As a member of the fiercely polemical hip-hop collective X-Clan
, Professor X
spearheaded rap music's embrace of Black Nationalist politics, later continuing his activism with a series of solo efforts. The son of civil rights pioneer Sonny Carson, Professor X
was born Lumumba Carson
in Brooklyn in 1956. As a child, he met Malcolm X
and regularly accompanied his father in traveling to political rallies both at home and abroad. But as a teen Carson
drifted into gang life, and was shot, stabbed, and imprisoned before rededicating his life to politics, vowing to introduce his father's principles into hip-hop. Carson
first entered the music business as a promoter for rappers like Whodini
. Some years older than the artists he mentored, he eventually dubbed himself Professor X
in honor of the brilliant guru leading comic book heroes the X-Men. In 1988 Professor X
teamed with Grand Verbalizer Funkin' Lesson "Brother J"
(born Jason Hunter
), the Rhythem Provider "Sugar Shaft"
), and Grand Architect "Paradise"
(Claude Grey) to found the Brooklyn-based X-Clan
. Clad in medallions and traditional Black Nationalist gear, X-Clan
immediately served notice that their music would serve to educate and uplift listeners of all races and creeds. Professor X
was the group's sage, spouting his signature lyric "Vainglorious! This is protected by the red, the black, and the green with a key, sissy!" on several cuts on their acclaimed 1990 debut LP, To the East, Blackwards
. The album fell just shy of the R&B Top Ten, as did its 1992 follow-up, Xodus
. In the interim, Professor X
issued his debut solo effort, Years of the 9, On the Blackhand Side
, and after X-Clan
dissolved, he resurfaced in 1993 with Puss 'n Boots (The Struggle Continues...)
. As the rise of gangsta rap cast conscious hip-hop to the commercial margins, Professor X
channeled his energies into more traditional activist pursuits, co-founding the Black Muslim group Blackwatch. Amid rumors of an X-Clan
reunion, Professor X
died of complications from spinal meningitis on March 17, 2006.