Part 5: Hip Hops Second Golden Age



1990 Fourth & Broadway Records/ Island Records

Produced by Lumumba Carson, Anthony Hardin, Jason Hunter and Claude ‘Paradise’ Gray

All tracks recorded 1990 except ‘Heed The Word Of The Brother’ & ‘Raise The Flag’ 1989


Track List-

A.

0. Funkin’ Lesson  (4:02)

1. Grand Verbalizer, What Time Is It?  (4:43)

2. Tribal Jam  (4:50)

3. A Day Of Outrage, Operation Snatchback (3:14)

4. Verbal Milk  (4:29)


B.

5. Earth Bound  (4:29)

6. Shaft’s Big Score  (5:02)

7. Raise The Flag  (3:59)

8. Heed The Word Of The Brother  (3:14)

9. Verbs Of Power  (4:15)

+1. In The Ways Of The Scales  (3:10)


Personal-

Brother J – Vocals

Paradise ‘The Architect’ – DJ

Professor X ‘The Overseer’ – Vocals

Sugar Shaft – DJ



If Digital Underground were the salacious miscreant sons of the P-Funk patriarchal lords, George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, then X Clan were their concourses, “back to the mother-land” proud cousins.

Adopting and absorbing just as many Funkadelic/ Parliament samples as the D U, the New York quartet added their own unique atavistic Egyptian theatrics, abundant with mythological and biblical references.

More attuned to the message of KMD then say The Jungle Brothers – who also created a similar celebratory African rich tabla, yet with a softer edge – the X Clan’s agenda was inspired by Black Nationalism’ and involved the sort of re-examining of history lessons that KRS-One favoured; marking off an impressive cast list of black leaders and figures, rallying to the “red, black and green” cause.

Born out of the Professor X formed Black Watch activist movement in the late 80s– made-up of members who’d missed out on joining the Black Panthers, Nation of Islam or Zulu Nation – the clan’s pedigree proved overtly religious and militantly political. X was the son of Sonny Carson, the Brooklyn gang member and black rights protestor, who shared a similar road to Damascus conversation as Malcolm X, whilst serving time. His famous ‘The Education of Sonny Carson’ autobiography was made into an influential film; name checked as an inspiration for a generation of Hip Hop artists. Following in his old mans shoes, the Professor sought to spread the Black Nationalist message through the use of Hip Hop.

He was hooked up with the promising erudite assiduous MC, Brother J, and turntablist Sugar Shaft, by a mutual friend, producer and DJ Paradise. At first X would mentor and manage the newly formed crew, but he would also contribute a brand of epistle grandstanding preaching to each track.

A roster of other acts also sprung out of the movement, alongside the mouthpiece central X Clan. Queen Mother Rage, Isis, Yz – and for a brief period, Just Ice – all adhered to the manifesto, and released their own solo albums.

Paradise produced the group’s tentative demo, over at the Ultramagnatic MCs place: a tape that received favourable reaction, leading to a record contract with Island records subsidiary, 4th and Broadway – home to fellow rap stars, the Young MC, Eric B & Rakim, N.W.A, and also the hub for the Delicious Vinyl imprint.

The resulting debut, ‘To The East Blackwards’, proved to be among the genres most confident and strongest releases; a cosmic fuelled funk odyssey littered with adroit knowledge, and Last Poet-esque peppered lyrical contents – much in favour by the dawning of the 90s.

Funkadelic’s ‘One Nation Under A Groove’ may have already been relentlessly churned, chopped and sampled by the Hip Hop fraternity, but the Clan make it pay, and sound bombastically fresh on the opening gambit, ‘Funkin’ Lessons’; a metaphysical blast that puts The Jungle Brothers in the Exodus slow lane.

There’s also room for Funkadelic’s ‘Knot Just (Knee Deep)’ and the P-Funk Allstars ‘Pumpin It Up’, to make up the Clinton/Bootsy theme.

The following jam, ‘Grand Verbalizer, What Time Is It’, has a more mixed bag of samples to loot, including Malcolm Mclaren’s ‘Buffalo Girls’, Fela Kuti’s ‘Sorrow, Tears and Blood’, disco heroine Taana Gardiner’s ‘Heartbeat’, and The Average White Bands ‘Schoolboy Crush’: phew!

Featuring the blueprint Professor X pathos spoken pronouncements; this sleigh bell jangling, chi-stroking cruise features such barbed anti-white sentiment, dressed as allegorical reposts, “How can polar bears swing on a vine with gorillas, please?!”

‘Tribal Jam’ continues the main Black power march, bouncing along on a tablas playing jungle ride, and “by way of the Nile” atmospherics, whilst the Public Enemy inspired – in both forceful rhetoric and in name – ‘A Day Of Outrage, Operation Snatchback’, uses a ACDC stomp headbangers backbeat to rock out on; led by the Billy Squier track, ‘Big Beat’.

‘Verbal Milk’ saunters in on a horn break, with a backing of exotic jazz swings, and lumbering bass rundowns, slowing the pace right down to end side A’s proto-Zulu stomping.

Side B continues with more of the same, kick-starting proceedings with a Sun-Ra inspired grandiose galactic intro; slipping straight into Clinton’s ‘Atomic Dog’, and yet again reprising ‘One Nation Under A Groove’ for the stargazers Bambaataa sounding, ‘Earth Bound’.

An obligatory DJ cut in the form of ‘Shafts Big Score’ toughens up – once again – The Jungle Brothers ‘Good Newz Comin’’ mix, and features a roll-call of afflicted members from across the global network clocking in with the party line message. Film speeches interlaced with fluttering scratches build-up a booming jeep-beat soundtrack.

A lighter touch is in evidence on the Roy Ayers xylophone led ‘Red, Black and Green’ sample heavy, ‘Raise The Flag’. If it wasn’t for the political nationalistic charged vocals, this could be mistaken for a lost Dream Warriors track.

‘Heed The Word Of The Brother’ returns to the moodier thinking-mans funk vibe, merging the early electro anthem, ‘The Smurf’ (Tyrone Brunson), and Parliament’s ‘Flashlight’, with a scratching twanging lead guitar motif.

The learned Professor announces a list of crimes, so-called perpetrated by the black race – the immortal “production of a white kryptonite” line being a real gem – which more or less reads as achievements and so sending up honky, introduces ‘Verbs Of Power’.

Haunting Hammond creeps in as a spiky wah-wah guitar picks out a beguiling melody on this eloquently delivered diatribe, full of clever poetic rhetoric.

The final epilogue, ‘In The Ways Of The Scales’, riffs on the Art of Noise’s ‘Beat Box’, and Tom Tom Club’s ‘Genius of Love’, for a spiritual awakening, rich with soliloquy musings and intellectual prose.

An album bedecked with a deep thinking, ‘To The East Blackwards’ crept into the Billboard top 100 (peaking at number 97), despite it’s pro-black stance. Apart from the funk-in-your-trunk usual fare, most of the samples and beats prove inventive, and at times original.

The Clan would go onto release a follow-up, ‘Xodus’, in 1992, though the Professor also knocked out a couple of his own solo efforts during this time. A brief break-up allowed Brother J to go his own way for a while, setting up the interplanetary sounding Dark Sun Riders.

Tragically Sugar Shaft passed away – complications caused by AIDS – in 1995, whilst the Prof sadly died from Spinal Meningitis in 2006, though the group carried on into the new century with the added suffix title of Millennium Cipher added to the original X Clan moniker.

The “vanglorious” debut however, was never bettered. It stands as a testament, equal to the most important benchmarks in the Hip Hop genre.

Key Tracks-

Funkin’ Lessons

Tribal Jam

Raise The Flag

Verbs Of Power

In The Ways Of The Scales

Also Check by X Clan-

‘Xodus’ (Polygram) 1992

If You Like That, Check These-

Queen Mother Rage – ‘Vanglorious Law’ (Cardiac) 1991

Isis – ‘Rebel Soul’ (4th And Broadway) 1990

Yz – ‘Sons Of The Father’ (Tuff City) 1989

Jungle Brothers – ‘Done By The Forces Of Nature’ (Warner Bros.) 1989

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