The self-sufficient X Clan should've made a bigger splash with To the East, Blackwards, the group's debut album for 4th & Broadway. Name-dropping Nat Turner and Marcus Garvey and dressing in red, black, and green instead of black and silver didn't exactly lend itself to marketability in 1990, but there's no evidence to the contrary that this Afrocentric group released one of the best rap records that year -- which is saying a great deal. Yes, plenty of groups had already swiped liberally from Funkadelic, and true, "Grand Verbalizer"'s instrumental backdrop is nearly identical to "Microphone Fiend," but there's an infectious vigor with the way each track is fired off that makes those points moot. Brother J's bookish, caramel-smooth delivery is like no other, and Professor X's jolting appearances after nearly every verse ("This is protected by the red, the black, and the green -- with a key! Sissy!") add even more character to the album. X Clan relentlessly pushes its pro-black motives and beliefs, and though the points are vague at times, at no point does it ever grow tiring. This isn't just a testament to the skills of the MCs -- it also stands as a testament to the group members as producers. Like the best work of BDP and PE, a thorough listen to To the East, Blackwards is more likely to provoke deep thought than an entire chapter of the average American school's history book. And history books simply don't provide this kind of electric charge.