Sadat X

Wild Cowboys II

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When Sadat X went inside Rikers Island for illegal gun possession in October of 2006, he left behind his third full-length album in a then decade-long solo career, the poignant and contemplative Black October. Upon his release, the Brand Nubian alum observed that "Rikers Island is not conducive to creativity" and took to his most productive phase, dropping three quality albums in three years on three different labels. The third, Wild Cowboys II, presumably aims to revisit the formula used on Sadat's 1996 debut, but this sequel is far from nostalgic in tone or approach. While part of the original's production staff (Pete Rock, Diamond D, Buckwild, and Minnesota) is back and all of them handle their duties well, the strongest force behind the boards here is Will Tell, the Brooklyn underground beatmaker who produced Sadat's entire 2008 LP Generation X and provides four of this record's quirkiest and most rewarding tracks. Tell's first triumph is the bombastic album opener, "Return of the Bang Bang," as he crafts a boom-bap backdrop which allows Sadat's all-over-the-place flows to interact with everyone from MLK, Jr. and JFK to Tommy Chong and Nancy Sinatra through a bevy of audio samples. Elsewhere, Tell puts together an infectious ragga-infused bounce beat for "Nuclear Bomb," and works a certified head nodder out of a snake charmer's pungi sample on "Swerv." Still, all things considered, Wild Cowboys II's links to the first record are pretty weak aside from a handful of the same producers and the return of X's old partner, Shawn Black. The cowboy theme borders on non-existent with little to none of the original's old west imagery; no joints dedicated to gambling, drinking, outlaw living, or wanted posters here. The only spaghetti western flavor comes on "We Kewl," with Tell scattering in touches of the same The Good, the Bad and the Ugly sample which served Sadat so well on "Hang 'Em High." Unlike his previous air-tight Ground Original effort, Brand New Bein', this record has a handful of throwaway tracks-- see the sexually aggressive "Knock Me Down," the token weed anthem "Roll That" with Rhymefest, and the surprisingly lifeless Ill Bill collabo "X and Bill." Nonetheless, the 16 songs on Wild Cowboys II do a lot more to entertain than disappoint, making Wild Cowboys II another strong outing from one of East Coast hip-hop's most distinctive pioneers.