"A hero ain't nothin' but a sandwich, and a Legend ain't nothin' but a car." Though these jaded, cynical sentiments were expressed by House of Pain way back in 1994, they're also a painfully succinct summary of Hip Hop's prevalent attitude towards the genre's innovators. In these here-today-gone-tomorrow times, where an artist's respectability seems to be based more on Soundscan sales figures and Billboard chart position than on old-fashioned ideals such as integrity, intelligence or lyrical prowess, the only Legend Hip Hop seems to give a shit about is John (who, ironically enough, is among the genre's most ol' school-influenced artists).
So where does that leave a guy like Derek... er, I mean, Sadat X, whose work with the aggressively Afrocentric Brand Nubian made him one of the most distinctive voices of the early '90s Hip Hop boom? It leaves him on a tiny indie label, working with mostly b-grade producers (though Diamond D, J-Zone and Da Beatminerz pop in for one song each), with the only big-name featured artists his loyal band-mates, Lord Jamar and Grand Puba. It also leaves him rapping humbly about life in the underground rap world, thanking his friends, family and true fans for sticking by him even when he's not on top of the Hip Hop heap. In short, it leaves him being treated like anything but the legend he truly is.
Sadly, Black October is not likely to be the record that's gonna put Sadat X back at the front of the progressive rap pack, though it does have some impressive, standout moments. Lyrically, the album finds him as on point as ever, dropping rhymes full of Five Percent Nation ideologies, but frankly the production's budgetary restraints show more often than not. The introspective title track, which details his struggles in the New York court system and his impending incarceration (hence the album's title), boasts a slamming beat courtesy of DJ Spinna, but Ayatollah's overly busy wall of sound on "Throw Tha Ball" occasionally obscures the impact of the emcee's words.
The best songs here- the Diamond D-produced "The Post," in which X spins wonderful lyrical webs taken straight from New York Post headlines; the rough 'n' rugged posse track "If You," featuring Boss Money Gangstas; and J-Zone's ridiculously catchy "X Is A Machine"- allow the man plenty of room to shine, displaying the lyrical skills that made him one of the game's most respected emcees way back when. And for true school heads who actually knows their history, hearing Brand Nu reunited on "Chosen Few" is nothing less than a stunning return to form that promises we haven't heard the last of these bona fide legends. Recognize.