Hip Hop Fridays: At The Crossroads: A Conversation With Brother J of X Clan Following The Transition of Professor X. by Andy J. Solages
*Late last night (March 23rd), Andy J. Solages of Black Electorate.com and Brother J of X-Clan spoke following the wake which was held for Lumumba "Professor X The Overseer" Carson. What follows is a partial transcript of that conversation.
Andy:First of all, how are you feeling Brother J?
Brother J:I am better now, especially after seeing all of the people who came out to celebrate my brother’s life. Of course, I do miss the ability to call him when I need to get some extra mental on things. I will miss that.
A:Thank you for taking the time to speak with Black Electorate during what has to be a trying time. You’re just coming from the wake for your brother, Lumumba "Professor X" Carson, who just passed.
J: Yes, about 15, 20 minutes ago. It was over on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, one of the hometowns that the Clan defended with our messages, but the Blackwatch was physically here. We continued what Lumumba’s father started out here. His father wasn’t just an activist for Brooklyn, but for people worldwide to stand up and obtain freedom, justice and equality. We definitely felt all that this evening….(sigh) I hate to see my brother laying still in that casket, homey. I’m not even going to front on you, man. This is a day I never thought would happen. You think your brothers live forever. But then things like this remind you that nothing is promised and that we need to get busy in this game right now, you know, as far as obtaining our freedom before more soldiers are lost.
A:How did you hear about Professor X’s illness and passing?
J:My elder’s son, Phoenix Orion, had called me stating that he (PX) was sick. Master China, Professor X’s cousin, one of the current Clan members, had sat with him two days prior and said “hey, man there is nothing is wrong with him, he just went in and out of the hospital, he’s alright.” So when my elder’s son, said that PX was in the hospital, I said “naw he’s not in the hospital. He’s home. Let me try to reach him and make a few calls.” So as I am making calls, and waiting for people to call me back and say “oh he’s alright, he’s over here, here’s the number” YZ called me and said “J, did you hear what happened?” I said, “yeah, YZ, X is in the hospital, I called him.” See we’ve had instances when Professor X was in the hospital because he had bad asthma. Sometimes he would go in and come out, after some treatments, and get back to living. So I didn’t know anything about the spinal meningitis or anything like that. I was planning to get PX out to California. We were filming the “Weapon-X” video. I was thinking of flying him and the Architect to be in the video; these were my plans. I wasn’t thinking about sickness. I was thinking about let’s go ahead and spark this up….surprise the industry. Let them see us in the same video and be surprised that we’re even doing anything together. Everybody thought we were at odds, and that wasn’t the case. So that’s how I heard about it, YZ told me that PX had passed from spinal meningitis about an hour before he had called me. That was on the 17th of March.
A: Man, I was surprised, I had just met him for the first time about two weeks before he passed.
J: He was getting ready to do some big things on his own. See, people have to understand about the X-Clan…they were introduced to us one way, as a rap group, but with the evolution of the team, now they are going to see a table of teachers. And we’ve been conversing about a lot of different things, Andy, so you know a little bit more than what the masses will understand. They are thinking like PX being active with us is just him being on stage saying “sissy” and moving around, but our current effort is to get Blackwatch back up as an information tool. Not even as a physical movement. Now that the internet allows you to touch millions of people worldwide, and we’re providing information to people, that strengthens our armies tenfold. This will be beyond what we could do on tour buses, recruiting people. It’s a new day and stage. So I was working with him in that vein, to say, “look man, we need to see this whole Blackwatch vehicle as a different thing now” And that’s me as a member of it. Just to say if Blackwatch is going to be reformed for this millennium let’s do x, y, z. I’m throwing my suggestions on the table, though nothing I say to him is etched in stone, because that’s his baby. People got too comfortable with the “sissy” side of him while downplaying the movement side to him, the Sonny Carson side of him. I was against that. That’s why this new X-Clan project is not styled like a rap group reunion, because that’s not what time it is.
A:On more than one occasion, you have mentioned how X-Clan seems to be left out when certain parties in the mainstream talk about “Hip Hop History.” So you know there’s some Hip Hop timeline out there that probably goes Sugar Hill Gang, Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Public Enemy (1 for the "conscious heads" and African Medallions), Dre and Snoop with the Chronic, Tupac, Biggie, Nas, Jay, Eminem, 50, Lil’ Jon, and then our Texan brothers...and that's it. So we’ll leave these other folk to play catch up, and build on our own. You don’t want PXO’s legacy and efforts to be overlooked, so tell me what you know of Professor X’s entry into and initial roles within Hip-Hop.
J:Well when I first met PX he was a promoter and a manager of several different groups. He saw potential in Hip Hop way before any of us did. So standing with his Father, from the School of Common Sense side, he could see when you put two or three hundred people in a building that was an achievement given what they talk about. Not a lot of (younger) people had the tolerance to sit up and listen to the message. But many of the elders of communities, like Bed Stuy, Flatbush, and Crown Heights still wanted to come and hear what should be done as a community. So Lumumba, being within Hip-Hop, and seeing how much it was growing to become the phenomenon that it is now, thought “let’s combine the two….let’s start getting some equal rights.” Now Hip-Hop had a lot of fights because you’re bringing hoods together, but his Father had always brought peace with the gangs of the community. PX was learning the peace side of the movement, of how to bring all of these different elements together in one place. So he had to keep trying to figure that out…Blackwatch came forth from that. His contribution to Hip Hop was to say the more powerful we as a people are, the more powerful was your position when you spoke. Some of them got it, some of them did not. So when Architect introduced Shaft and I to X, and we came in as a rap group, we were going by “Rated-X” at the time, it was like “this is what I am looking for, this is the perfect kind of movement for which we can be a messenger group,” and Professor X came on board as part of our team. And Sugar Shaft nicknamed Lumumba, “Professor X.”
A: So that’s the origin of the name?
J: Yes, PX was the mental dude. You know, we were into the comic books and all kinds of stuff. We were young Hip-Hoppers; our imaginations ruled our world. So, it’s like wow, our crew, we’re like odd mutants, know what I am saying? And Lumumba is this mental dude bringing all of these people together; let’s call him Professor X. And his title here was the Seer. The person who would see the path ahead of us and say “let’s go left, let’s go right.” That’s a spokesman’s position, that’s not like he was our ruler.
A:During our previous public conversation we discussed the Blackwatch Movement as one that brought a certain “flavor” to Black Nationalism so that it could draw in the young. What was Professor X’s style as a leader and founder within Blackwatch?
J: You mean as far as his speaking style?
A: Speaking style, but more so his way of organizing within the group.
J: It was very aggressive, brother. Aggressive in a place, where we could be on stage….like when, I think it was the Rodney King incident, we were in California, someone came on stage and let us know something had happened and that the police hadn’t been punished. You know, brother had gotten whupped and the White People hadn’t been put to the penalty. We took the entire show, I think we were at Berkeley College, out into the street. So he brought that Brooklyn mentality, that let’s go get it started, let’s get into the streets and shut everything down. No going down to city hall for permits, just take the street and say we want justice now. That was his style. We’re not going to ask the oppressor for permission. That was his style.
A:Now if I remember this correctly, your brother Architect introduced you and Shaft to Professor X. Were you and Shaft introduced to Professor X as a rap group, you and Shaft were going by “Rated-X” at the time, or as prospective members of Blackwatch?
J:I had been hanging with Blackwatch for awhile. Architect would bring us to Latin Quarters. Blackwatch was young…you had Five Percenters, Muslim Cats, and Street Soldiers without any religious affiliation. We came around a lot of different cats that showed me that universal activity is more than people getting together religiously. Blackwatch was a house for people that practiced Black Nationalism on a level that inspired me, inspired my writing. When it got out of hand, and people started coming into Blackwatch for music deals, because the other side was Hip-Hop, it got real “groupie.” And we came from being a movement to being like a music gang. The genuine nature of our movement was compromised. I challenge people to try and run a movement and do this Hip-Hop thing at the same time. It’s a very difficult thing. My heart went out to PX for trying to balance both worlds. Because, you can’t be a manager and maintain the integrity of your organization, and also balance our funds at the same times….he was doing way much. And a lot of the people that came out to support us didn’t really come out to support…they came out with their hands out. That’s what made our movement crumble. And PX was sick with that for so many years. Our crew started dwindling down, we started going into towns with less numbers.
A:I know you consider Professor X as one of your Elders and Mentors, but what was your relationship like? How has he influenced you?
J: Professor X was my dog, my good friend. Before you can embrace someone as an elder, you have to embrace some level of friendship. Otherwise you’re coming to kiss some ass, like “master teach me”, and you don’t know this person, it could be a mass murderer or killer or whatever. You have to know the person. I had to learn Lumumba. I had to respect him. My Father went to sit down and get to know Lumumba. He wasn’t going to let his son roll up in this Blackwatch Movement without him knowing these dudes. My Father was a serious man of order.
A: On Davey D’s Breakdown FM show, within the Professor X tribute mix, I don’t know if you heard it, Architect shared how as friends the X-Clan bonded as movie fans. He even said that Professor X came up with his “this is protected by the red black and green” signature phrase in response to the FBI warning that intruded into the beginning of every VHS tape
J: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
A: Y’all are funny, man. So what were you guys watching back in those days? What were some of the favorites? You’re the X-Clan so PXO must have had you watching strictly documentaries….Civil Rights, Kemet, and Nat Turner for seven hours at a time…..
J: (laugh) Naw, PX was an avid movie watching cat. If you go over his house, just to say what’s up, my man had ten movies in a stack sitting in front of him. He was like Blockbuster, the original. He had every movie in the game. If anybody knew PX, he loved watching movies. He always wanted to put his vision of a film on a screen. And that’s what we did in our videos. That’s the pink caddy. There were so many different things that he pulled out of his imagination. That’s why we got along as friends and crew. His name came from us, and our imagination, but his imagination was equal to ours. An army of soldiers with a different look….look how different our look was, man. He created that crown and all of that stuff. He had a deep vision, and Architect helped bring that to life too. Those two brothers they helped Shaft and I. We were the talent and the music and all…but come on, man, PX was heavy.
A:You know I just watched the "Funkin Lesson" video on the X-Clan Myspace page. I haven’t seen that joint in years (since Ralph McDaniels’s Video Music Box). So I’m watching “Out of the Darkness in Panther Skins…driving Pink Caddys.”
J Yeah he pulled from all over, from books, from movies….all kinds of stuff.
A: See this is how I like Black Nationalism…grits and cornbread, gotta have the watermelon, the caddy, and the rings along with the Malcolm X, Cheikh Anta Diop, Amos Wilson, and Kwame Agyei Akoto, and whatever books. That’s something that always seemed to be in place with Professor X and the X-Clan….is this how Professor X got down off the stage when you and he interacted with one another?
J: Yeah man, we gave the people how we lived. We weren’t costume dudes. And people who came and had the privilege of hanging around with us at that time saw that. It was so real it wasn’t nothing fake. We lived this out.
A:Take us back to an X-Clan show. Since, I never got a chance to see the original Clan perform, so describe the scene for me. I’ve heard that you brothers used to hold class in between the songs. You, Shaft, Paradise, and Professor X are on stage….what’s everyone doing?
J: You’ve never been to the old shows? Ah man….the old shows, man, we had fire breathers, African dancers, we had flag bearers. PX would come through the middle of the crowd with all of the people that would be on stage, except for Sugar Shaft and myself. So he had Architect, Master China, no Master China would be on stage, he would have two flag bearers, and security would split the crowd in half. And the music is playing, everybody is clapping their hands, “the Clan is in the building,” lights are flashing, and then he hits the stage, “this is freedom or death.” And the music would hit whenever he said that, “freedom or death.” And the crowd would be going crazy, and then "Verbal Milk" would drop. That’s when I would come out of the back. We’d stop the intro and go into "Funkin Lesson," which was one of our biggest hits. And that house would shut down, brother. And then we’d hit them with, “Heed The Word” and go into "Grand Verbalizer," go into the full version of "Verbal Milk," "A Day Of Outrage"…so many different things. Shaft would cut some stuff up, I would spit, man the show was outrageous. And we had so many good times with it throughout the years. It was a blast….I just hated to see….I mean looking at my brother, I can’t say it is the end of an era, because we have been past that older era of Clan for awhile. PX has been behind me as my mentor…I can’t say in the shadows. But as a council member, when I pick up that phone and say “I’m thinking about doing A, B, and C; what do you think?” It wasn’t about him being on stage saying “sissy.” That era had passed. I was thinking let me show you why I respect my brother (PX), let me show you the evolution of Blackwatch, let me show you the books that we are writing. We were planning a book called “Seer” which is a book that was going to show the life of Sonny Carson through his son’s eyes. It’s not like The Education of Sonny Carson the remix. I want to know what you grew up with, and what influenced you to take your Father’s tactics into Hip-Hop and create the Blackwatch Movement. That’s better than you getting on all these records and that’s all the people know. Or memorizing a line from you. I think you’re much bigger than that. That emcee stuff that’s my gift. I don’t know Lumumba as a rapper. When I came into the game, he was my manager. I know him as an influence. PX influenced my lyrics and my being and I wish we had had the opportunity to show that off.
A:Since Sonny Carson is at Lumumba Carson’s foundation, we keep on returning to him in this conversation. And that’s another sad element that struck me is how soon Professor X's passing came after the transition of his Father, Sonny Carson. Could you tell us a little bit about Sonny Carson and his influence in your life?
J:Sonny was the grand master in our house, as far as levels are concerned. He influenced me to write “FTP.” I remember the day that we were doing it. There was a rally or demonstration downtown and the cops had done some wild maneuvers that really just left us at “us against them.” And Sonny just said, “you know, you should write a song one day called FTP.” I said, “FTP? What’s that?” And he said, “f**k the police.” Sonny was raw. Lumumba got his rawness from him. But at the same time, Sonny was a peacemaking dude. If there was a big problem, he had a great power of knowing how to create peace amongst chaos. And that’s something that Lumumba learned through age. When Lumumba first started, he was very aggressive and he had numbers. He had many cats that were willing to put their life on the line going up in these Hip-Hop houses. But as he got older, he understood the power of peace, the power of one voice setting the tone, and that’s something he got from his Father. Sonny was very influential to all the youth that are all around. And people respected him so highly because he played chess in life correctly, Bro. He played chess to a place of placing people in certain positions to where they had access to people with power and not playing it to where we’re not getting the most out of them as a people and a nation. If he was to meet you, brother, and saw all the power you brothers have at Black Electorate, he would be able to say “look brother, we have to put something together so that people who don’t currently have access to computers can have access to your situation and what you brothers can offer.” In a nutshell with Sonny, I see where he was the inspiration for Lumumba. And Lumumba shared his Father with us. He didn’t have to do that. We could have came in and he could have said, “look I’m going to deliver the message from the man, to y’all.” But he showed us how to respect our elders, in ways. Unsung heroes. Sonny Carson is not as known as Malcolm X or Martin Luther, but he meant as much to us.
A: Now you came from the wake a short while ago…so what were your feelings what did you see at the wake?
J: I saw a lot of the Hip-Hop community. I saw Chuck Chillout, Afrika Bambatta, I saw Chuck D, people behind the scenes, Kookie Gonzalez….Freedom…he did “Close The Crackhouse” with us….
A: Oh Freedom Williams from C&C Music Factory.
J: We’ve always been close to Free. Him and Lumumba were real close. He bonded with us over "Close the Crackhouse" video. Just all of the movement soldiers that were there. So many different organizations….just to look in their faces and see them older. Just wow, the movement has grown up.
A: Mm. So you’re looking at presenting a new form of what Lumumba brought forth with Blackwatch?
J: That is correct. Like what he did with his Father, and the December 12th Movement, he brought a new form, this new evolution of Blackwatch will be an information source. Not just us coming to your town and getting you and everybody you know to physically say “I’m Blackwatch.” It’s all like how you do, brother. You open up doors for people to have information from all walks of life. There have to be other sources that do that. And when the new X-Clan drops, it will draw a lot more youth to our magnet, because our society is fed by hype. So when they do come to me, I’ll tell them go to this site. Oh you don’t know Davey D, go check out his site. Let me teach people about who we are. Some people would be quicker to go to the porno site quicker than the information site. So we have to make it attractive. We have to show them, like Andy’s my man over at Black Electorate, go check them out. I’m friends with thaFormula.com, go check them out. Go to Temple of Hip Hop.com and look x,y,z up. And activism…talking about going to a town and making something happen. Say you have a girl in California that’s shot 40 times and you only have 30 people going out with candles, suppose there are emails from people going out around the world, bringing people and resources to support those 30 people.
A: I want to try and take it back to discussing Lumumba “Professor X” and his vision….
J: I met Professor X’s daughter today. He has two daughters, I just met this one. Looks just like Lumumba. We’re putting together an X-Clan foundation to make sure they are taken care of. Lumumba contributed a lot with X-Clan, and opened a lot of doors for us. In Hip-Hop we don’t really have 401K situations and medical insurance, so as I clear the way for justice for X-Clan and our business and open new doors I will definitely contribute funds toward their family. I want all of our children to rise up and be more intelligent then their parents.
A:I’m trying to see if we can really capture, and get to who Professor X is within Hip-Hop and as a force within your life. We talked about how people have perceived you to have been at odds for so long….
J:I don’t know why they made that, brother. Everytime they asked me about Professor, man it’s like they didn’t want me to grow. “When are you and PX coming out?” It’s like Batman and Robin, homie. There comes a time when Robin is too big for those tights and wants his own batcave….to say we can have three or four batcaves to fight this….
A: So you’re Nightwing….
J: Right, it’s a Nightwing thing. I can’t sit here and tell you what he meant to the game, to Hip-Hop, because I might put him on a pedestal where they might not feel he is. Hip-Hop needs to speak, and say things like, “yo, when I heard PXO I was about to go shoot up the block and something he said stopped me from doing that, I listen to y’all music for real.” That’s why I was loving the fact that the Church was packed today, that when I said “Freedom or Death” that whole place responded “Freedom or Death.” This is what PX meant to me. What it was like to bring Black Nationalism to a bunch of young heads.
A:Now one thing we should clear up….some people have been wondering whether X-Clan's new CD,Return From Mecca, will still be released as planned. Will the CD still be released in June of 2006?
J:Yes, it should be June 2006. The last songs were being completed as I left for here. Like I said earlier, all I was waiting for was Professor to come in and do some parts on the project…to show his piece. We were at that phase of the album. So it is unfortunate, that I didn’t get him to do his part on the album. I wanted him to come and say “peace.” I wanted them to hear where the Clan is going from his mouth, because they always take it like we cut them out of the picture. How can I cut them out of their own history? But I have to show the growth, not just a bunch of cats coming together for a rap album. All these cats that are coming out right now, they own businesses, we have to show how our team evolved. You know, Paradise has his own businesses, he is a leader in the Millions More Movement in Philly.
A:Is there a statement you would like to make, or anything that you want our people to know about how you feel about Lumumba “Professor X” Carson?
J: Yes, just that I loved him. I loved my brother. I was so sad to see him in that coffin, Bro. Two months ago, I just saw him, my brother so full of energy. I just want people to know that I loved him as a leader, as a mentor, but more importantly I loved him as my brother.
A: Thank you for your time, Brother J.
J: Thank you, Brother. I feel comfortable building with you. We'll continue to build.
Andy J. Solages is Contributing Editor of Black Electorate.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to read "Vibes Of The Pro-Black."
Andy J. Solages
Friday, March 24, 2006