Sadat X is a certified Hip-hop legend. The God has been blessing mics since Hip-hop’s so-called “heyday” with the group Brand Nubian (one of the first groups to bring 5% knowledge to the masses), and he’s still doing his thing (a little bid isn’t going to slow him down). His first solo outing, Wild Cowboys (Elektra, 1996), proved he could hold his own, Experience & Education (Female Fun, 2005) showed he had grown and matured as a man and as an emcee, and his latest, Black October (Female Fun/Riverside Drive, 2006), might just be his most consistent, personal, and important record to date. The dense basslines, boom-bappish beats, and of course, Sadat’s unmistakable flow all provide a fitting home for his incomparable lyrics. Knowledge and wit come standard, and the day-to-day tales balance fun with the weight of his reality — revealing without inducing cringes.
“I laugh at the critics claiming every year: ‘Hip-hop’s over’.”
Fuck you, Hip-hop just started
It’s funny how the most nostalgic cats are the ones who were never part of it.”
— El-P, from Aesop Rock’s “We’re Famous”
“Some mastered the art of cash, but not the part that lasts
and disappear after doin’ two albums
We’re not your normal team and we still do ours to fit
hope inside this, don’t define it’s
quits for those who oppose the new
Playin they’ve outgrown rap like a size five shoe.”
— Posdnous, from De La Soul’s “The Future”
I find that I often have to justify my love of Hip-hop. I’m thirty-six years old and I still get as much from it now as I ever have. Sadat X has been doing Hip-hop as long as I’ve been listening to it. We came up in the same era, but in different environments. We’re both old enough to remember when there were no Hip-hop records, no Hip-hop section in the record store, and certainly no Hip-hop groups winning Academy awards.
We touch on all of that and more in the following brief interview, which took place while Sadat was on tour late last year, chilling in a Denver hotel room before a show there. Peace to the God.
Roy Christopher: Where many veterans are chasing that new-school money (having seen the come-ups of Sean Combs, Shawn Carter, Curtis Jackson, et al.), with this record you chose to just do you. What makes that difference?
Sadat X: First of all, the people around me — my family, my people, my associates — they always had money anyway, before rap, so if I need money, it’s there for me. So money was never an issue. I do this here for the love, for the beat, for the drums. I’m just about Hip-hop. It was never really a money thing for me.
RC: I think Hip-hop is perfect for the classroom and have tried to incorporate what it has taught me into my teaching as much as possible. Do you see much overlap between your role on the mic and your tasks at the blackboard?
DX: When I was working in the school system in New Rochelle, I was around a lot younger kids. So, they didn’t know about Brand Nubian, but they would come in saying, “Yo, Mr. Murphy, my father knows you,” or “my mother knows you.” Music is definitely a big influence on the kids, and I would try to incorporate that into it sometimes.
RC: You’ve shown up in some surprising places in recent years — sharing tracks with Hangar 18, Vast Aire, and others. How do you choose whom you work with?
DX: Different ways. A lot of times, people get in contact with me, or I might contact them, as far as Vast is concerned, I like that cat. He’s real unorthodox, plus he’s a big dude. He’s like a big, cool teddy bear to me. He’s like the coolest, smartest dude that I know, man. I love him to death. I just like his style. And with Hangar 18, we hooked up through a mutual friend.
RC: Those are my boys. I love those cats.
DX: Yeah, yeah. They cool, too. I respect that they grind and they struggle, and they reached out to me and wanted me to do something.
RC: Having been a Hip-hop head since day square, you’ve seen the music go through its every phase first hand. Does your perspective on the industry make you want to inform the newbies of anything?
DX: Well, you know, it’s the highest-selling form of music out there now, and it is worldwide. I respect these kids that are going out there and getting money off of it, but I don’t like kids who aren’t being original. When I was coming up, you had rappers like Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, De La Soul, and groups like that, and I loved all of them, but I never wanted to emulate them. I always wanted to be my own, have my own voice in this game. Now, a lot of kids are out there makin’ money doing the exact same thing that that person is doing.
RC: And you keep hearing cats wanting to go back to “when Hip-hop was great,” and I’m like, “what are you listening to? Hip-hop is better now than it’s ever been!”
DX: That’s the thing, I knew people who were into Hip-hop back then, and now they hate it, and I can’t understand it because look at the overall view of Hip-hop: Hip-hop is about forty years old, and we’ve listening to this music since it started, so now are we supposed to just turn off, just stop listening to it?! That’s why I try to make some of my music more mature sometimes — for the older crowd. There’s got to be some artists for us too. There’s a lot of people over thirty-five that still love Hip-hop.
[photo by Oliver B.]
[“Throw the Ball” video. Directed by Pete Agoston.]