By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
X Clan were Brooklyn black activism and bedrock funk-sourced beats as dense and intense as Public Enemy: scholarship from the shock troops, voiced by Brother J and Professor X the Overseer, who before joining X Clan had already started the new nationalist group Blackwatch (and who was the son of Sonny Carson, described by the Village Voice as the Marcus Garvey and the Malcolm X of Brooklyn). This was music glowing with message and lore: the video for signature 1992 track "Xodus" starts with two flabby archaeologists grave-robbing X Clan sarcophagi and then splatters into alternating montage of riot footage/George Bush I in flames/X Clan and associate members in cosmic Egyptian uniform/Brother J strong and dead-serious rapping: "Feel the vibes of the wrath of God! / . . . / I hear some niggas talking 'bout they'll paint the White House black / I'd blow the sucker up!" Washington Post was a little frightened of them (called them "overbearing") but Billboard counted their albums til just shy of top ten, which must have been pretty frightening to the Washington Post demographic because it meant very many people were getting X Clan messages. Such as: the first sentence on first album To the East, Blackwards, which happened to be the second-to-last sentence in Black Panther H. Rap Brown's autobiography Die Nigger Die, which happens to be, "Freedom or death!" Even Chuck D was a respectful fan: "The clearest voice and mind ever in rap," he said just days ago on his radio show. "When Brother J says something, it is heard very clearly."
So 15 years since the last real X Clan full-length—and after original members Professor X and Sugar Shaft both passed on—Brother J comes back with a masterful plan: new album Return From Mecca due out on Kottonmouth Kings' Suburban Noize reinforced with original Clan contemporaries (like DJ Quik and KRS One) and new-gen Clan admirers (DJ Fat Jack from LA's Abstract Tribe Unique, DJ Khalil, Bean One, Chali 2NA) plus lead single "Weapon X," which remixes 1992's "Xodus" for a more digital beat and drops in reworked/amplified lyrics booming with power. Elder Brother J has that WDIA voice-from-beyond sound now; he says himself that he spent those intervening years on the same kind of wandering-through-the-desert that made Malcolm X a better universal messenger—and geographically, he actually did leave hometown New York for eventual relocation to California—and that private spiritual journey gives him a new kind of paternal authority. "THINK!" say about 30 serious chorused voices as "Weapon X" thuds to conclusion, mixed low and deep enough to shake everything out of the way of the speakers.
I don't want people to give me love for my 1990s work, J told Chuck D in one of those vets-of-domestic-wars tandem interviews just aired on Air America's On the Real, which made a modest complement to the critique of contemporary hip-hop J foregrounds in his most recent round of interviews—it's not a kids-these-days old-man gripe but a cogent condemnation of commercial exploitation. We gave listeners the full and whole man, he tells D, explaining how he felt watching mass-market hip-hop curdle and drip, and chart rap only delivers a slim and usually pretty shallow part of the person. So instead give me love for what I can do now, he says: post-millennium X Clan back for new universal consciousness. "Glitz and glamour come secondary to my timeless jewels and street knowledge degrees," says J on "Weapon X," part of a precisely polysyllabic song that picks up where the old epilogue finished off. Fifteen years of wandering in the desert means this new X Clan is no sweat.
X CLAN PERFORMS WITH PUBLIC ENEMY AND THE BANNED AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES, 1530 S. DISNEYLAND DR., ANAHEIM, (714) 668-BLUE. MON., 8 P.M. $30-$33. ALL AGES.