Sadat X

Black October

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Although Brand Nubian are now considered one of the wellsprings of what is sometimes derisively referred to as "backpack" rap (for the bookbags favored by fans of this literate, low-key style) and Sadat X has maintained a career as an elementary school teacher and coach throughout his long and somewhat sporadic career, bad things happen all the time. Caught by the police in possession of a loaded handgun at a time and place where he should not have been carrying, Sadat X recorded Black October with the weight of a potential year in prison hanging over him. And yet this is not one of those gangsta records who fronts about the roughneck glories of incarceration: in those passages (even outside of the direct and to-the-point title track) where Sadat X appears to be addressing his legal trouble, thoughtful regret and anxiety color his rhymes. Far from bragging, this album tends to be genuinely remorseful, even on tracks not directly related to the matter at hand: for example, "If You" continues the baleful tone, a matter of fact portrayal of a neighborhood gang scuffle without a hint of glamour or bad-boy cool. Even the handful of lighter tracks, like the Brand Nubian reunion "Chosen Few" and the basketball-as-life metaphor "Throw Tha Ball," are tinged with sadness and stiff upper lip resolve. A mature and deeply personal record, Black October is the truth behind the gangsta fa├žade.

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