For those who are getting their first introduction to X-Raided with this review here’s a brief recap. Arrested almost simultaneously to his debut album coming out, Anerae Veshaughn Brown was tried and found guilty of homicide, a charge which may have stuck due to the prosecutor using his own rap lyrics against him. Though Brown maintained his innocence (and still does) he was hit with a 31 year sentence for his alleged role in the crime. He was ultimately released on parole September 14, 2018 after serving 26 of those 31 years.

A lengthy prison sentence would seem to be an impediment to a recording career, but X-Raided was entirely unfazed by this setback. His sophomore album “Xorcist” was recorded over the day phone while he was waiting to go on trial, and it’s hard to deny that infamy fueled curiosity in both albums. The state of California was so alarmed by the prospect of a convicted killer profiting from his crimes that his third release “The Unforgiven Vol. 1” faced an uncertain future. There’s a noticeable difference in audio quality between albums, which urban legend holds is due to a sympathetic guard helping X smuggle recording equipment and tracks in and out of prison.

No matter how they did it they were at best facing a Son of Sam forfeiture of any profits from the album, and at worst having the album pulled from store shelves altogether. The legality of Son of Sam laws has been questioned many times in court, and California’s own law targeting Brown was struck down in 2002, which ultimately made the issue moot. That didn’t necessarily make things any easier for the rapper either way. The heirs of his alleged victim could have still sued him for his royalties in civil court, and of course he may have faced sanctions from the penitentiary system for daring to smuggle an entire album in and out of jail. As he says on “Spitten Venom” though, “What the fuck should I be civil for?” He had already lost his freedom and from his vantage point had little else to lose. This might make songs like “Mama’s Pride & Joy” a bit surprising.

I wouldn’t go as far as calling his rap a confession, but he admits he didn’t listen to her good advice and as a result “It wasn’t nuttin’ else to destroy except for myself.” He even apologizes for causing her so much pain and begs forgiveness, stating “If only I knew then what I know now.” It’s hard for me as the reviewer to imagine that California or their state’s attorney general could have objected to THIS song, but that isn’t really the point is it? Even twisted songs like “Macaframa” are an expression of his First Amendment rights. To me those rights aren’t curtailed by a criminal record.

We can debate whether or not he was allowed to profit from “The Unforgiven Vol. 1” (though I doubt it did much but put a little extra in his commissary),but I’m fine with him recording it by any means necessary. It takes an impressive amount of chutzpah to declare that you’re “On the Rise” while locked up, and I can’t help but admire that bravado. He even turned the song into a duet with a woman named Hanifah who matched his confidence bar for bar.

Now don’t get it twisted — this is far from a perfect album. While the vocal quality is dramatically improved over his sophomore release, it still lacks the polish that would come from a soundproof vocal booth and the ability to record multiple takes and keep the best one. Brown and his label Black Market Records had to creatively work around the state of California’s restrictions so the end result is as good as can be expected. The legend of this release only gets larger when you read that 65 tracks had to be cut down to the final album length, but the only citation that states that is a Vibe magazine from 1998 that I don’t own, and I don’t even know what their source was for that fact. Still the fact they called it “Vol. 1” at least hints there was more here than X-Raided or Black Market were ready to release, and his recording career would definitely continue from here.

X-Raided :: The Unforgiven Vol. 1
6.5Overall Score