Hip Hop Fridays: Vibes Of The Pro Black: A Conversation With Brother J. of X-Clan by Andy J. Solages Part II
In case you missed it, last week we published part 1 of our two part interview with Brother J. of X-Clan. Make sure you read last Friday's Part 1, so you can follow along, and then treat yourself to today's Part 2. Also, you can click on the following link to hear "Blackwards Row" and "The One" by Brother J.'s X-Clan Millennium Cipher; and of course, be sure to visit Brother J.'s Dark Sun Recordings website.
Andy J. Solages
BEC Contributing Editor
Andy: I was thinking about what you said about the program directors, as far as letting certain things go as far as the music. It brings to mind, controversies over Nelly’s "Tip Drill" and some of these other songs and videos. Isn’t there already a problem if children are watching videos or listening to songs at certain times? Like Nelly’s video for example, that thing was on late at night, 3am, I mean I’ve never seen that thing because I’m in bed. So my thinking with this is that if you have an artist,whether they present something positive or negative, they are just pointing a way for something that is already present within a person and environment…it points a way towards an avenue or channel for whatever is there. Like we discussed earlier, with your lyrics, I memorized the Nguzo Saba from "A.D.A.M." So in my case, my parents had made reading a part of our household’s culture, so I feel like my being, as it was at that time, was shaped so that upon hearing an X-Clan lyric that mentioned an unfamiliar subject I would follow up and dig deeper into it on my own. It’s like what you said earlier with how your Father’s teachings on Order prepared you for what you received in Blackwatch. But this could go the other way as well, where a young person could be vulnerable because of one reason or another and might imitate some of the foul elements in an artist’s rhyme. Do you put this more on the program director or on whatever condition is allowing the child to ingest Nelly’s video when it isn’t meant for their age group?
Bro J.: The thing I say about these lyrics is that I get on the program directors on certain levels, but there are elements of the household that are missing. As you said, your parents influenced you to read; they put that element of study and research in you from youth. Not too many parents are doing that nowadays because you have babies having babies. And the babies that are having the babies didn’t study and read; they didn’t do their thing. These videos are their source of education. You have kids that are in special education right now that could sing you the number 1 song from Fabolous before they know how to count or do their ABCs. Because popular music is that kind of tool. Now some program directors…it’s like the Light and Dark Side, some program directors know the weight of their influence. When I say program directors I mean program directors for radio and video stations. Because at one time these stations weren’t playing certain levels of rap. How that changed….I don’t know where that line was crossed at. But there was a time on MTV they wouldn’t allow you to do fire on TV. They wouldn’t allow you to show a certain level of booty on BET…
Andy: Different time.
Bro J.: It was offensive. Where those lines crossed, or who bought those lines out, remains a mystery. But it happened and everybody that went to the strip club realized, “man when I go up in here, everybody knows these songs verbatim. If I brought these motherf____s out to go to the store, to buy these records from Tower Records, I’d be a rich individual.” So when cats like Akinyele were doing “put it in your mouth” and all that other stuff, cats took it from being a secret record to putting it on broadcast, to being something to purchase. Cats were killing the market independently, like a Luke Skywalker, so it became money before any of these issues that we are talking about.
Andy: So the balance….
Bro J.: It’s back to having a powerful cipher. If everyone takes on to what Brother J is doing right now their environments will improve. To have a powerful cipher, you won’t just start kicking friends of saying “oh you’re doing nothing but smoking herb, get out of here....”
Bro J.:...but just say, if we’re going to smoke some herb let’s at least have a powerful conversation. If we’re going to do that then let’s at least eat something healthy if we got the munchies. Let’s do something for ourselves, let’s be about life I’m not promoting people smoking herb, (laughter) but people are going to do it regardless of what I say, but what I’m saying is that we have to twist it . We were a people that were thrown the hind side of a pig at one time and we had to learn how to make chitlins. We had to learn how to survive, we had to learn how to make that bacon…
Bro J.:Until we could get to a point where we could get better meat for ourselves and get better living. We have always, as indigenous people, we have always learned to create something with nothing. I think it is time for people to remember and understand that. They have to stop looking at this industry as so foul and start figuring out what is the solution to make the situation better.
If you look at this new backpacker market, it’s very rare that you see powerful successful Black artists. Some of these labels don’t want Black artists, they don’t want Black music on board. People have to start questioning that. It’s not to put out a vibe like I’m trying to pull on their chain or anything. But when you see a label that is transforming from a punk rock label to a Hip Hop label and they don’t know how to come into the community. Some of these labels will tell you, “well J. I love you to death, or well Black artist I love you to death, but I don’t know how to go to Watts and sell your record. I don’t know how to go to Compton to sell your record, I don’t know how to go to Flatbush, Brooklyn to sell your record. I only know how to go to Eugene, Portland or Utah or somewhere else backwards that we’ve never been before. And these things have to be weighed. Until the consumer really realizes they have to step up….because knowledgeable artists are suffering because they don’t have a bridge to go into the community and sell records and promote other Black artists that are destined to be great. You don’t want to see a young artist get 40 years old before they get recognition. I got artists right now that have been doing it so deep and they are going into their early 40’s. And they’ve influenced everyone from your Macy Grays, to your MC Lytes, and Latifahs and so on. Powerful artists. And I bet you as soon as they come out on my record, they are going to be displayed on this album, I bet you people are going to say, “I remember going to their concerts.” A lot of times. You’re going to see how much we have been deprived of real knowledge. See that’s knowledge to me. See they’re asking Brother J. for knowledge, I’m going to give them more. They expect me to open up a book, and let me start reading chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter of Revelations or something…I’m going to tell them knowledge from all away around the board. Knowledge from the streets is very important.
Power is what we are talking about right now. The power to change. The power to shift the bull___t. The power to say, “Yo man, let’s set it up like this, let’s live eighty years because we eat better than Mc Donalds and Burger King." To be able to say, "I grow my own. I own my own land, I’m not going to be slave to someone knocking on my door every month, saying the rent is due.” I’m going to own my own, righteously, where I don’t have to look over my shoulder. That’s power; like a free person. They don’t know that level. They always have to be sweating like, “damn if someone stops my car, I got twenty years.” Every song on the radio hollering about I’m locked up or I just got out of prison. Come on. It’s time stop asking why and start answering these questions. That’s just my vibe. And again, I don’t disown anybody because I don’t give a care about rap beefs because I’m not a rapper. We defined ourselves, with our own labels, because I don’t want to get caught up in the emcee world, that’s not my world.
Bro J.: I gave that up when I gave up doing block parties and I put that crown on my head. I said, “yo man, I’m out of that world, now. There’s some different beefs for me.” It’s like becoming a Jedi, man. I hope people can really pick that up. Like when they had me beefing with KRS-ONE. It’s not about beefing, it’s about the reality. It’s about when KRS continues to move on with all of that influence, that he has, says the wrong thing, and twists up the science and make everyone come on and hold hands, like everyone let’s do this. No homie, get Black People together first. I don’t want anybody coming over our house and our stuff is shabby.
Bro J.: If I’m going to invite a Japanese cat, in my house, or a White cat, or an Irish cat, or whatever, I want mine to be spotless. Like when they came to learn from us in Egypt, homeboy. I want it to be like that.
Andy:Now you just mentioned your disagreement, or X-Clan’s disagreement with KRS-ONE. Not everyone knows about it, I mean for me, personally, I was a kid and not aware of it as it was happening.
Bro J.: (laughter)
Andy: What was the basis of the disagreement? How was it resolved? And when did it occur?
Bro J.: They made it a big thing, brother. Bigger than it was. My elders are very hard on Black People who have influence that are really twisting the view on things. When they see KRS-ONE and he’s holding up ice cream cones on the TV, and saying “Black, White, Green everybody get together,” this and that, and you have a person who is one of the number one artists in the world, you have someone that could be doing some very serious harm to us. You could be making people overly comfortable with us.
Bro J.:My thing was, you must learn. I said it on “Grand Verbalizer.” I was saying we can keep this right here on this level, homeboy, because I really don’t want to take it any further and I don’t have time for beef. We have a movement. I’m not going to come up to your spot like “let’s fight” with two or three cats. In a real fight, I would come to your door with five hundred angry motherf____s that feel like me and we’re not leaving until justice is done. That’s my vibe as a man. So I’m not putting it out like that to the Hip Hop world. I put it out there like this, homeboy, nobody messes with you KRS, about anything you say, because you are revered as the great Hip Hopper, but you make mistakes too, man. So because he has never been addressed, everyone was like “oh s___t, this guy is coming out and he’s challenging KRS-ONE.” Everyone is so shocked and amazed, but then they talk behind his back all the time, claiming that he is always contradicting himself.
Bro J.: All the time, people go on like “oh KRS, he’s Edutainment today but tomorrow he’s smoking izm. Now he’s running the temple.” Everyone talked behind his back, but never had anything to say to his face. But I brought it to his face, like “hey brother, I’m not trying to diss you, and say eff you KRS, but it’s just to say, twist that around a little bit.” But then you want to make it like, “we got to diss X-Clan, and do this…” Ain’t no dissing X-Clan. Ain’t no dissing us; we’re children of the Ancestors. What are you really really trying to diss? Really put it on your mind and say, “how am I dissing these brothers?”
Bro J.: They have to live with that childish sh_t. I don’t have to live with it. I don’t have to care about it. But I tried to resolve it. A couple of months ago, I did a radio show, matter of fact, it was on Thanksgiving. This was the first time KRS and I were on a radio show together in forever. In fact I don’t think we ever did a radio show together. It was out here, KPFK did a live broadcast from Los Angeles.
Bro J.:The basis of the show was “Thanks-taking”, you know they want to get all extra Thanksgiving is so foul, and all that, but I’m like look man, I love to see my family on the holiday and eat and talk. I don’t know where everyone else wants to take this. Sure the pilgrims and everybody are messed up and all of that, but we know that. Where are we going to take this? How are we going to create our own? How can we create our own set of principles? Like they did around Christmas with Kwanzaa, how can we take this to the next level?
Andy: All right.
Bro J.: So in the middle of the conversation, I said to KRS-ONE "let me say something to you, homie. I know everybody that is sitting here is wondering why we are sitting here now, discussing this topic, when we were at odds." I said to him straight up, “your Temple of Hip Hop is considered to be a cult. And I’m not going to sit here and front on you like I’m cool with that.” And as a man, I had to swallow that, and get over that, because when I did X-Clan and Blackwatch they might have considered us like that too, and didn’t know a thing about us. So I’m willing to squash whatever the misunderstanding is between us, and start fresh, because if we don’t come together as leaders this whole thing is bull_____t. How can I holler about peace, when I have some kind of misunderstanding in the air with this person? So if you want to say “eff you” now, let that be heard and let’s continue to be at odds. But if we can get over this, and build something powerful then let’s do that. I told him straight up in down. I said, when I was doing my stuff, back in the day, I was a pitbull for Black Nationalism. I’m was the dog on the chain, homie, like “get him; sic him.” I was that person. I was being that soldier. Any young soldier coming into something is going to be diehard like that. Some of these cats are diehard for gangs. I can share that sentiment, brother. I can understand what that is. Black Nationalism is one of the biggest gangs in the world. Really, if you want to define what “gang” is…you are organized under one thought and you are defending a certain type of territory. That’s what Black Nationalism is. I am part of that. So worldwide, we have everybody from priests, imams, everything that you can imagine.
Andy: Okay. So….
Bro J.: Let’s go back to the point, KRS, where we realize what this problem is, how we have to squash it and come to a term of peace. I don’t agree with the philosophies of the Temple of Hip Hop, brother. Because you are making a “Hip Hopper” more important than our people that are getting disrespected. I can’t go to create another philosophy until civil rights and basic respect is achieved. So when you say we’re going to go under the banner of the Temple of Hip Hop and we’re going to be represented just as Hip Hoppers and that’s going to be my race…you’ll get people coming up saying, “F___k Black People. I’m going to raise my kids as a Hip Hopper.”
Bro J.: And you’re trying to get it where you have, Black, White, Latino and Hip Hopper; that’s backwards to me, brother. And there are Elders on fire, right now, behind that thought, so if he doesn’t start to make that clear to people there is going to be a serious problem.
Andy: Wow….I was asking about a previous disagreement from back in the early 90’s, late 80’s but you’re talking about right now with the Temple of Hip Hop….
Bro J.: Oh yeah. This problem stems from that. Let me tell you how the wisdom of the Elders is, brother. They saw that. They saw that then. I didn’t see it. All they said was, ”that young man right there needs to be checked, so to speak, because what he is talking about is against the fiber of what we are doing. This Hip Hop thing that y’all have mastered, influences a lot of Black kids. If he starts to bring in all these races, and they’re not coming in with the respect for the foundation, of who we are. Then you are just inviting them to take what we have.”
Bro J.: See in other words, when you read all this history about people coming into your temple and stealing all your s____t….the same people that we invited to come into our temple, years ago, and learn are the same that came back and stole from us. So if KRS-ONE is saying, “everybody get together” and everybody is gathering, and you’re not defining who we are? We always get suckered like that. So all I was trying to make a point, to say, “yo, man, peep what these Elders are saying. Slow down for a minute. Let’s reflect to our Elders on how we move.” So we could continue to explain. So he could say “don’t step up into our game too fast or you will get checked with this Bronx sh_t.” He’s from the Bronx, so put that Bronx smack down, homie. Because they are still learning from you. And now, when you can’t sell any records, and cats that you want to hate on, like the Nellies, who the corporations are feeding, that’s part of what you created. There is nothing wrong for me to say that to a brother. I think everybody needs to hear this, so if they ask, “why do you have a problem with KRS-ONE, Brother J?” Well, I don’t have a problem with KRS-ONE, but I have a problem with how his words are interpreted to his audience. If they had just asked me, I could have broken it down like I am breaking it down to you now. But everyone wanted to make it a beef. All we had to do was state what is really at hand, because the same people that he is influencing are the same people that will take Bambatta’s “Planet Rock” and use it for a Toyota commercial and not give Bam no money. Just like they dissed George Clinton and every other Black artist that has been an influence in our lives, brother. Now look at the consistency of me speaking on how powerful Black People get raped for their craft. He will influence that. But they are not seeing that. KRS has a lot of influence. Do you know how large that Temple of Hip Hop is?
Andy: I have no idea.
Bro J.: It’s a very large situation, brother. I think people have to consider how powerful it is, and it is important that people of media let people get a view on these people. Otherwise, people will build messed up systems behind our knowledge, behind our eyes. You think about the movie Terminator, and the guy who had the metal hand, and how deep that metal hand was in contributing to the destruction of the planet. I’m saying KRS, has that metal hand and soon that metal hand will be thousands and thousands of Terminators….when we had the power to take that metal hand and put it in a safe place. But we’re not doing that as a people. In my opinion, brother.
Bro J.: I don’t state a lot of this in my music, as straight as I’m giving it to you right now. It’s spooky to some people. I do code mine well within the lyrics. When they listen to this album (Return From Mecca) they will hear a lot of what we are talking, but it won’t be as straight forward. Listeners will have to open their third eyes a little. I won’t spoil them and keep giving them information straight up. I’ve never been one to just give it. I like to code mine a little bit. I like to play with it. If you always give it straight they figure you out and play you out. X-Clan has never been played because we weren’t ones to figure out. We laid ours down like the pyramid, and said, “yeah this pyramid is still standing and you’re a lot of your little skyscrapers are falling.” That’s because you have clone knowledge, and we’re working with the real.
Andy: A lot of what you just said reminded me of a column you wrote at the end of 2004 for Tha Formula.com. It was titled “Heed The Words of The Brother” like the song.
Bro J.: Yes.
Andy: Now, in this column you responded to a comment Eminem had made in Rolling Stone where he said that you were a confident lyricist, that he feared lyrically but at the same time said that you made him feel like an “outcast” with lines like “how can polar bears wing on vines with the gorillas?”
Bro J.: (laughter)
Andy:Now, really I don’t want to keep this on Eminem…
Bro J.: I understand.
Andy: I just want to bring it up so we can touch on some issues you addressed in your statement, some of which we touched on here. Allow me to read an excerpt of your statement that includes a few elements we should touch on:
Bro J.: Go ahead, brother.
Andy:(quoting Brother J) “Let's start with the line "how can polar bears swing on vines with the gorillas?" which interprets to become "Play your position!" I can't be a bull and want to fly; I can't be a cat and want to swim like a fish. I can't be Black and wish to live the White experience, I have to play my position and live out my destiny. Be yourself! Bottom line. You have to understand my interpretation of history. Indigenous people have always been leeched upon, even in music which this conversation is about. Vanilla Ice was a clone of MC Hammer, Marky Mark was a clone of LL Cool J, etc. etc. People forget that this music industry is a corporation. Corporations manufacture what gets the masses excited. So, I have to cock block any Red, Black and Green medallion wearing White guys who feel they can clone the talk of messengers. Red, Black and Green, the colors of the liberation flag, is a very serious issue. People have died for the effort of liberation, I represent the seriousness. None of these rappers hold any weight as a topic to me, f__k beefing with MCs; it's time to get free! ….Play your position! Rally amongst your own and then come to the table universal. At least I know then that you have knowledge of self and your culture. That doesn't mean that you can't be my friend or you can't listen to my music. But, it does mean you can't come to my hood and say "what's up nigga?!"
Bro J.: (laughter)
Andy: Later in the column you make it clear that you don’t have any problem with Eminem….just wanted to state that for anyone who would want to take this into a whole other place.
Bro J.: (laughter)
Andy: So back to going beyond Eminem, and discussing some of the issues you raised in your statement. Personally, I appreciated where you said you must “cock block any Red, Black and Green medallion wearing White guys who feel they can clone the talk of messengers”
Bro J.: (laughter)
Andy…because I am among those who have had the weird experience of encountering White kids and adults who thought they could listen to Hip Hop and then start claiming they are the next Marcus Garvey or Malcolm X…
Bro J: Yeah!
Andy: I'm usually patient with people like that, because I don’t think they know better, maybe a little condescending too, but…
Bro J.: (laughter)
Andy: (laughter)…but I think they are ridiculous. It seems to me this is Black land a White fish can't swim on. Tell me if I am off base, but in my opinion, a White person can't be one of those "messengers", which you spoke of, because the value of the symbol “Red, Black, and Green” is Black People shaping and addressing reality in the interest of Black People. The White rapper or "Hip Hop Head" with the Red, Black, and Green doesn't make any sense, because that White Person cannot be a Black Person addressing reality in the interest of Black People.
Bro J.: Exactly.
Andy: So in terms of Hip Hop, do you think that Hip Hop has inadvertently given some White People a new comfort zone for this type of play-acting ?
Bro J.: (laughter)
Andy: I’m sure there are more than a few who believe they can come up to us and say “what’s up nigger?” or whatever.
Bro J: Exactly, man. Some people feel too comfortable. I chose to take the gentleman’s route by writing an intelligent article through a medium where I knew a lot of backpacker kids would come through that Formula.com. And I knew once it was heard that I was writing something on a forum like that, it would spread like wildfire that I responded. And I didn’t respond like, “F___k you Eminem. If you want to take it to the stage, homeboy, I could just wax you.” I’m a grown man; I don’t have to take that kind of approach. My thing is, learn your position. Every time I go somewhere, and I see these White dreads, and all of these people trying to embrace a culture, trying to grasp on to something. I’m saying it’s cool to be cultured, but just be yourself, first man. If that’s somewhere deep in your blood, and you have like a Jamaican grandmother or something, but don’t have seen it somewhere and you were so attracted to it like, “ooh I wonder what my hair would look like if it was like that” and “let me smoke a lot of weed.” That’s corny, man. My point to these kids is that if someone like Eminem had come out like that back then, brother, as a flat top wearing kid, with that medallion on, standing with his homeboys, what would he be rhyming about? What would he be rhyming about? He would have been getting ate up just like Third Bass with that nonsense. Hollering about “Black cat is bad day” and Black this and that. You don’t know anything about that. You act like you went through that, homeboy. (laughter) Leave us alone in your interpretation of what you feel. Because you got this love, and you can walk around with these Black girls? Yo man, shut the f___k up and play your position as a rapper and leave Black folks alone. I’m the sentinel with that kind of stuff, brother. If no one else will open their mouth to say it, I’m down to say it. Because I don’t have to give a care about these people, brother.
Bro J.: It’s not about rap music to me, man. It’s about the message. It’s about freedom, justice and equality. If people are not going to stand up and say it….you think I ever wanted to say something about KRS-ONE? I admire KRS-ONE as a Hip Hopper. He is one of the best performers in the world. But I can’t uncritically support in full, when I am respected as a person who addresses the moment. And just let it slide. And just say, “oh that’s KRS-ONE, man, that’s fine, don’t mind it.” I have to say, “look brother, you are a fellow general in this field, you need to check some of that lingo.” I got to say something, brother. But it became a thing of my skill is better than yours; he took it wrong.
Andy: So just to go back, would I be correct in saying that in your view, it is possible for a White Person to “love Hip Hop” be “down with Hip Hop” be a “HipHoppa” and at the same time view and relate to Black and Indigenous People as if we were inferior to White People in some way?
Bro J.:Well yes. They are doing it anyway. Look at who is buying the records, right now. They support it anyway. But don’t try to tell us how to mold it and create it. My whole thing about the movement and White Folks is this, brother. I did a conference the other day for South Africa, World AIDS Day.
Bro J.: And I wish someone could have had a camera with me to see how many White folks were in there, and see Brother J working with these People. And I was saying to myself, these are the kind of White Folks I can mess with. Because if you dedicated your time, and your resources, to connecting Brother J. to several places around the world, via satellite, and talk about how we can get Black People to become more aware of the real issues around this AIDS thing. Millions of Black People dying of this disease, in Africa, and you have White People in that room concerned. They didn’t have to give a care about Africa. They can already get the diamonds and the money. Why were they concerned? I love when people come out beyond themselves so that you have to ask, “why are you here?” or “why are you doing this?” The answer, “because my heart said to be human.” I can accept hanging around White folk like that. I don’t want to hang around with someone that’s like, “Yo, what’s up homie, what’s up with the weed, man? We gonna go to the hood tonight, homie?” I don’t want to be around that. It’s corny to anyone who is of culture or who is Black. I don’t get down like that.
Bro J.: We have to start getting back into the field, brother. We’ve lost that as a people. We don’t address stuff for real. We’re so scared to say anything, man. Because we’re afraid someone is going to take our biscuit away. We don’t get sh_t anyway, man. We have to say what is on our minds. We don’t get sh_t. What are you losing? There was a forum in San Francisco, and they were talking about censorship in radio being messed up….
Bro J.: You had people coming in with tape recorders that had recordings of a radio personality singing a song about raping a 15 year old girl.
Andy: What the….okay…
Bro J: You understand me? You see how you just felt? He’s hollering on the radio, “yeah the hairless p____y” and this and that. And he is putting it in lyrics, like it is supposed to be funny and entertaining. Some Howard Stern type of show. You had so many people offended, man. They suspended this guy and then had him back on in a couple of weeks at full pay. This lady was at the forum, City Hall, crying, with the tape recorder on, because she was in the car with her daughter. And nobody was there, on an artist level, because all of these artists are saying, “I’m scared to go because I might lose radio play.” Half the artists that could have gone, brother, are underground. They don’t get no radio play. College radio is no power station. As long as you pay to play, they’ll put you on whether you are good or not. Power stations are not going to play you if you go against the grain of what they are trying to achieve, which is to push corporations and products. That’s why there are so many damn commercials on the radio. So when someone comes on board with some garbage like that, talking about raping little girls, you got to check that. Why are people so scared to open their mouths? On a common sense level. Why would you let these people continue to insult you as a people? You are regarded as dumb ass motherf___k_rs in any culture if you allow people to come on and insult you and get paid. And as grown folks we have to say something, brother. Suppose we pass this baton to the next generation, and they just say “that’s how TV is” or “That’s how radio is.” When you are watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer get f___k_d in the middle of the day, 5pm, humping on a vampire or something, like it’s 12am, you have to say something, man.
Andy:Hmmm…so do you find anything objectionable about the increased casual, public, usage of the word “nigger?”
Bro J.: Yeah….I do. It can only be said, when White folks are digging into the meaning of the word….
Bro J.: I have a problem with that. That’s why I said, “nigger” so much on “Fire and Earth.” (from X-Clan’s second album Xodus) The guy told me I was saying “nigger” so much that I had to change the lyrics. I told him, “well where I come from nigger means something different.” I’ve always had a problem with how the word could be used to their advantage and not ours. We have to get to a point where the word “nigger” is used the way it is supposed to be used, by the people who are supposed to use it. I don’t walk up on White Folks like, “hey, what’s up cracker?” or “what’s the deal, redneck?” I don’t do that. They can do that among themselves, but that is not my place.
Andy: Completely separate topic. Unrelated. I haven’t seen any of his shows, but how do you feel about your brother Professor X doing voiceovers for VH1?
Bro J.: I’m glad he’s not doing no “foofy foofy s____t.” (laughter)
Andy: It’s funny, I remember people calling Professor X a “thinking man’s Flavor Flav”, whatever that meant.
Bro J.:One thing I want viewers to know is that I don’t lash on my brothers in any form of media.
Andy Good. I appreciate that.
Bro J.: I am glad he’s out there getting work. I’m glad he’s out there doing his thing. He is a veteran in this field we are playing in. It’s like a basketball team. The Celtics go out there and play but just because Bill Russell in the crowd, they don’t invite him on the floor. He paid his dues. So him and Architect, are like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, , Bill Russell and Larry Bird as far as my circle is concerned. But I still got legs in this game. I’m out here doing the Lebron James. I didn’t bring them on to the court with me this time, but if they want to hire Bill Russell to do some commentary, or coach a team somewhere, I’m happy my brothers are getting work. At some point, I am going to have to go to them for guidance. Because I will need their wisdom. Whatever personal clashes we may have had back in the day, that’s in house business, that isn’t for the street, know what I’m saying? That’s family business. Those are my brothers.
Andy: I appreciate that, brother. Now tell me, why was there a pink caddy? What was that about?
Bro J.: Well the pink caddy was decided upon as a mascot.
Bro J.: It reflects the…it reflects the “niggerness” of us.
Andy:(laughter) The “niggerness?”
Bro J: Right. The 5 and 9, in Five Percent knowledge, the 5 means power and the 9 means born. So “Power Born” that’s what the 59 in our 59 Caddy stood for.
Bro J: The pink caddy represented all of the elegance. When you saw a player roll up back in the day, with the caps, the specials, and the right kind of suit….the pink wasn’t a sissy type of vehicle. It was for a brother bold enough to do whatever he wanted to do. A pink caddy was like the sh_t. Any kind of candy car. You look at the cats, nowadays, with the candy colors on their rides. It’s the same sort of thing. It’s flavor. Black sh_t at the highest, brother. We Black Nationalists riding the pink caddy. You ain’t gonna call us no gay motherf___k_rs, or anything.
Bro J.:This is our whip. We doing it like that. This is our mascot. This represents all of the flavor in us. We don’t come out with no black caddy, Black Nationalist, looking scary and mean. We loosened it up. We’re living our flavor. We’re living Malcolm, before the Nation of Islam. The flavor, from where he got that speaking ability. And we gonna live some of his style in the Nation and afterwards. We’re going to live out that Marcus Garvey vibe, rolling down in the parade in Harlem. Living that feather in the crown. Rocking the highest level of garbage you could name, stuff you wouldn’t wear everyday. We going to live that out. We going to be that stark reality of Blackness that y’all be dissing so much. We want to be that.
Andy: That is hilarious, man. X-Clan’s pink caddy is UGK talking about “coming down candy”…
Bro J. and Andy: (laughter)
Bro J.: That’s right, that’s us, man. That’s Black People. That’s the specialness of us. We can do it like that. We don’t always have to be stiff up the ass. Loosen it up. Kick back, ride through the hood, in your pink caddy, with the stick up high, doing it. That’s real sh_t. That’s real nigger sh_t, man. (laughter)
Andy: Okay. (laughter)
Bro J.:You can’t express that no other way, man. Even Jay-Z said, “be a nigger first.” I agree with that, man. You have to live that reality out, man. That’s where you come from, be that. But it doesn’t have to be dumbed out. People misinterpret what Blackness is really about, like we always have to be rah rah, like we’re howling at each other on Jerry Springer, and court show. Like we always have to be over ghetto. We’re better than that, man.
Andy: Well yeah, better than that, but I’ll say for myself, I don’t like the term “nigger” to describe myself. I prefer to be a Black Man and just leave it at that.
Bro J.: And I feel you, brother. I feel you. To each his own. We have the option of having an option. And we are still a people. It just means something different to me. Like when a White Person might see me selling and say that “effing nigger,” I take that and say, “well if me being successful brings out that kind of attitude in you, then yeah I’m that kind of nigger.” That’s how that song was written. When you are excelling brother, and you are winning, getting money or whatever, it’s guaranteed someone is going to look at you and say, “that effing nigger.” Guaranteed.
Andy: Yeah…but as long as I define myself, though, I can say….
Bro J.: Exactly. We have the right to define ourselves. And you are righteous with that. And it’s our option, I choose a different perspective but that doesn’t mean we can’t be brothers. And as long as we come to a peace like that, brother, we can be a better people alone.
Andy:You have often referred to yourself as Aphron Tehun Zuj. Now, as much of an X-Clan fan as I am, I have never discovered the origin. Would you care to share the origin and meaning of the name Aphron Tehun Zuj and how did you come to use that name?
Bro J.: Tehun Zuj is my spiritual name. That’s strictly how it is.
Bro J.: And Aphron is the name of my family circle, know what I’m saying?
Bro J.: It gets no deeper than that. It’s just like when you go to a place and they do your naming ceremony, or whatever, that’s my spiritual name and I chose to share it with everyone, to say there is the artist, there is Grand Verbalizer Funkin Lesson, but there is Tehun Zuj: there is the brother who gets down for the crown. Him, Grand Verb, and Jason Hunter, are all the same being. There’s no three men in the mirror. It’s all the same being. It’s like the Creator has many attributes: some say Jah, some say Jehovah, some say Aya, whatever they want to say. I am a reflection of the Creator and in my travels I have picked up several names or titles, and that’s just one of them.
Andy: I’ve told you how much my circle has enjoyed your new songs, “The One” especially. So when are we going to get the full CD? When are we going to receive Return From Mecca?
Bro J.:Well, the next song we are going to release is called “Voodoo.” It should be released about a month from now. The interesting thing is that the label I am working with right now, 720, is run by one of the veterans of Hip Hop, if y’all remember YZ.
Andy Really? “Return of the Holy One.” “Thinking of A Master Plan.”
Bro J.: He is running the label. We came together and put together a power squad, so to speak. They wanted X-Clan to be the first ones to launch on this business venture. And I’m honored as YZ is one of the soldiers from Blackwatch and a pioneer in this, and knows how to push a record, that he is pushing this new X-Clan release. You have veterans involved. I brought myself, the Riders, and a collective of people I’ve been working with from the Verbal Jihad, to redefine street knowledge. For the Creator to make it for me and my brother to get together for this level of a reunion, it means a lot to me. Because I know my record is protected by a family member; this is a soldier at arms with me. I can have full trust that the record is in good hands, brother.
Bro J:We’re getting a lot of requests from DJs for “The One” so we’ll be putting that back out there. "Blackwards Row" was to give people a feel of a "Verbal Milk" remix. I was working on a project where I remixed the old joints. Like, I have an "A.D.A.M." remix, an "Xodus" remix, a lot of different joints, and they have different titles. Like the "Xodus" remix is named “Weapon-X.” The "A.D.A.M." remix is named "ADAMAH," which means "Father." I took some of the old hooks and tweaked them differently, so when you compare both songs, it may have some of the same content but its twisted for the new millennium. My vibe was, since I am giving you a new Clan, I might as well give you that library, in a different form, instead of me just giving you the old lyrics to a new beat.
Andy: That’s funny, I was just talking with my younger brother about you doing a remix album like that, while we were listening to “Blackwards Row.”
Bro J: We have a project called “Underground Scrolls” that will feature remixes like that. Both of my projects are signed so these are going to be good years for supporters of this music.
Andy: You and the X-Clan have often been described as “political.” In 2004 we saw Hip Hop artists and prominent personalities promoting “Vote or Die” during the Presidential Election Season. Now the election might not have turned out the way some of the participants may have liked, but how did you feel about the participation of Hip Hop figures in the 2004 election and what do you think the role of Hip Hop should be, if any, in national and local electoral politics?
Bro J.: Puffy and Russell represented discipline, to say look “Vote or Die.” It’s like that. I can’t make it soft for you. I can’t make it just , come to the concert and afterwards sign the ballot. It’s like this, “Vote or Die.” It’s hardcore. And at first it shocked me, because it’s like, damn, you’re looking at P.Diddy doing this. Why is he so concerned? But then, you have to respect people’s leadership blossoming, man. So that thought took me from judging the situation, to saying “hooray” for those brothers. I’m down for them as brothers. F___k if voting is good or not; it’s just a matter of there at least being an effort that you have to respect.
People can learn from the political arena on how to set up a structure for ourselves. If they bit us from the beginning we have to learn how to bite back. If we exclude ourselves, and just say, “America is effed up. I don’t believe in the ways of America” we’re playing stupid. Because there are a lot of benefits here for us. We don’t know how to look into ourselves, and our Ancestry, and see if our Ancestors were Moors. To find out if we have benefits for land and finances. And no one is stepping up to school us. If anything to learn from the political arena, or the structure of America, what is useful should be plucked out, so that we move step by step on how to establish our own…to create our own civilization, even within this one.
Andy: Alright, brother. Thank you for your time, brother.
Bro J.: Thank you, brother. I appreciate your time. I enjoy building with you. We'll keep in touch.
Andy J. Solages
Friday, June 3, 2005