August 1, 2010

The Return Of Sadat X

By Khalid Strickland a.k.a. Black Pacino

The mainstream news media likes to sensationalize hood news. Low-level drug dealers are portrayed as kingpins, dirty cops are exalted as heroes and all acts of violence are drug-related. Negativity is always highlighted.

Like many rappers before and after him, Sadat X of the legendary trio Brand Nubian was arrested in 2005 on a variety of charges. Here is the story as it was told by the New York Post back then:

A rapper who describes himself as a “Wild Cowboy” allegedly acted like an Old West gunslinger this week when he waved a large pistol at three teens in Harlem, police said yesterday. Hip hop star Sadat X, of the group Brand Nubian, allegedly boasted “I’m going to kill everybody” as he flashed a loaded .40-caliber black Beretta at a group of 18-year-olds at West 158th Street and Broadway Thursday, according to cops. Police sources said X also told the youths, “I’m looking for a guy with braids.”

After cops from the 33rd Precinct were called to the scene, the victims pointed out X, who was still standing across the street with the pistol. When police attempted to arrest the 37-year-old, whose real name is Derek Murphy, he ran. He was tackled quickly. He was arraigned yesterday in Manhattan Supreme Court on charges of criminal possession of a weapon, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. Sadat X and Brand Nubian are most famous for the 1993 song “Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down.”

Sadat served one year at Rikers Island. After his bid, he kept busy with a lot of guest-rapper cameos and recorded multiple albums. One of these albums, Generation X, was distributed by Affluent Records in 2008. I’m cool with Oscar Sanchez, the CEO of Affluent, so I was given the opportunity to interview Sadat. Okay, so he wasn’t fresh outta Rikers when we spoke that night. Guess I’m guilty of media sensationalism my damn self. But the reprocussions of a bid can linger.

My story on Sadat X was published by the New York Amsterdam News. The full, raw interview was never released… until now. Below the jump, I’ve posted the Q&A session in its entirety. Among other topics, Sadat told me the real deal about his incident with the burner and he made very good points about Amerikkka’s flawed prison system. As long as niggas keep gettin’ locked up, a story like this never gets old.

Black Pacino: You recently paid so-called “debts to society.” Is that something you can elaborate on, as far as why you had to go away for a while?

Sadat X: Okay, well first of all the news reports was all wrong because everything kept saying I was in the middle of the street waving a gun wild and I ran up on kids. First of all, let’s get an understanding. Being that it was Broadway, I lived on 157th and Riverside. This is Broadway that they said I was waving the gun on and everybody knows that’s a hard drug capital of New York, as far as cocaine and stuff like that. If I would’ve even brought a gun in the middle of the street wild like they said I was, I would’ve been a mural on somebody’s wall.

And the second thing is, it was a dispute I had with these guys over something concerning my man. We was goin’ back and forth, me and these Dominican dudes. And this is not to say all Dominican dudes ‘cuz I lived over there and I got good Dominican friends. It just so happened these particular dudes we was goin’ back and forth with. Now, I usually always have my firearm on me… that was just from being in New York. They knew I had it on me, we was goin’ back and forth, they just called police on me. The day in question… when I woke up that day I went to the store. I went to McDonald’s, I went and got a haircut and I went and got my cleaning. Now when I was coming back down Broadway, that’s when police ran up on me like that.

I didn’t wave the gun at no kids or anything but understand this: If it was kids, then that means they would’ve been about 17, 18 or 19. If you out there portraying some type of role, when it comes back to you… you gotta take everything that comes with that role. If you playin’ a grown man game don’t front when something happens to you and claim kid. You understand what I’m sayin’?

Pacino: Hell yeah. You right.

Sadat: So it was basically like that and the dudes is grown men, it wasn’t no kids. I worked in a school and I coached basketball, I know the difference between grown men and kids. I wasn’t wavin’ no gun in the street. And they said I resisted arrest. How you gonna resist arrest with a gun? This article came out in The New York Post and I was wondering, “Well, who from The Post was outside when this was going on?” To actually see this and write this and where did they get this information from? You know? But basically I did that, I went to Rikers Island for the year. I got a gun possession charge, which was my second gun felony… which therefore nullified me for working with (kids).

And this is what really upsets me about the matter because now, I’ve got a violent felony charge. I was working at a school, working towards becoming a full-fledged teacher, which now in New York state I can no longer do that. I can no longer work in city jobs or anything like that. And my thing is, a lot of times with these charges, they give you a felony charge, they send you to Rikers Island, then they come out and you’re expected to get a job. Where you supposed to work at? You can’t get a city job. You can’t work in no schools. So what do they expect dudes to do but go back to what they was doin’?

And as far as Rikers Island goes for criminals, that’s the best place to make a contact. If you got Rikers Island and you was doing anything illegal… selling drug, guns or anything… what better place to meet people that’s in there with the same charges as you got? 9 times out of 10, most people in Rikers Island connect with people, then they come out in the street and do the same thing all over again… but that’s how they got the contacts.

Pacino: Like a networking party.

Sadat: Exactly. There’s no rehabilitation. The state has taken away the college programs and stuff like that so there’s no programs of rehabilitation on Rikers Island. Basically they’re just throwing you in a dorm setting or in a cell and just telling you, “Listen, try to maintain if you can and get your time off.” There’s no rehabilitation going on Rikers Island.

Pacino: Although it ain’t completely your fault that all of this shit happened, is your mindstate any different now than it was before you went in?

Sadat: Yeah. It was my fault because I know better than that and I’m mad at myself for allowing myself to become into a situation like that, so I do put part of the blame on myself. It has made me learn to control my attitude and my temper a lil’ more. And it made me, I guess, more reflective of what’s going on and how a single action can jam you and determine your life.

Pacino: As a pioneer, do you feel that New York rap fell off and if so, what can be done to regain our stature?

Sadat: Well, I don’t feel New York rap fell off, I feel we lost our identity at some point. Throughout the years, New York rappers have always been pioneers and trendsetters in this game. And I think for a minute we fell back and let other people dictate New York rap. And I feel on the radio and everything, they let other places dictate us. I have no problems with the South. I love the South, I love some of the Southern rappers but I feel like a lot of New York rappers felt that was the way to go and came out other than themselves. I feel like New York radio fell victim to this too. I give stuff to a lot of deejays… to Flex, Cypha (Soundz), other deejays… ‘cuz I don’t never hear my stuff, you know what I’m sayin? And I can say their names ‘cuz they not gonna come back and do anything to me. Flex, Cypha, a couple of them deejays I send stuff to. They give me their emails and I send stuff to ‘em and I don’t never hear my stuff. I don’t beef about it because I know my other lanes but I’m like, “Damn, at least give it a chance.”

Pacino: I was going to ask about your relationship with the other members of Brand Nubian but obviously, everything is all good if ya’all got some new shit about to drop.

Sadat: Yeah, see that’s the misconception. A lot of people think since we broke up, in that time we wasn’t friends. We been doing shows and stuff since then. It’s just that in New York, they don’t give our stuff no chance on the radio and it’s not that many shows and venues for us to perform at. Like sometimes we perform at Knitting Factory or S.O.B.’s. My dudes in the Bronx, Brooklyn and the hoods, they don’t know them spots. They just know the spots they hear about on the radio but we don’t perform at those spots. They don’t ask us to perform at those spots. But now it seems like it’s a resurgence, this last year I see, of supposedly old-school rappers that they are giving the venues again a lil’ sumthin. And that’s good but we’ve been performing all over the world for the last ten years.

Pacino: Do you feel like you’ve got to re-introduce yourself to these new fans nowadays?

Sadat: In a way you do because when you’ve been rappin’ for a while like myself and other rappers, you do in a sense have to re-introduce yourself ‘cuz a lot of these kids don’t know you and you always want to keep your music up to par. At least stay up with the times and stuff. I hear a lot of old-school rappers talkin’ about, “Rap owes me this…” Rap don’t owe you nothing. If you want to get mad at somebody, get mad at your mother and father for having you ten years too soon or whatever. But rap don’t owe you nothing. And a lot of these old-school artists are like, “I don’t get my stuff played” and this and that. A lot of old-school rappers think they can still rap in the way they did when they first came out. You can’t rap like that no more. If you make some bullshit and you’re an old-school rapper, I ain’t gonna listen to it either.

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