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.