love sister, those viewing the interview can look forward to upcoming X Clan documentary and album coming from Hip Hop TV and 3T Entertainment. I have some powerful wisdom and productions to share with those who have supported X Clan all these years.

Albums we have done:

Each project has video representation on YouTube and internet video hubs. My links are @brojxclan for all social media — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Much gratitude and blessings to you as well Brother Jay! Weekly Rap Gods would like to thank X Clan for their unparalleled contributions to the community by empowering, uplifting, and raising the consciousness of the people through hard work on the pavement and through your hip hop platform.

MUSIC

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