In the early 1990’s Anerae Veshaughn Brown b/k/a X-Raided became one of rap music’s most infamous artists overnight. Before his debut “Psycho Active” could be released on Black Market Records in 1992, X was one of four men arrested by Sacramento, CA police on murder charges stemming from the death of Patricia Harris. He was prosecuted on those charges in 1994 in a controversial trial where his music was used as evidence despite the fact it had no relation to the facts of the case and could only poison the opinion of the jury. I’m not saying he’s either guilty of the crime or innocent of it — I’m simply saying that the trial should have been about the actual facts and physical evidence and not his rap persona.

In what could only be described as either karma or irony, that same prosecutor lost his job in a scandal and started a private practice, where he took up business law and wound up befriending X-Raided and becoming a consultant on his music career. After serving over 20 years behind bars, Brown was paroled in 2018 and free to pursue that career again legally. The truth is being in jail wasn’t much of an impediment to him pursuing it anyway. He’d record his raps over the day phone, he’d spit bars into a digital recorder snuck in by a guard, et cetera etc. He released more albums while locked up than some rap artists do in an entire career. The notoriety of doing so while locked up was its own effective marketing campaign.

For me X-Raided’s arrest, the discussion about his trial and the release of his albums came at a time when I was not prepared to write in depth about any of it. 30 years after “Psycho Active” came out I’m still not sure I can do that conversation justice. The situation of real life people being confused with the art they make has not gotten any better and arguably has gotten much worse. It may simply be a failing of humanity in general. Actors get accosted on the street by people angry at them for things they did in movies. Fans jump over barricades at wrestling shows to attack the performers. We desire art and entertainment so badly we are willing to labor to earn the money to spend on it, but then somehow manage to completely forget we paid for it and act as though it’s all real.

“I know it’s fucked up but fool that’s the price you’re payin
Niggaz fadin, and bitches too when I’m sprayin
See, I don’t give a fuck about shit
Even if ya know me, I smoke ya, and let you be a (dead homie)”

I don’t know why it’s obvious to me and not to the prosecutor or the jury that songs like “Fuckin Wit a Psycho” are fantasy. I don’t picture the real Anerae Brown walking around shooting both friends and strangers at random for the hell of it. The funny (but not humorous) part of it all is that spending the majority of his adult life behind bars actually disproves the idea that he’s somehow rapping about reality. There’s no possible way for him to have committed even one of the crimes he raps about, let alone the dozens contained in one song alone before, during or after his conviction. It’s a literal physical impossibility. It should be plainly obvious that such boasting was just an idealized macho persona chosen for its flamboyance and appeal to rap fans. He may or may not have committed one murder but the fact he rapped about hundreds of fictional ones is totally unrelated.

Produced by X-Raided himself along with his friend Brotha Lynch Hung (who appears on two tracks) and Ced Singleton, “Psycho Active” is a Cali gangster rap album for the early 1990’s. Despite an album cover that suggests he might shoot himself before he’d shoot you, songs like “Shootcha in a Minute” bear the hallmarks of an era where rappers constantly tried to one up each other in street cred. Funky samples and hard beats were met with a never-ending series of IDGAF raps that made conservative white people lose their shit when their teenage sons and daughters fell in love with it. It’s hard not to read it as racist when those same people praise country artists with equally violent sentiments and outrageous scenarios. Just call it what it is — you don’t like X-Raided because he’s a rapper from Sacramento who isn’t afraid to talk shit — and he does love to talk it.

“Killin punk niggaz like flies
You piss me off, then everybody dies
X ain’t the one to be ludicrous
Any motherfucker that I want to diss, I’m gonna diss
It might be you, if you’re on the shit-list
Instead of ‘uncle’ I’ma make you say ‘triple six’
and make you suck four dicks
In other words, you can get the duck sick”

There are two problems with “Psycho Active” that are completely unrelated to the quality of the music or the content of the lyrics. The first is that even without the murder charge and time behind bars, there’s not a song on here that could be transformed into a radio single or music video without HEAVY editing. If X-Raided or Black Market Music were counting on this album to do major units in or outside of California, that would have severely hampered their ability to do so, which is why I firmly believe they weren’t. You could go gold in California without any crossover elsewhere and until digital music outpaced physical that was still true. That’s the other problem though — he’s so hella local on this album that he has to one up every rapper in the state. Was he going to be more popular than E-40, Too $hort, MC Eiht or DJ Quik? I can’t say his shit talking is bad, but I can’t say he’s a better lyricist or has more charisma than a hundred rappers from the state who came out at around the same time.

What X-Raided has going for him here is a sick selection of samples ranging from Marvin Gaye to Funkadelic to Grover Washington Jr. The sheer volume of clearances required would probably make it impossible to reissue today but makes for a highly enjoyable listen from start to finish. What we have on “Psycho Active” is an example of an early 1990’s underground rap album with great production, decent yet unremarkable boasting, and a general lack of marketability except to hardcore Cali rap fans of the time. This is the kind of album rap fans would sit around sipping beer and reminiscing about saying “Yeah. He was alright. Whatever happened to X?” Then someone would pull out a phone and look him up. The only difference here is we already know and nobody needs to look.

X-Raided :: Psycho Active
7.5Overall Score