X-Vandals | The War of Art
Who are the X-Vandals, how did the group come to be?
N4P:X-Vandals is the terror wrists, DJ Johnny Juice on the two
turntables, and yours truly, the poor mans prophet of rage, Not4Prophet
brandishing the Machetero microphone.... I knew of Juice for years from
his Public Enemy "Bomb Squad" days. It Takes a Nation Of Millions To
Hold Us Back has been my favorite and most inspirational record since
for eva eva, so discovering that there was a Puerto Rican involved in
the process of creating that monumental piece of work was really
important to me. It's a small (Black) planet as Ricans from Uptown who
make radical political art and music, so we always knew each other
X-sisted, really. I do think that we were meant to work together to
jump start La Revolucion.... It's our mission and madness, man...
JUICE: Like N4P said, we've always knew of each other but never got
around to actually working together. It just so happened that a few
years ago Not4Prophet's band Ricanstruction did a cover of Public
Enemy's "Prophet's of Rage" and it was sent by somebody to SLAMjamz
(Chuck's online label) and I heard it, and about that same time, N4P
contacted me about maybe sending him some tracks. One thing led to
another and before you know it, it was a collaborative group thang.
Like N4P said, we were meant to work together to jump start La
Revolucion, and the beat goes on...
How did you guys pick the name?
N4P:Back in the days (before Hip-Hop even existed as "Hip-Hop") there
was a graffiti crew from New York City that called itself Ex Vandals,
as in extraordinary vandals. We took on the name X-Vandals partly as an
homage to them and to graffiti culture in general, but adjusted it to X
to suggest possibly X as in former, or X as in nameless (like Malcolm
X) or anything else one might wanna attach to the X. Also, with our
musica we tag up on "private property", and drop mind bombs on the
landscape of the status quo, so our music is our form of modern day
"vandalism" coming from those who will remain nameless...
JUICE: There it is.
What would be the group's biggest infuences?
N4P:Speaking personally, I don't know if I so much have "influences"
as much as inspirations. But i guess musical inspirations for me range
from Public Enemy, of course, to the creators of hardcore Punk, Bad
Brains, to el cantante de los cantantes, Hector Lavoe, to the "father
of conscious soul music" Curtis Mayfield, and the Godfather of soul,
James Brown, to the rebel rasta himself, Bob Marley. But really the
list can go on and on and does...
JUICE: My list is very similar to N4P's. I consider them
"inspirations" as well but my real inspiration comes from real-world
trials, tribulations, and injustices. Many of them experienced
The Internet has given us the tool to communicate all around the
world. How do you use the Internet to maximize your promotion & sales
and maybe even the production of a record?
N4P:Well, the internet was always really important for me when I was
working with my last band, Ricanstruction, because we were a DIY
anti-corporate "unsigned" entity so we didn't have the same avenues and
outlets to reach people that other artists who chose to go with
corporate labels did. So, yeah, we spent a lot of time building with
people all over the planet via the internet, and put our music and
videos out to the world via the net too because, obviously, commercial
TV was never gonna put us on. I must admit though, that I have never
spent much time considering how to "maximize promotion and sales" and
have really just looked at the net as a way to build and get out a
particular message or idea(ology)...
JUICE: Chuck D has always seen the web as a powerful tool to spread our
message with Public Enemy, but it was never a sales angle or
promotional gimmick there either. In PE we never really worried about
sales. Today, with the proliferation of wackness on the radio and TV
and the rise of the mega-corporate radio syndicates, the only way to be
heard at all is on the guerrilla front. The internet is conducive to
the guerrilla mindset. It allows us to get our message out to as many
people as possible with little or no outlay of funds, and the coverage
Who have you worked with? And who would you like to work with?
JUICE: I have worked with many people who could be considered
Legends... Chuck D, LL Cool J, DMC, Slick Rick, Mavis Staples,
Mandrill... etc. and I've also enjoyed working with Pete Cosey (of
Earth, Wind & Fire, Miles Davis, and Electric Mud fame) in his band
"The Children of Agharta." But I've also worked with many people who
have never been known, and to be honest, it doesn't really make a
difference as long as they are full of fire and commitment to the
project. I have recently talked to Joe Bataan and some of the other
legendary Fania All Stars about doing some things in the future, and
That would be great! But I don't think anything I've done thus far
has come close to the intensity and raw sense of importance as the
X-Vandals project. N4P is the neXt Chuck D... on steroids. Really.
N4P: I've done a few things with a few people, but I always enjoyed
working with my own band most, and right about now I'm cool and content
to be working with Juice, who is also a big inspiration for me.
Can you tell us about your upcoming album?
N4P:We like to say that The War of Art is a semi-autobiographical
Bronx fairy tale of two city's, which means nothing or everything. But,
yeah, it is a concept record about a brother (or a people) or an art
form being birthed in the barrios and "coming up" in the ghettos of
uptown (or america). A story is being told, if you listen carefully to
the chaos, and there's a message in the music and militancy if you are willing to
JUICE: This album brings back memories of "It Takes a Nation of
Millions To Hold Us Back" mainly because of its importance and
relevance to current events. The Nation album was supposed to jump start an
era of consciousness, and it did. This album is meant to do the same,
but unfortunately, it is a little more difficult in these brain-washed
complete corporate straight jacketed times. We are trying to re-awaken
the inner-visions of a people who have been subdued by eMpTy V. The
music on this record is constantly-chaotic, sporadically-sick, and
frequently-funky. The lyrics are instantly-inciting, really-relevant,
and definitely-dangerous. "The War of Art"... ya tu sabes.
Juice, How different do you find it working on this project, then
lets say the Public Enemy projects, and do you believe that work with
PE and others has led up to the X-Vandals?
JUICE: Of course, one way my work with PE has led up to this is the
fact that N4P became aware of my existence through PE's very important
work. However, life has a way of putting people together who really
need to be there. I always work with the same enthusiasm and energy on
my projects, regardless of the content. That being said, this project
was 3 years in the making. I was extremely busy with PE related
projects and some movie scoring and N4P was doing some other things as
well. But as the project started to gel, it took on an energy that was
hard to contain. It moved on it's own and I followed the energy. Many
of the songs were re-worked and we went from zero to sixty in about 2
seconds. It was (and still is) very fulfilling to work with my brother
N4P on something as important as this. Our political and social views
are very similar so it was a no-brainer to collaborate with such an
incredible mind. A mind like Not4Prophet doesn't come along often.
But when it does...
Not4Prophet, I kinda have the same question for you, How different
would you say working on the X-Vandals project is from the Ricanstruction project?
N4P: Well, there are some differences, and then there are no differences at all. After being in actual "bands" for years, I wanted
to work with just "two turntables and a microphone" to maybe get a more
direct message across to the masses, so working with JUST Juice was
something I was really looking forward to doing to see what we could
come up with that was different, quintessentially X-Vandals, you know.
But I was used to working with a band all the time using organic
instruments, so it WAS different to be working with just a DJ. Thing
is though, that getting into the studio and watching Juice work, I realized that for him the
turntables IS yet one more organic musical instrument and he utilizes it as such. Juice creates noise collages that are every bit as
"musical", spontaneous, experimental and dense as any "full" band might
do. Also, Juice doesn't just "sample" shit, and in fact, besides
scratching, also plays many instruments that he incorporates into the
work. So in the end, it is way beyond simply being two turntables and a
Will we hear more music from Ricanstruction?
N4P:Could be. There is always a natural mystic blowing through the
air. As it stands, some of the members of Ricanstruction ARE on this
X-Vandals record, playing guitar, percussion, singing some back up
vocals... Plus, over the years Ricanstruction has morphed into a kind
of "art and agitation" collective that extends beyond simply
being a band, so there are also Ricanstruction members who helped out
with the art and layout for this record, and, in fact, the owner of the
record label that is putting out The War of Art is a Latina sister who
is also a member of the Ricanstruction collective. So in that
respect, X-Vandals is ALSO very much another part of the
Ricanstruction Netwerk that is just getting set to bomb the shitstem
and free theMasses....
In the late 80's and early 90's a lot of conscious music dominated
the Radio. Even groups like 2 Live Crew were trying to make political
records back in those days, then almost overnight the political music
was driven into the Underground. What would you say was a key factor
that lead this to happen?
N4P: Juice can probably speak on this better than me since I wasn't
yet making music in the '80s, and really just sneaking into clubs to
listen to it. But, I think that by the mid to late 80s, "rap music" was
becoming big business (and the corporations were in the process of
totally co-opting it), and by the '90s it was just a "hustle" for a lot
of people who were creating it. So eventually it became about nothing
but what sells, without the politics, commentary, culture or art that
fist made Hip-Hop a real counterculture and potential threat. It
didn't take long for graffiti (which was the outlaw visual arts
component of Hip-Hop) and breaking (which was the physical component
of Hip Hop) to be pushed aside (and underground) in favor of just
pushing commercial 'rap music" that caters to the lowest common
contaminator as long as it proves to sell records (or fashion, cars,
whatever). And these days the "bizness" pumps millions of dollars into
promoting just one thing to the masses who listen to the radio and
watch MTV and BET and drop their dollars on the counter.
JUICE: After PE made it "cool-to-be-conscious," in the mid '80's,
there were many people jumping on the "revolutionary rap" bandwagon.
Some were genuine but many were just really doing what has always been
done... trying to be "down." When it was no longer cool to be
conscious... many of those artists moved on. In order to be an
effective leader, one has to not only believe very strongly in his/her
ideology but also has to be willing to suffer for it. There are very
few people who are willing to personally sacrifice or even die for
their art. Also, as Hip-Hop became a corporate cash cow, those entering
the fray were only entering for financial reasons. Instead of being an
artist first and a RECORDING ARTIST second, they became RECORDING
ARTISTS. PUNTO! The only relation to actual art being that it was a
part of their "title." No longer were people expressing actual
individual "thought" but instead repeating a brain-washed mantra of
commercialism, sexism, and tribalism that is repeatedly saturating our
air waves...Air Conditioning if you will. And that's where we are at
On the 23rd of September X-Vandals made it's public presence in Time
Square for the March Of A Free Puerto Rico, can you guys enlighten us a
little of what the Puerto Rican community is going through and what
this event meant to X-Vandals?
N4P: Well, Puerto Rico has been a colony for over 500 years, first of
Spain and then, for the past 109 years of the u.s. Since the beginning
there has been a liberation and resistance struggle. September 23rd has
been a day that is commemorated by those who advocate and struggle for
Puerto Rican liberation since 1868 when Puerto Ricans launched an
uprising against Spain that was quelled by the Spanish. Although the
rebellion DID eventually lead to the abolition of slavery in Puerto
Rico, it did not gain complete independence for Puerto Rico, so in 1898
when the u.s. and Spain fought the "Spanish-American war" Puerto Rico
was handed over to the u.s. by Spain. Since then, Puerto Ricans have
fought a liberation struggle against the u.s. Two years ago the FBI
assassinated one of Puerto Rico's freedom fighters and leaders in the
liberation struggle, Filiberto Ojeda Rios on September 23d, so we
"Ricanstruction" organized a march and rally in New York City to
celebrate september 23d, and commemorate the assassination of
Filiberto. This year, X-vandals performed at the rally. It was actually
our debut performance.
JUICE: Not only was El Grito 2007 our DEBUT...it was also OUR DEBT.
We OWE it to our people and ourselves to speak out on our (colonial)
condition, as many people in this country (and also on la isla) are
unaware of the actual conditions and reality surrounding the
colonization of Puerto Rico. of course, it is ridiculous to assume
that people would really know what is happening in real time
considering the massive amount of "Air Conditioning" and "white outs"
in today's corporate controlled media. But we must continue to lead
from the FRONT (lines), as that is the only place that true leaders are
What is your take on the immigration issue and the wall being built
between the US and Mexico?
N4P: Obviously, that wall should NOT be built and when it IS built (as
it will be and is being), it should be destroyed. But, of course that
brings up the whole question/issue of what really must be done in terms
of immigration into the u.s., particularly by our Latino hermanos y
hermanas. I've been to many demonstrations in defense of immigrants
rights and I have seen many brown immigrants standing there waving
american flags or carrying posters that say things like "we are not
the criminals" or "we take the jobs no one else wants". From the point
of view of an Afro-Rican, I am aware that it is the so called African
Americans and Puerto Ricans who stock the u.s. prisons in
disproportionate numbers, and i am also aware that we are hated,
colonized. enslaved and downpressed by the u.s., and I would sooner
burn an america flag as carry it, let alone wave it. We have spent
decades, centuries, being spit on and shit on by the u.s., so I have to
wonder what it says to have brown immigrants from Latin America who
want to enter the u.s., waving american flags and claiming that THEY
are just innocent people who want to live in "america" as "model
citizens" and partake of the american dream that Malcolm X called an
american nightmare. Better to be in solidarity with
so called African Americans (who were brought here in chains), Puerto
Ricans (who have been colonized by the u.s.), and Native American
Indians (who once were the caretakers of this once free land), the real
native sons and daughters of this "nation", and figure out how to do
away with it, destroy it, and dismantle these manufactured borders once
and for all. if there were no borders, there would be no "minute men"
and no wall and no Mexicans (and other Latino Americans) dying
everyday in an attempt to simply survive by crossing an illegal
JUICE: N4P said it all. Immigration issue? That should have been
taken care of before the Native Americans were displaced. The only
"issue" I have with Immigration is the celebration of bullshit holidays
like "Columbus Day" where a mass-murderer who introduced Slavery and
genocide to the Old (new) World is deified by the sons and daughters of
those same immigrants.
What are some of the things someone may find if they were to look
into either Juice or Not4Prophet's iPod today?
N4P:Uh, i don't own an ipod. I just recently picked up a used walkman
at the salvation army thrift shop through. I still gotta boost
something to listen to on it though...
JUICE: I also do not own an iPod but I do have about 60 to 70,000
pieces of vinyl that used to be called RECORDS. I listen to EVERYTHING
UNDER THE SUN, but mostly TO the cries of my people.
When will the album be hitting the streets?
N4P: The War of Art is set to start on october 30th 2007.
Thank you for taking time to interview with BrownPride,com, is
there anything else you guys would like to add, maybe have people
check out a website or something?
N4P:Well, we've got X-Vandals.com if you wanna get more in touch with
our new form of "vandalism". Ricanstruction Netwerk also has a web page
and a board/forum (that I and juice might occasionally pop up on) which
is Ricanstruction.net/forums, and there's a web page (and
organization) where you can find out more information about the Puerto
Rican liberation struggle, which is September23.org.
Interview by Danny B.