SADAT X INTERVIEW
In Spike Lee’s film adaptation of David Benioff’s novel 25th Hour, Edward Norton portrays “Monty” Brogan, a man who has one day of freedom before he spends 2,555 days incarcerated. Sadat X, the MC with the voice that never makes you ask “who is that?” is facing a similar dilemma, albeit not as severe. With his newest opus, Black October, about to drop, Sadat will have to say goodbye to family and friends, and leave his newest creation behind in the hands of his label as he faces a mandatory year of jail time for a gun charge.
At the time of his arrest, numerous websites and blogs described Sadat as stalking the streets violently and making threats. While Sadat confesses “it was my own fault for being out with that” he also explains that in the day in question he was doing errands that consisted of going to the barbershop and McDonald’s, not waving a gun around threatening others. “I had a little problem with a couple people around here and I guess they were afraid of me. The day in question I wasn’t really dealing with these guys and I guess they knew from past experiences that I was going to have what I had on me. They called the police and they ran up on me,” Sadat explains.
Looking at a mandatory year sentence, Sadat had to rush on Black October, which he preferred to come out in December. Featuring production by Marco Polo, Scotty Blanco, Diamond, and Ayatollah, long time Brand Nubian fans are not going to be disappointed. Despite facing a life altering event that could easily provide enough material to fill a whole album, Sadat states he “didn’t want to get into where I was dwelling on the situation,” while recording his album. “I didn’t want to make it a personal Sadat X album for myself, and I did try to keep it in tune with my past albums,” he says.
The opening track which shares the album’s name expresses the chaos in Sadat’s life over a beat that sounds like a shark infested feeding frenzy as it transports the listener into the mind of someone who is about to lose their freedom. Optimism, regrets, sadness, grief, hope, and helplessness are all squeezed into a four minute hip hop classic. While many MC’s would take the trip to jail as a way to brag, boast, and improve their album sales, Sadat kicks what could possibly be one of the most “real” hip hop lyrics ever- “if I could kick my own self in the ass/I would.”
X’s return to the game began with his last album, Experience and Education. Sadat left his full time job as a special education teacher to focus on rhyming. “I took a hiatus because I was working on Experience and Education and it ran into the school year and I thought it was vital to work on the album. I was at a crossroads and I had to make some sort of comeback… not even a comeback, but a strong effort to keep me out there in the public.”
Hip hop is one of the few genres where an artist could boast a reputation as a legend with a catalogue of classic material and still need to worry about a comeback. Why do legendary MC’s have to fend off the younger artists who are more likely to grab a coffin, nail and hammer than pay homage and respect? “I do feel that they respect me, but I feel that when you are an older rapper in the game you have to make music that they can respect in today’s society,” Sadat elaborates. “In rap society, anyway, you have to put out music to gain respect and if you put out some bullshit, I’m not going to like it either. A lot of the older rap artists feel that rap owes them something or the younger artists owe them something and I don’t feel that way. I think you just gotta stay competitive in today’s times.”
When I ask Sadat X how his gun charge and the record that goes along with it will affect his teaching career, he acknowledges that there may be difficulties in the future. “That charge carries a heavy weight on a resume and when people see a charge like that it’s hard to overcome that. They just see it on paper but they don’t get to hear the story or circumstances behind it. Hopefully it won’t present too much of a problem,” Sadat says with a mix of hope and realism.
Due to the fact he had to record Black October on a short time schedule with a limited budget, Sadat was required to travel to record various tracks in a process he describes as sobering. “I went to J Zone’s house and I took the train from my house to Far Rockaway and went to the studio at 2 in the morning. I brought it back and it humbled me and reminded me that this game is tight and you gotta work hard for it,” Sadat recalls.
Besides displaying humility, Sadat is also thankful about the impact hip hop has had on his life. “I’m happy that this game has afforded me the ability to travel everywhere. I’ve been everywhere from Japan to England. I don’t know what other genre of life I would have gone into that would have afforded me these opportunities,” he says. Sadat expresses a fondness for Spain and a possible future in Tokyo when discussing where he could see himself settling down in the future.
Brand Nubian fans will be happy to hear that Sadat is in what he calls “constant contact with the fellas” and that a Brand Nubian album will be in the works once his current drama is behind him. When I ask him about the possibility of a sequel to the classic cut “Mansion and Yacht” Sadat seems excited at the prospect, “it would be good to see how dudes kept their styles. I would definitely like to do that and be part of it.”
While he does plan on writing while serving his time, Sadat has worries about his environment negatively affecting the subject matter of his rhymes, “I want to keep my flavor of being in the hood, but I don’t want my rhymes to be institutionalized.” Getting plenty of advice from friends and family has boosted his confidence and Sadat believes that he will receive plenty of support while doing his time. Facing the loss of freedom seems to be where the similarities between Sadat X and Montgomery Brogan end as X’s attitude about what awaits him seems to be filled with more hope than despair. “I’m pretty sure I’m going to have some feelings that day but I’m trying to prepare myself mentally. I don’t think you can really prepare yourself for something like that until you get into it. I’ve spoken to people who have been there and I’m trying to be strong,” Sadat states.
Sadat wants his fans to know that despite the negative news reports he is “still the same dude, still the same voice, and I’m not going to stop. I’m going to still be out there and hopefully I still keep the love.”
After listening to Black October, which Sadat describes as “an album for the people” I don’t think he has anything to worry about.