What happens to the people when a revolutionary movement such as Hip-Hop goes to sleep? Some people with film TV shows at their extravagant mansions where they pick from a harem of 20 bachelorettes, but for a soldier like Brother J of X-Clan, one of the 90s powerhouse ensembles, that is a trick question. A movement with as much calcium as Hip-Hop never slumbers until sway of the conscious lyric rises above the soil.
Brother J and X-Clan rose to prominence in the Hip-Hop scene as peers to groups like Public Enemy and Poor Righteous Teachers. The Clan experienced breakout success with their debut to To the East and Blackwards and by the time sophomore effort Xodus dropped, the groups name was a regular fixture in Hip Hops vocabulary. The year was 1992. Spike Lees critically acclaimed film Malcolm X had just touched cinema screens, and Rodney King along with millions of Black males were screaming police brutality.
But with the success of Dr. Dres first weeded album, Hip-Hop consumers met the gateway drug to decadence, violence, and misogyny in the mainstream. Hip-Hop forever changed, and the conscious groups of the glory years were reduced to cult followings. Earlier this year, Professor X, the father figure of X-Clan, died from complications with meningitis. In his wake, conscious Hip-Hop artists united while others ignored the mans dedication. From that, Brother J has reenlisted the group with Return from Mecca, the first new album in a decade from the glorious group. Fresh off a tour with Jurassic 5, Brother J spoke on behalf of the group and his fallen comrade.
AllHipHop.com: I was listening to a lot of the lyrics and all the album titles, and theres religious references. Youve got Return from Mecca, youve got Xodus. What would you say is your official religious belief?
Brother J: The terms are not really religious. More so, I guess, people would say philosophical. Im dealing with the morals of coming back from Mecca as a refinement. When I say the Return from Mecca title, that means Ive gone to a place, refine my spirits and become a better messenger.
AllHipHop.com: How did you react to the news of Professor Xs death?
Brother J: I mean, naturally, PX [Professor X] was my brother in arms, man. You always hate to lose a soldier in what you doing. Im just glad to know that he conquered his physical pain. He went on to be an ancestor. He had to suffer with the pain that supposedly never ended with conscious music. He took that so personally, and I dont think people really realized that. The brother took it to heart where, he took as a failure of the Clan, or a failure of the movement. You remember now, he brought Black Nationalism and freedom fighting, and activism into Hip-Hop, so when the era ended where people started going into the industry, he went into a depression, man. He went into a serious wave, because he felt he had failed his mission, and no matter what we talked to him, he never would change his mind off that, thats why we had stopped being creative as a team on that level. So, thats the one thing that I think people have missed about Professor X, he took it very seriously and personally, it really buckled his health.
AllHipHop.com: Was he in the middle of any projects when he was sick?
Brother J: I wasnt working with on projects [with him] like that because I was living out in L.A. I was traveling back and forth from New York, so I wasnt able to work back and forth with him on that level. But, I know he was working with Wu-Tang. I know he was working with a couple of artists. I mean, people had love for X. Hes not an MC. To me, he would have been the Russell Simmons of conscious music. He had a very good ear for talent. He found us [X-Clan].
AllHipHop.com: How has his death inspired you?
Brother J: Well, I mean, he made me realize that this game has really tried to erase our accomplishments. There should have been a lot more support for PX. It really reminded me that people still dont have a respect for the moving people of conscious music. At his funeral, when I saw a whole s**tload of conscious people being elders, artists, and so on, I recognized that were many, but were few. Hip-Hop doesnt have any benefits where we medically take care of our own, or we bury our leaders everyday without problems. As much money as we make, a lot of the influential artists from the beginning dont have s**t. Hey brother, Ill tell you if I didnt know all the hustles, imagine where I would be because they dont want X-Clan to be up on the top ten of the golden era. People will always say were the most underestimated artists and all this other s**t, man. I thought that people should recognize what the Black Watch meant to young people in Brooklyn, and then throughout the world once we opened those doors. All X-Clan did was just broadcast what was happening in Brooklyn to a wider scale. We were a group, X-Clan was a group of superstars. People are not really recognizing.
AllHipHop.com: I see
Brother J: So many haters that were around when my brother was bitter about the success of X-Clan, people took that to heart like we had problems. I dont have no problems with another soldier, man. I dont have no problems with any other physical man. Im a child of the Creator. And when it comes to it, PX is my mentor, my friend for years. I tell people who said we had a problem, mind they goddamn business. This is soldier work here. We aint no time for no b***hy problems and gossip, and bulls**t like that. We gotta step up and address the era right now. The new millennium is suffering.
AllHipHop.com: A lot people focus on the long hiatus between this current album and the other albums in the past. What made you really want to get back at it?
Brother J: Well, my thing is I never stop, brother. Im releasing parts of a library thats like 10 years long. So, I tell people this, Return from Mecca is the title of my album and it additionally means that a brother had to leave and just find himself. I could have been rhyming all day and all night. I just could have been half assed [like] a lot motherf**king rappers out there today. So, you wont see me stabbing myself in the eye or you know, jumping off roofs and all kinds of things because the pressure of Hip-Hop and Rock & Roll and all that s**t. I had to go get my mind right and touch the people that I serve. I serve the people with my message, man and if I go where Im detaching myself from the street on any level because of the success, I have to stop all of that I do, go back into where I am and live it out as a man. I worked construction for a long time just to understand whats its like to be on the other side of being able to get up in the morning and not have to do anything. I dont have to honor no appointments or anything. I had to step up as a man. You gotta get to work at seven oclock. Brothers look at me like, Why you taking this kind of a break, man. You got all kinds of investments, means that you can f**k with and all this other s**t? and Im saying, if I dont live the path of what the poor righteous teacher is going through. Im not no rich dude, man. We give to the hood too much to be super rich on that level and Im trying to find the bridge between the grassroots level of success and higher echelon.
AllHipHop.com: Is there anybody now that youre feeling in terms of what theyre doing with Hip-Hop right now?
Brother J: I like what Jay-Z has done, [for] an underground artist who found his own support in the hood to become the executive of the game. Im impressed with that. Im impressed with his lyrical form as well. I hope one day we could bust together. Jay-Z comes from the Five Percent background, which is street knowledge, street basics. We relate on many levels. We relate as grown men in this game.
AllHipHop.com: Where did you get your gear from? I see a lot of Marcus Garvey, a lot of Caribbean influence in it?
Brother J: This shirt was made for me by Supernatural, one of the best. I wanna say congratulations to him by the way for breaking a world record: nine hours of freestyling. I dont think nobody else would be dealing with that for the next 20 years or for a million years. That s**t is real. As family, he made this shirt for me, dropped it for me today. He gave me a gift.
AllHipHop.com: How did it feel when you got your first check, when you sold out your first crowd?
Brother J: I didnt know how to feel, you know what Im saying. I didnt know how to accept appreciation for my material. Im a messenger. Theyre gonna cheer for me because theres nothing out there like that. But I have to keep focus on being a mind, being a spirit, you know what Im saying, and that means I cant get caught up in the ego of Im nice, the superfresh Brother J MC. I cant take the cheers like that. I have to take the cheers as soldier keep it moving and thats hard for a young motherf**ker to do.
AllHipHop.com: Do you have children?
Brother J: Yes. I have five children.
AllHipHop.com: What if one of your children like I wanna be a rapper?
Brother J: None of them have, yet. They all have great rhythm. My daughters are dancers. All of them are dancers, they love music, so when they come and try to bust and get down with the lyrics, or dance, I tell them, get their instrumentals and practice. I basically tell them, get their instrumentals, no curse words. At a talent show, nobody wants to come with their family to hear you singing some song about licking and ass and all kinds of s**t. Get the production. Respect production until lyrics get better. Its hard because you wanna be hip, and you wanna listen to whats out today, but if the content is not right for you, take the music. Take the music aspect, respect the production aspect of these artists. Thats what I remind my seeds to do, and I try to pass it on to other people.