Interview with Brother J

Interview with Brother J

You took a long break from doing albums together, what prompted the reunion and the new records?

I’ve been planning the millennium album for a while, know what I mean? I knew that a refreshment of the group had to exist. I told Professor (X) and the rest of the members that we needed to just sit back for a minute and just watch this era. There is a new era coming in where sampling is no longer invited so we have to find a new way of production. Similar to what Fugees did, they reinvented themselves. Everybody wasn’t down with that. We’ve been touring and dealing with a lot of issues on the road. Sometimes you need a break. I took a hiatus and I kept planning and stacking my library. A lot of the music you are hearing right now comes from the library compiled over the years. So Return from Mecca as a project is a tale of my hiatus, of people that I met, songs that I had in my library, quotes that sparked my mental and inspired me I included in the project. I felt that it would be good to share that with the current audience because this music kept me from getting caught up in the commercial trend. I didn’t want to listen to corny radio or corny music. There is good music out there and it’s not always the best content, but there is a lot of stuff that’s pop calling, just tax write-off music. That’s insulting to us as a Hip Hop nation.

You have works with Chali 2Na and KRS on the new album and had Sen Dog on this tour, all from old school of Hip Hop. What are your thoughts on the current state of Hip Hop?

I think that the education level of the consumer is lower than the ‘golden era’ was. The ‘golden era’ was digging in crates. That way you were studying music. You knew who Gladys Knight was, you knew who Tina Turner was. Many don’t know who Run DMC was and a bunch of others. They just don’t know any history. So that lack of wisdom is affecting people’s writing. Who they see successful is Lil’ Wayne. They are born when Usher and Omarion are successful. So they think that success looks like that. so you dress like that and have that appearance. You know “I’m a baler man, I’m doing.” So you no longer have game. Hip Hop has always done this. De La Soul has dressed in hippy wear and Kid-n-Play with flat top and Kweli with polka dot, you know? We were also doing it. People dressed like us, like X-Clan. But when you live a negative lifestyle when you’re doing something it’s not cool. Banging is not for everybody. Even a gangster will say that to you. I’m offended when kids in Disney try to do moonwalk. “Who did you learn it from?” “Well, I saw it in a video and thought it was cool.” It’s not cool. You feel me? So that’s what takes Hip Hop to the left. It’s imitating the walk and so on. You’re learning the hood but you’re not learning the rules of the hood. There are rules to the hood.

Your music carried a lot of radical ideas in the past. What are the current issues that trouble people and are reflected in your music?

Some of the things I spoke about are police brutality, imprisoned state of mind and spirit. The song Prison is not just addressing the individual behind bars but also the person who’s walking the street and living behind bars. You’re chained to a schedule. You’re chained to paying bills and not living life. That’s like prison. So at the time the song was made it was meant to take you to meditation. So when you hear Christian Scott blowing the trumpet and doing it well like the jazz artists of the old, the legends, it takes you into a zone. Songs like that are addressing how they try to drown us physically and spiritually. New Orleans was sabotage in our eyes, you know what I’m saying? They tried to drown us. And lyrics say that. I address the topics and not pointing fingers. That’s the difference with my music. If I didn’t see you plant that I can’t say “Hey, you did that”. All I can say is somebody sabotaged that. We as a people couldn’t react. I am embarrassed because I couldn’t react like I wanted to. My goal as artist is to make sure there are people thinking with their mind and when they ask what my movement is we don’t even have the same agendas. We say freedom is our agenda, justice is our agenda, then we don’t wait for the government to come with the helicopters. There’s already people rebuilding and draining water and then the government could come and assist. We shouldn’t be dependant on the government like that. If the government is so bad stop complaining. Start doing. We gonna create our own form of the government where people respect each other. So when something happens and everybody’s here… You know carpeting? You know pipe work? You know painting? Rebuild this house. They don’t have people in America that live like that. It’s like a science because we are so angry at each other culturally. I address that in our album.

Do you feel that today the history of Africa is recognized properly in the US?

No it is not. Learning about Africa for an African-American youth is inspiring. To know that you descend from great people that have built wonders of the world is inspiring. Without that energy we have a part of our spirit that’s repressed because we are not attached to our stories that could energize us. So we can not be complete with the history of Africa in America because if we do than we do than we’ll know something else more than the America where we live. Remember now, America is based on the law of the land. Why would that want to teach you about something else? So we have to research again on our own. Self-realization. I wanna know something – let me go find it. Parents are not encouraging their youth to do that. so we use quotes in our music to inspire.

What can an average person do to increase the overall awareness of the African-American roots?

For one they need to study what’s in their present. For instance if there are any African-American kids listening to Hip Hop and probably 80% do, do history on Hip Hop and realize how much has been taking from the true history. Some people think that Eminem is the Godfather of rap. And for our era we know Bambaataa to be the only Godfather of rap. Nobody even plays with that title. But when you see somebody sells 60-some million records and they treat him like Jesus when he walks out, he is the Godfather of rap. And if you don’t want to admit that… well, he is the Godfather of white rap. See now the titles start to happen when you don’t acknowledge what the crowd wants and it becomes something else. This is where the subcultures begin. So now the black artists are mad ‘cause they come to the stage and there is a bunch of white kids doing that. Where you doing the show at is not threatening. Nobody is coming to bang on somebody more than the other, you know what I’m saying? They can’t get angry at how Hip Hop is evolving. You can’t get angry at the type of culture that sits in front of your stage. You just gotta do what you’re supposed to be doing which is touching people. We lost respect for each other.

What is the bigger part of your music, social awareness or the music itself?

The music is so important brother. My message… it is what it is. If I stood on the corner and said my rhymes I wouldn’t get anywhere but if I put some music underneath it, it’s gonna go somewhere. It’s chemistry. I’m not a slave to my rhythm, like Grace Jones would say. I’m not playing to ‘I gotta write a beat, I gotta write a jingle’. I find music that compliments my word. So it’s different for me as an artist. People who are outside of my circle, as far as MCs who are learning to write at top standards, I’m sorry for them.

Do you plan on re-entering the music scene for good as a unit or is this album a one-time deal?

The plan is in the second generation so we’re hoping to have longevity with this. It takes you beyond the first two albums that Clan did. So if we are blessed with life I would love to continue recording and expand the team as well.

How much focus have you put on beats on Return from Mecca?

I put a heavy focus on tracks on this album. We have some of the best producers in the world on this album. Some are well-known and some that are unknown. When I’m going through the catalog I have a lot of music that I can sort through. I’m not just gonna do an album and that’s the beat. I’m gonna go to somebody’s house and look through their hard drive. That’s the privilege of being a veteran and choosing the people that have a catalog available to me. So I was very focused on the beats on this album.

What producers did you work with?

DJ Quick, DJ Khalil, Jake One, DJ Fat Jack, ACL, Steven Marley, P-Nice, who works with Suburban Noise and others.

What label is this album released under?

Suburban Noise. I’m partners with the label. When you’re doing an independent deal you’re a partner. There are about 20 different artists on the label. Kottonmouth Kings, Jada Pinkett… there are many artists. It’s not all Hip Hop. It’s scattered between rock, punk rock and now we bring in our style of Hip Hop – the conscious music. It’s been doing very well for the label as far as exposure. It’s showing that the label is looking to branch out and they’re not just a white rock brand of a label. They could have taken a big hit on us, but the common denominator was freedom. It was in their best interest to support the Clan. So freedom of expression is the main theme.

If there was a single message you could send to your fans, what would it be?

My message to anybody who supports X-Clan is don’t compromise yourself. The Hip Hop generation has the power. There is no need for us to compromise to anything that we don’t want to hear. If you are tired of hearing commercial music, insulting your family and insulting your life style, then stop listening to it. It’s as easy as that. Somebody is buying the material. Millions of dollars would not be put into this music unless somebody was buying it. I’m not saying cut it off, I’m just saying position it to where it could be respected. You don’t give a 5 year old a Hustler magazine. It’s an adult magazine. So I wouldn’t give a CD that is built on the same concept as a XXX magazine or probably worse to a young seed to put on his IPod or whatever. I’m not against it, I’m a man of order. I think there is an order to how you do things.

You did a show with Jurassic 5 not too long ago and also you are performing with Public Enemy in March. Are there any other shows in the New York area that we could expect from you?

Well, we are doing the CD release party with YZ and Wise Intelligence. In the West we gonna have Medusa, who is the queen of the underground in the West… Abstract Rude, Aceyalone, Sen Dog from Cypress Hill, Chali 2Na from J5… there is a list of artists we will have shows with. Planet Asia, Self Scientific… These are people that I like and enjoy their music. So they come together to celebrate the CD release/birthday party. I’m glad again when artists of high caliper, or even underground artists still rising, come and pay respect to what we are doing. Everybody is not down for freedom, justice and equality. That’s the bottom line. Some people just want to party and BS. So I’m very happy to do that and the Public Enemy tour that is coming up in March, we’ll be repping the East Coast. It’s time for the East to get a taste. So we hope it goes well.