Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Last X-Clan Record?

X-Clan's big comeback album in '07 - which they'd been talking about for years - was pretty disappointing when it finally dropped, huh? It didn't help that by the time they finally put it together, Professor X had passed on. And it didn't help that even though he'd made all of these recordings, they wound up using none of them on the album. And it really didn't help that they decided to scrap their signature sound and replace it with a compilation of disparate beats by a various west coast producers. Oh, and they filled the album with up a bunch of random indie MCs. I can just see everyone in the studio trying to one-up each other in second-guessing the X-Clan, throwing more and more random people into the mix to get the "kids" interested. Meanwhile, I don't think any of the artists they got: Fat Jack, Charli 2na, DJ Quik*, RBX, Abstract Rude (plus a bunch of unknowns) - are really who "the kids" are listening to anymore, anyway (well... maybe Charli 2na). It's like thirty-somethings enlisting some tired twenty-somethings to totally fail reaching the teens.

And it's telling that Return to Mecca was CD-only. They also talked a lot (on their site, on their myspace, in their press releases etc) about their first single... when there actually was no single; just an mp3 and youtube video.

But this is the last actual record they released (to date - there's still hope). It's pretty overlooked and definitely under-rated... it came out in 2004 on Up Above Records. There's still no Professor X here, but the production is still essentially "in-house" X-Clan, as both sides are produced by Dark Sun Riders O.G. Ultraman. To be fair, they did let Ultraman produce one song on Return To Mecca, by the way - and if you notice, it's by far the best track on there (hint taken for the next album, I hope?).

"The One" is just dope. The beat is deceptively simple, with several subtle layers to the track that will get your head nodding whether you want to or not. And Brother J is definitely bringing his A-game, both lyrically and delivery-wise. I mean, yeah ok... it's not as good as the classic, amazing X-Clan singles from their heyday, but it's a very worthy entry into the X-Clan/Dark Sun Riders oeuvre.

The b-side is OK... Brother J's delivery sounds a little less enthusiastic, and the beat's definitely less engrossing - it actually sounds more akin to the Return To Mecca stuff (but better than most of it). It's not bad, though... it gives you more of Brother J MCing, which, after "The One" is exactly what you'll be wanting to hear. But the A-side is the winner and clearly where they directed all their creative energies at the time.

This record also includes instrumentals for both tracks, although both have Brother J's ad-libs and hooks all over them. But the best thing about this record is that it was so over-looked, you can pick it up for bargain-bin prices (, for example, still has copies four years later, now at a marked down red price). If you're an X-Clan fan or were still feeling Brother J when he came back with the Dark Sun Riders, then you'll definitely want this in your collection - this would be one of the best tracks on that album. And only "Weapon X" off their latest effort comes close to "The One."

Oh, and I almost forgot: they do have a myspace. There's a video up there now with Brother J saying he's working on a new album called Mainstream Outlaw - hopefully this one will be a little more like an X-Clan album and a little less like a Project Blowed compilation. They also have an official website at, which looks like it could use an update. ;)

*His contribution sounds nothing like the work of DJ Quik, anyway. I don't know how good X-Clan and DJ Quik could ever possibly sound together, but this is terrible. If I were them, I'd be demanding Quik send me the check back.


  1. Money, Return from Mecca was not nearly as bad as you make it sound.  Too long and do the rap/rock experiments miss? Yes.  But there at least 6 to 7 songs that further their cause well.  Remember two of their original members are dead, it's inevitable the music sounds different.  If Brother J simply rhymed over break beats it would be considered derivative and lazy.  

  2. The only track that I'd say furthered their cause was "Weapon X."  There's nothing else I'd ever go back and listen to on there.  I wish they really had released a single of it llike they'd claimed; I'd've snatched it up in a heartbeat.

    In one way it's nice that they tried something different and reached out to all these different artists (although getting that many different artists makes it feel much more like an X-Clan themed compilation than an actual X-Clan album).  Good on them for trying something different; but the final album definitely shows a FAILED experiment; and one I hope they won't repeat on Mainstream Outlaw.

    It's true they're starting at a deficit with two of their core members sadly passed away (and I guess there was some unfortunate reason why they didn't use the pre-existing Professor X recordings, though I have no idea).  But you say, "If Brother J simply rhymed over break beats it would be considered derivative and lazy."  i have two answers to that.  1) I'll take "derivative and lazy" any day of the week if the results are dope.  And more importantly 2) They didn't need to get all these other producers, etc... they just needed enough faith in their own guy - Ultraman - who proved himself with this 12" and by producing the only good (as far as I'm concerned) track off Return to Mecca.

    Today, when I want to hear some X-Clan, I'll go back to their first albums... I'll go back to The Dark Sun Riders, and the spin-off artists (i.e. Isis and Unique and Dashan).  I'll even go back to this Millennium Cipher 12" - but I definitely won't be going back to Return To Mecca (except maybe for the "Weapon X" mp3 I have on my hard drive).  Will you?