Sadat X got his start in the game as part of the legendary group out of New Rochelle, NY, Brand Nubian. Along with DJ Alamo, Lord Jamar and the De facto leader of the group, Grand Puba Maxwell, Brand Nubian made a great first impression on their debut album, All For One, mixing sharp bars with their Five Percent teachings over a soul, jazz and reggae flavored production template. Puba would forget about “all” to focus on “one” after the first album, leaving Sadat and Lord Jamar to fend for themselves. The duo (along with DJ Sincere who stepped in for Alamo, who left to work with Puba) would respond by delivering two quality albums in In God We Trust and Everything Is Everything. Sadat’s nasal vocal tone and unique rhyming pattern gained the native BX emcee a cult like following, and the two Grand Puba-less Brand Nubian albums, along with a handful of cameos on other projects, would give him the confidence to embark on his solo career. Sadat would sign a solo deal with Loud/RCA, where he would release his debut solo album, Wild Cowboys.
Based on the liner notes booklet, the Wild Cowboys consists of Sadat X, his newly found microphone sidekick, Shawn Black, Mark Da Spark and fittingly for an album called Wild Cowboys, he would reunite with DJ Alamo (there are two more dudes in the album cover pic, but the names and solo pics of these two random individuals are not listed in the liner notes). Sadat would call on a host of producers to contribute beats, including Diamond D, Buckwild, Pete Rock and Showbiz, just to name a few. Wild Cowboys would receive decent reviews and render two singles that made minimal noise, before it would mosey on into the sunset.
I don’t remember a whole lot about Wild Cowboys, other than the singles and a B-side or two, but I’m sure it’ll come back to me after a couple listens through. Bars!
The Lump Lump – Sadat kicks off the night with a song about cheatin, creepin’, and enticing asses aka lump lumps. Buckwild mixes crisp drums, an energetic bass line and a vocal snippet from a classic Groove Theory joint (“Tell Me”) on the hook, while Sadat’s rhymes run all over the place like a toddler who just learned to walk. This was a weird way to start the album, but I did enjoy a chuckle when Sadat dubbed James Evans as “Corduroy James” (if you grew up watching Good Times, then you know why that alias is funny).
Wild Cowboys – Diamond D builds this instrumental around a buzzing bass line and a mischievous xylophone loop that Sadat uses to make clever pop culture cowboy references (“The only prairie I seen was in the library, and the last Indian I seen, was headin’ towards Cleveland”) and spew other random ideas, including a bar dedicated to Thelma Evans’ lump lump (“You could see that it (her ass) was mean, even from the small screen”), making this the second consecutive song on Wild Cowboys to make a Good Times reference. Sadat’s unorthodox rhyming pattern sounds great over this instrumental. Based on the plurality in the song title, I was expecting a few of his crew members to join him, but I enjoyed Sadat on this solo mission.
Sauce For Birdheads – Shawn Black (not to be confused with the Shawn Black aka Black Attack that we heard a few posts ago on DJ Honda’s compilation album, H, which Sadat also appears on) pairs up with Sadat, as the two share mic time over a creamy instrumental built around a plush piano loop. Shawn and Sadat spit nearly impossible to follow storylines about conniving chicks (which would be the birdheads referred to in the unique song title) and drug deals gone bad. I quit trying to follow their rhymes after the third listen and decided to just enjoy DJ Ogee’s soothing backsplash.
Open Bar – Sadat maintains the mellow energy from the previous two songs, as he’s joined by his Brand Nubian bredrin, DJ Alamo on the beat and Grand Puba on the mic, which, just like their collab on the DJ Honda album (see “Straight Talk From NY” from H) left me wondering, “Where the hell is Lord Jamar?” He must have had beef with them, or at least one of them (*cough* Grand Puba)…moving on. Like the Honda record, Puba easily out rhymes his old pal (for some reason, Sadat’s vocal has an annoying echo on this track), and Alamo’s relaxing instrumental was pleasant.
Hang ‘Em High – This was the album’s lead single. Fittingly, for an album titled Wild Cowboys, Ali Malek builds this backdrop around the iconic whistle from the theme music from the 1967 Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Sadat uses the Western movie mood to relate the historic Wild West to the modern streets of New York, and while he does a semi-passable job comparing the two worlds, I was more impressed by the music (even though it’s low hanging cliché fruit) and the rugged voice of D.V. Alias Khrist (who in ‘96 was seriously trying to make a run at becoming the East Coast Nate Dogg) on the hook.
Do It Again – This song is all kinds of hot messes. Minnesota throws Sadat a horrible instrumental (it sounds like a stomach with the “bubble guts”) and our host sounds like a horny desperate man, begging a chick for a second chance at sex, spittin’ lines like: “I’ll do that R.Kelly on ya’ (which could mean a few different things in this day and age), finger test is smelly on ya’” and “The boy dry humps, is now man pumps.” Sadat’s perverted rhymes combined with the horrid instrumental are sure to make the object of his erection decline his pleas for a redo and dry up the vaginas of all the other female listeners.
Games Sober – The Money Boss Players join Sadat and Shawn Black on this posse (pun intended) session, as all eight rappers get off verses over a slippery funk guitar driven instrumental (credited to Ant Greene aka Father Time), while the female guest vocalist, Sha Sha, sings the hook and adlibs. Once again, the music outshines the rhymes.
Smoking On The Low – Sadat dedicates this one to all the undercover drug addicts. You can go ahead and give yourself a headache trying to decode and unravel Sadat’s rhymes or follow my lead and just enjoy the pulsating trunk rattling bass line in Buckwild’s monster instrumental, along with Alias Khrist’s subtle slave-like moaning on the hook.
Petty People – Sadat and Shawn Black link up again, this time to call out petty people…we’ll, kind of. Like most of the album to this point, the rhymes are unfocused and all over the place, and to add insult to injury, Diamond D backs the duo’s randomness with what might be the worst instrumental in his phenomenal production discography.
The Interview – This one pairs Sadat with a female journalist played by the lovely, Regina Hall (might I add that this was a few years before she played Candy in The Best Man, so you already know what she was looking like in ‘96. Lawd, have mercy!). Da Beatminerz provide a hard funk bop (with an assist from Tone Da Backbone on bass), as Hall shoots Sadat a bunch of questions that he gives decent responses to. At one point she does have to tell Sadat, “You got a little off subject,” to help reel him back in (imagine that). This one grows on me the more I listen to it, and it makes for a decent album cut.
Stage And Lights – This Showbiz produced track was also the B-side to the “Hang ‘Em High” single. Sadat uses Showbiz’s bouncy backdrop to spit more random rhymes, with the record’s ultimate theme being: whether on stage or in the streets, he’s the same Sadat. I used to despise this record, but it doesn’t sound as dry now as it did back in the day.
Move On – After a few opening words from Shawn Black, Sadat uses this track to share his resume and reminisce a bit on the first two verses, before using the final verse to list every one of his financial responsibilities: rent, phone, electricity, child support, car note, student loan; he even lists his grown ass homeboys as a responsibility, to which I would say, “Nigga, get a job!” Diamond D puts together a chill bass line, a smooth horn sample and a laidback wah wah guitar loop to back Sadat’s rhymes, and this ends up being a solid album cut.
The Funkiest – Sadat does Sadat (though his vocals sound submerged in water) over a cool funk groove. That’s all I got.
Escape From New York – Pete Rock gets his sole production credit of the night, recycling the instrumental that he previously used on the intro for “In The Flesh” from he and C.L.’s Main Ingredient album. PR brings Deda (who also rapped on “In The Flesh”) to the party to share mic time with Sadat and the duo, unexpectedly, do a solid job of entertaining. Speaking of solid, I still don’t know what to think of Deda “Solid like Stone and the Family Sly” line.
The Hashout – The last track of the night features a slightly sleepy backsplash built around slight drums and a dreary piano loop, as Sadat is joined by Shawn Black, Cool Chuck and T.E.C. (aka Tito El Coqui) for this album ending cipher session (I wonder if Cool Chuck and T.E.C. are the two anonymous cowboys on the album cover). I actually enjoyed the music, even though it was an odd choice for a posse record.
It never seizes to amaze me how the same attribute that attracted you to someone/something can become the same attribute that makes you despise that person/thing, over time. In the case of Wild Cowboys, it’s Sadat X’s flow. On the first three Brand Nubian albums, Sadat impressed with his distinctive nasally voice and his unorthodox rhyming pattern that almost felt like he was leading you through a maze, never knowing exactly where he was going with his bars and rhyme schemes, but he always led you out, and left you satisfied. On Wild Cowboys, Sadat no longer has the crutch of a group to split up the mic time, and with the spotlight shining solely and fully on him, a large chunk of his rhymes sound sloppy and unfocused and his once intriguingly unorthodox flow now just sounds awkward when consumed in this large of a dosage. On the bright side, two-thirds of the production is solid, but Sadat could have easily shaved four songs off the album, as it runs too long, and his content gets repetitive by the mid-way point of the album. Might I add that Shawn Black’s lackluster contribution on a handful of songs, doesn’t help matters, either. I love Sadat X as part of Brand Nubian, but Wild Cowboys is a bit disappointing and a great example of why every rapper shouldn’t be a solo artist.
I agree. I love most of the beats but Sadat will make your head hurt sometimes trying to keep up with his flow. Definitely better suited for a group or posse cuts. I still like the album though.
Good review. I can tolerate him with brand nubian , but I always found his voice annoying. I agree not everyone can go solo and pull it off.
Spot on review. I once read that Rakim had included Sadat in his top 5 favorite emcees list. His flow and cadence is definitely unique. Wild Cowboys could have shaved off 20 minutes worth of filler and the album would have been much better.