One on One with Brother J: The Legacy of X Clan, The Blackwatch Movement and The Continued Vision
By Bro. Tony Muhammad
Without question, one of the hardest hitting Africentric rap groups of the late 80s/early 90s was X Clan, and for good reason. It was backed by an actual community serving group known as The Blackwatch movement. In its lyrical content, mainly expounded by the skillful Brother J, X Clan would break down history, philosophy and science purely on Black terms for the benefit of Black people in the areas of education and pride. After two successful albums, the group disbanded. Brother J has recently picked up the efforts to resurrect the meaning and message of X Clan and The Blackwatch movement. However, as in the case of any thought provoking voice or cause, it does not come without its controversy. Recently XXL Magazine came out with an article about how X Clan was formed, which significantly confused or downplayed the type of role The Blackwatch movement played within X Clan. Also, Eminem recently was quoted in a Rolling Stone interview about when he would hear Brother J’s lyrics, he would feel isolated. He went on to allude that the emphasis of Black (or any other) cultural pride in Hip-Hop is racist (Ironically, one year after it was uncovered by The Source Magazine that Eminem, in his youth, had produced a racist rap song, referring to Black women as B**ches and Black men as “moon crickets”). We caught up with Brother J to get his opinion about these recent negative developments, the reformation of X Clan and its near future projects.
UAN: I understand that XXL came out with an article last year about X Clan. I also understand that the writer didn't get all of the facts right. How was X Clan truly formed and how is it being re-birthed today? Does it include any of the original members?
BJ: The X Clan is a group that has evolved from the lessons of it's environments throughout the years. Sugar Shaft and I started the group after going through several titles as Hip-Hop groups do. From high school talent shows to Blackwatch movement to the world we paid our dues and let out talent reflect our knowledge. The Architect Paradise originally was a promoter and talent scout for the Latin Quarter, which was the Mecca of Hip-Hop talent in the 80's in New York City. He would let us in the back door so that we could study Hip-Hop in its early stages and enjoy some of the best parties in the city. Lumumba Carson (Professor X) was a manager/promoter also at the time of the Latin Quarter. Sugar Shaft lived close by the Paradise, He one day told the Paradise that he and I had a group and that we wanted to do a demo. Paradise brought us up to Ultramagnetic's crib up in the Bronx and we cut a demo at their home studio. Paradise brought the demo to Lumumba who had a company named Scratch Me Productions out of Brooklyn. Lumumba Carson is the son of the late Sonny Carson, a powerful Black nationalist and activist for civil rights. Lumumba had a vision to combine Hip-Hop and Black nationalism and he called it the Blackwatch movement.
I joined the Blackwatch movement when I was still in High School. It let me learn a positive and powerful side of the streets; community empowerment. The Blackwatch movement allowed me to further develop the positive lyrical energy that was growing in me. After writing and delivering the first single Raise the Flag/Heed the Words of the Brother, Lumumba and Paradise got us a deal at Island Records (4th & Broadway). The rest is history.
The XXL article spoke of the X Clan as if it was the Blackwatch movement. Lumumba did not create X Clan. He helped us to develop as did the Architect. After the group started buzzing in the street Shaft and I decided to bring in our mentors and management to our group. Shaft named Lumumba Professor X because he was the spokesman for the Blackwatch movement, not the leader of the X Clan. There is no leader of X Clan. We are messengers of light. The Blackwatch movement was a powerful tool for the young generations. I hope that the Professor gives rebirth to that as I have done with the X Clan. The media tends to focus where the hype is and that was the X Clan. But I feel that the efforts of the Blackwatch movement should be a true conversation from the Professor to the misguided generations and the conscious communities.
The new X Clan is structured with new members. Some of these members were elite Blackwatch veterans. Some are new members that assisted me in structuring the Dark Sun house. The new group is called X Clan-Mil Cipher (Millennium Cipher). As the title suggests, we are here to address the new generation of Hip-Hop as the original X Clan focused on "Generation X". Though none of the original X Clan members are not physically part of the Mil Cipher, I walk with their spirit and hopefully their continued blessings.
UAN: X Clan being so connected to the Black Watch Movement I know that you were involved in some very positive community efforts back in the day. I know that you really don't normally publicize the good that X-Clan and the Black Watch Movement did aside from educating your audiences through music, but can you share with us some of your experiences with that? I know you have had some involvement recently with the Temple of Hiphop. How have your social efforts continued up to the present?
BJ: As a movement dealing with the community we have done everything from concerts to demonstrations (not riots) for the purpose of rallying people to stand up for themselves. Justice is what we are in this struggle for, so we connected to many community centers and grassroots organizations that shared this ideal. We addressed many topics in our shows in front of the thousands of people that may or may not know about what was going down in their own back yard; injustice like police brutality, racial violence, gangs vs. community issues, etc. You would be surprised at the similarity of hate crimes from state to state, especially the information not televised. I don't want to call out individual efforts of our movement. I lose count because it's natural to do the right thing, which is to set balance.
As for the Temple of Hiphop, Dark Sun Recordings will propose a "Foundation Tour" in the near future. The tour will consist of X Clan-Mil Cipher, KRS-One, Wise Intelligent, and hopefully groups like the Jungle Brothers or YZ. The purpose of the shows will be to benefit different movements that are offering the Hip-Hop generation education and guidance.
We were planning to do some shows with KRS and the Temple in February for Black history month, but previous schedule commitments have postponed our collaborations.
Currently, on Dark Sun and X Clan's behalf, we are structuring the Alpha and Omega Learning Center (details of the growth we be featured on our website). The Alpha and Omega project was eventually a gang prevention program in California passed on to me in 2001. It has evolved into a crisis prevention program and a learning center.
UAN: You have recently received some national attention with some commentary made by Eminem about being intimidated by your lyrics. This was printed in Rolling Stone Magazine not too long ago. What's your take on this? Do you believe it is a race-based or guilt-based reaction on his part considering the strong pro Blackness expressed in your lyrics?
BJ: I am glad you asked this question. My position as a messenger is first, Hip-Hop is my tool to reach the masses. I think Eminem is feeling my intense passion for my people spitting those lyrics. I have fans and supporters of every color worldwide and they understand my focus on the upliftment of black people. As a Black man I would be a fool not to represent my culture. As an artist I left no room to be mocked or imitated. There are some chambers in Blackness that are still sacred to us. So you can be a fake playa, thug, or a half ass mc, but when it comes to that red, black and green you're gonna have to come with dedication. Dedication is not wearing a black medallion while the trend is hot. Dedication on this level means devotion to the people who have and still exist in the struggle. The struggle has no color. There are a lot of white people who have sacrificed for freedom, justice and equality. I don't pick up the vibration through Eminem's music that the struggle was his intention. If so, then you would have stuck with Hip-Hop as a messenger until your environment took you serious enough to sport that medallion. I never said f**k white people in general. My message was against "the system" that puppets us all, and has enslaved so many.
What I don't like is that the articles in both magazines (Rolling Stone and XXL) promote a rally for white people who felt left out, like they couldn't be down with Hip-Hop. Don't twist my words up to fuel your movement. Tell these young artists to get their skills up and step into the game! That goes for any persuasion. Hip-Hop has become clickish because of these types of misinterpretations. Respect good music and quality will return to the game. My lyrics promote higher learning and knowledge of self. Don't get spooked by the voodoo of my wisdom. How can you be intimidated by something you want to understand?
UAN: Why do you consider it now the right time for a group such as X Clan to reemerge?
BJ: The Creator brings all things around 360. The lack of Wisdom in this information overloaded society puts this new X Clan in the same position as the original. Revolution through evolution. We must learn as people of culture how to step to the next levels of professionalism without selling ourselves. X Clan offers solutions and steps to higher learning. We hope the people embrace our return.
UAN: Your lyrics have always focused on the self-improvement of the Black community, yet you have historically found a strong following on the part of young white suburbanites. How could you explain how this has come to be so? Despite this, what do you feel keeps you focused on still aiming to gain the attention, hearts and minds of Blacks and other "minority" communities?
BJ: People of any color one day come to the realization that there is something more to this planet we exist on. One of the reasons we have such a problem with kids in schools today, is that they are bored and seeking more. Traditional school learning prepares you for a future in the workplace and doesn't promote spiritual growth. This leads to the question of why white suburbanites reach out for us. X Clan speaks on indigenous sciences, ancestors, foundation and strategic activism. I feel any person of intelligence would at least want to explore those topics if they are being fed through a one dimensional learning system. We offer a third eye cleanser so people can see eldership and other sources of guidance right under their noses. The goal of a conscious environment is what keeps me consistent in this craft. People can love or hate you. I have no time for judgment. My mission is clear and gets clearer everyday.
UAN: What projects are you currently working on?
BJ: X Clan-Millennium Cipher is just finishing a new album for 2005.It should be released by spring or early summer. The album is titled The Trinity (The music, the mission, the cipher). We currently have a single out entitled The One on Up Above Records. The album will be released through a different independent label. Stay close to our website for details.
UAN: What words of inspiration do you have for your supporters and lovers of righteousness?
BJ: I would encourage all people to stay close to the Creator and respect each other, everything will fall into place. Peace is the truest goal in life. Thank you for the opportunity to build. One love
UAN: Thank you. Peace.
For more information and updates on Brother J and X Clan Millennium Cipher visit www.darksunrecordings.com.