By William E. Ketchum III Considering how charismatic and quirky Sadat X comes across in his music, he seems rather nonchalant today. In his phone conversation with HipHopCrack, the nasal-voiced member of the legendary Brand Nubian trio sounds notably different. Not solemn, and not melancholy—but just like he’s ready to take care of business. And these days, the man born Derek Murphy doesn’t have much of a choice. As accomplished a career he’s had—he made history with Brand Nubian, and has also enjoyed a viable solo career, with his own albums and cameos with everyone from Common to Prince Paul—the past two years have been strife with adversity for Sadat. His father died shortly after his critically-acclaimed 2005 LP Experience & Education was released, he was arrested on a gun charge last December, and around the release of his new disc, Black October, he began serving a one-year bid in jail. But as he tells HipHopCrack, Sadat isn’t asking for your sympathy; he’s holding his own just fine. HipHopCrack: You seem to place a lot of your livelihood on children: you worked as an elementary school teacher, and you coached teen basketball. Where does that passion and chemistry with children come from? Sadat X: Just from being out in the neighborhood, being outside, seeing the kids and meeting the kids. Just by interacting with them… it’s nothing I’m doing consciously, I don’t know. HipHopCrack: I asked that because you do a lot of work with children, but your music is notably mature. Sadat X: That’s a separate part of my life; my music is separate from my work with kids, I don’t combine the two. I coach basketball, and that’s a high school level, so that’s that age level. I don’t go out to go meet kids or anything like that. I’m not the sit down all over the place type of person, so I’m outside a lot of times, and so you know, who’s outside? Kids. HipHopCrack: The song “Million Dollar Deal” was a surprise for me; a lot of rap veterans I’ve spoken to really downplay the whole idea of a major label deal. What inspired that? Sadat X: Well the album is just like a movie; when you make movies, you add things that you think would be interesting. I would like a million dollar deal, but if I don’t get one, it’s not like it’s gonna be nothin’ to me. It was just a concept for a song; I didn’t go into it on some real rocket science. That’s what the chorus was saying, so I tried to play around the chorus. HipHopCrack: How far into making the album were you when you found out about your prison bid? Sadat X: I did it all after that, I hadn’t made any of the album up to that point. HipHopCrack: So did you record the album with a sense of urgency? Not only to finish it, but with a passion unseen on your last albums? Sadat X: Not really. I just wanted to finish it so it could be out there, so maybe I could get a couple of dollars. It wasn’t really nothing to that; I just wanted to get it out there and get it done, so I could do some shows. HipHopCrack: Even more than others, you seem to have a real passion for New York. How have you felt about the emergence of other coasts in rap? Sadat X: I like all the west coast and southern rappers. I’m from in New York. … For my passion for New York, I’m in New York, I’m in the streets every day in New York, I grew up in New York, so that’s what I rhyme about. I’m here. I’m in the hood, I’m not far removed. I don’t live in New Jersey or somewhere upstate; I’m in the city. HipHopCrack: Brand Nubian has been pretty active lately. Lord Jamar has a new album, you have a new album, Grand Puba was on Beanie Sigel’s last album. Are there any plans for a new Grand Puba album? Sadat X: We still do shows, we never stopped doing shows. It’s just that people don’t know about it, and there aren’t no shows really in New York. But we always did shows, across the continental United States. We are going to do stuff together at some point, but we never stopped shows. We would like to do an album, so if the time is right and we can all sit down together and do it, it’ll be done. HipHopCrack: You guys were one of the first groups to bring the five percent ideology into hip-hop. Do you think that the five percent ideology still has a place in today’s hip-hop? Sadat X: That’s how we lived. We’re in the five percent nation of gods and earths, and if we sprinkle it throughout the music we sprinkle it. We don’t go out conscious with, “We’ve got to put this ideology out for people in the mass.” If it comes out in the music, it comes out. HipHopCrack: I’ve got a couple of questions about your bid. Have you ever been to prison before? Sadat X: Well I’ve been to jail before. I’ve never been this long, but yeah, I’ve been in jail before. HipHopCrack: How have you been preparing for it, mentally and physically? Sadat X: You’ve just gotta be…there ain’t really no way you can prepare for it. When you get there, you’ve just have to take it step by step. It’s nothing you (can do) to prepare for jail. You’ve just got to get there and get through it. There’s no outside steps, there’s not a jail preparation. Just make sure your bills are paid, your housing situation, and just go in and do it, get it done with. HipHopCrack: Do you think you were unfairly profiled or persecuted? Sadat X: I was caught with a gun; I didn’t wave it out in the street like they said I did, but it is what it is. You get caught with a gun, that’s a year’s time in New York. Somebody called and said I had it, and I had it. It could be somebody else in the street; if you pick that person, and they call the police…I know regular suit-wearing dudes who got caught with a gun, and had to go do a year. HipHopCrack: It seems like you’ve really had a difficult past couple years—your father died soon after your last album came out, and now you’re going to jail. How do you keep your head up when things are just one after another like that? Sadat X: You’ve just got to keep going, man. There are people in a lot worse situations than myself.There’s people that ain’t got no roof over their head, and who ain’t got no family. Plus, when I go to jail, I know a thousand people in Rikers Island already, from inmates to the guards. I’ll keep my head up; I just want to hurry and get it over with. HipHopCrack: Your verse on Lord Jamar’s album, on the song “Study Ya Lessons,” is real emotional and really seems to sum up everything you’ve been through in this last year. Where do you rank that among the other verses you’ve had in your career? Sadat X: It was a cool verse. I think it was just one of what I think is many cool verses that I’ve had. I don’t think it’s my best verse of all time; it’s just a good verse on a good song. Sadat X
Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
By Kevin L. Clark For twenty-year old, Megan Rochell, music has always been her calling. At age seven, the blossoming songbird first soloed as part of the choir at the Christ Fellowship Baptist Church. The Brooklyn native has been doing God’s work since that fateful day, having competed at the legendary Apollo Theater, winning five times in a row. Megan Rochell continued to reach for the brass ring by moving from Brooklyn to Philadelphia, where she was blessed with a series of chance encounters. Divine direction led her into the company of Nathan Morris (yes, that Nathan Morris from Boyz II Men) and signing to his Adlib Entertainment management company. It was only just a matter of time before she met R&B Kingpin, L.A. Reid in his Def Jam office. The end result – “You, Me, & the Radio” — a soulful collection of songs with production from Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, the Cornerboys, Stargate, and a featured appearance by new Def Jam signee — Fabolous. Ms. Megan Rochell sits down with HipHopCrack.com as she lets the fans know intimately about her sense of humor, why she would win in a competition at the Apollo, and how MySpace allows her to stay in touch with her adoring and growing list of fans and friends, alike. HHC: For being a relatively new artist, what has been the most trying experience? MR: One of the most trying things is waking up super early and having to do so many things and not having enough time in the day to finish them. It’s so hectic. But, if you want people to know that you’re serious about your craft then you have to do it. I go through that everyday. It’s tiring. HHC: “The One U Need” is picking up some steam, being added to thirty-eight radio stations – what made you want to go with this song as the first single instead of something like, “Betcha”…? MR: Oh… you heard “Betcha”!!! Well, we picked it because it’s a real aggressive and competitive record. I know that there are a lot of girls out there who are playing the rebound chick. “The One U Need” lets them say that they can be the one that that man needs. That’s what I represent. I want all the young girls or whoever else is going through that to understand where I’m coming from and identify with me. HHC: If there was something that not too many people knew about your personality – what would it be and do you think that it is helpful or hurtful to your career? MR: The one thing that not too many people know is that I am funny, I can be a character. I think that that can be very beneficial to my career. I am the type to just bust out a joke in the middle of a conversation. I can talk to anyone, whether they’re a stranger or someone I’ve known forever. Besides… everyone likes to laugh. I think that that’s the strongest quality that I have. HHC: You’re twenty, aren’t you? Are you single? MR: Yeah, I am single. [laughs] HHC: On your Myspace page, it says that you sound like Christina Milian, Ashanti, Teairra Mari, Cheri Dennis and others. What sets you apart from those other young R&B starlets? MR: What sets me apart from all those girls is my personality and my music. It’s the way that I am around people who I don’t even know. I have a good heart. People respect people who give off a good aura. My music is definitely a separation because I think that all of the music that’s out there is not the entire definition of what music is. It’s like, when you hear a first single you get into it, then there nothing to keep you going for the rest of the album. With “You, Me & The Radio”, I am hoping to pull in and captivate the listener. HHC: So, if you all were to compete at the Apollo – who would win? MR:Me! Hands down. Because I’m more of an entertainer, I’m not just a singer. I like the crowd to feel what I feel. I would definitely take the title home of being the winner. HHC: Do you regularly log onto MySpace? If so, why? MR: I try to log on as much as possible, but I do go on and let people know that I see you. I know that people, the fans, want to be a part of the movement and I appreciate that greatly. HHC: So, if I add you to my friend list, we can get better acquainted? [laughs] MR: Oh, yeah! Definitely… for sure! [laughs] HHC: You’re a part of Nathan Morris’ (of Boyz II Men fame) management company, “Adlib Entertainment, correct? How did that first meeting with L.A. Reid go in the Def Jam office? MR:I was nervous. Nervous! I was scared, anxious, all of those things. When I finally got to meet him, I closed my eyes and got into my zone. Once I got into my zone, I just sang what was in my heart. After he heard me sing, he said that I was what he was looking for. It kind of surprised him. But he loved what he heard. After that, he wanted me to be a part of Def Jam, which is where I’m at now. HHC: It appears to be hard to keep a long-lasting R&B career as fans attention spans cater to whatever it relatively “new.” What do you think will be the key to your success and longevity? MR: Oh, yeah, I hear you on that. The key is to keep making hot albums. Not just singles… albums. Because you want people to notice your growth. The growth can only get better as an artist can, especially while being a young one. I feel that all the other ventures that I want to get into, such as acting, having my own management company, and starting my own label – music is the key for it. In my own way, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here for awhile. HHC: You were on tour with Chris Brown – how did that go for you? What is one thing that you’ve learned by being on tour with Mr. Personality? MR: That was hot. I loved it. It was hard work, but it was fun, too. I got to meet Chris Brown and saw how bubbly he is in person. It was wonderful to do the shows and perform. His music is crazy. It was an honor to be in front of a sold out crowd every night. Out of the whole tour, I would say that I learned how to react to my audience under a heated situation. I’ve had situations where one of my dancer’s shoes fell off on stage and my music even got messed up. I just learned that you got to be a fighter. No matter what comes your way, you’ll be able to get through it and stay calm. HHC: What is one drastic thing, if any, that has changed since getting into the music business? MR: Honestly, I can’t say anything right now that has changed drastically. HHC: Last question, when is the album supposed to drop? The album dropped on August 22nd. There’s only one feature which is Fabolous. I have production from Rodney Jerkins, the Cornerboys, the Underdogs and Stargate. Ne-Yo wrote a joint for the album that is really, really good. I hope that once it comes out everyone enjoys it and supports the Megan Rochell movement. For more information, you can hit Megan up here
By Quibian Salazar-Moreno It’s been a tumultuous three years since Bubba Sparxxx released his last album, Deliverance. Although critically acclaimed, the Georgia rapper’s sophomore effort didn’t do so well at the record store. To add insult to injury, he was left without a label home when Beat Club Records, the imprint he was signed to, severed ties with its distributor Interscope Records and then dissolved. Sparxxx saving grace was hooking up with Outkast’s Big Boi while he was launching his new label, Purple Ribbon. Now with his third album, he’s looking for The Charm. Your third album, The Charm, is of course named after the saying ‘third time is the charm.’ What’s the charm you’re hoping for? I just want to go platinum, man. I want to go platinum domectically. That’s really my goal at this point. I’ve had critical acclaim and there’s nothing else for me to do except move up. I just really want to sell a tremendous huge amount of records and I felt like I took the steps that would ensure that it would happen on this record. It’s a good album anyway, it accomplishes the roller coaster of emotions in life; you know the ups and downs the rights and lefts and all around. So I tried to put a little something for everybody on there. You used to be with Timbaland and Beat Club Records now you’re with Big Boi and Purple Ribbon Records. Why the transition? It was more of a situation between Interscope Records, who distributed Beat Club, and Beat Club Records. There was some tension that arose between those two parties. Timbaland had a different vision for Beat Club, he had a real progressive-minded vision, he wanted to sign rock bands and thing of that nature but they wanted him more or less to stick with the traditional stuff that he was known for which is hip-hop and R&B. So with that said they were just butting heads constantly and I was just kind of caught in the middle of it and at the end of the day, it was just best for everybody to go their separate ways. So I stepped and thankfully I got a partner named Big Boi whose been in my corner for five or six years and I’ve been a member of Dungeon Family that whole time. It just so happened that he had a situation on the horizon with Purple Ribbon. SO when my situation ended, we just linked up and the stars and moons and everything just lined up perfectly. Your first two albums were mostly produced by Timbaland, but this record only has one track by Tim and is mostly produced by Organized Noize (Outkast, Goodie Mob). Why the change? Organized Noize worked on both my previous albums, and being from Georgia I grew up on those guys and the whole Dungeon Family, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Withcdoctor, Cool Breeze, Backbone and they kind of molded my perception of what good hip-hop is. So they have always kind of been my foundation. But really, me and Timbaland aren’t in business anymore, but it was still important for me to work with him to show people that we’re still brotherly. At the same time though, he’s always doing different things and I’m going in a different direction myself, but I would like to say that Timbaland will work on every album that I’ll do. You have a hit song with your first single, “Ms. New Booty,” which surprised your fans because it’s a song that they wouldn’t expect from you. It surprised a lot of people, that’s why it worked! It’s been two and half years since I put out anything so I had to do something shocking. But it really is a side of me, I’m a strip club type of guy and if I missed anything with my last album, there wasn’t anything on there for the clubs. So with that said, I wanted to come out of the gate with that energy for the club. How was it working with the Ying Yang Twins? I’ve been wanting work with them for awhile. I was relly chasing their producer Mr. Collipark, he has a good understanding of what works in the clubs as any producer in the game. He’s been a real blessing to my project and actually produced my first two singles, “Ms. New Booty” and “Heat It Up”. So were you worried about any backlash the song or video may have caused in regards to objectifying women? There already has been backlash and there’s quite a bit of controversy surrounding the record. You know, say whatever you want to say, bring as much attention to the whole situation as you possibly can, but to be honest, if you’re worried about this record or any aspect of it, whether it be the video, the website, whatever, you just have entirely too much time on your hands.
Killer Mike with Adam Matthews These days, a gold record doesn’t guarantee a release date. Despite a plaque for 2003’s Monster, Michael “Killer Mike” Render was no longer Sony Records’ priority. So he left. He also – temporarily, at least — severed official ties with Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon imprint. He’s shifted his focus to Grind Time Rap Gang, a collective featuring S.L. Jones, Da Bill Collector, Big Slim, Nickle Plated Nario, Young Pill and producers Smiff and Cash, Chaotic Beats, B-Don and the Drum Majors. As self-proclaimed MCEO, he’s favoring a hands-on approach to running his new label, Grind Time Official. Fresh home from picking up 2500 CD’s in Houston, he discussed brand building, Southern hip-hop dominance and why he’s rolling with the underdogs. You just drove 24 hours roundtrip to Houston to pick up CDs. Why? First time I ever brought a brick of dope, I tested it myself. That ride to Texas was symbolic for me. I wanted to shake every hand in the record stores. I wanted to pick them up myself because I did this. I planned the cover and Grind Time and me hashed out the music. This was a total team effort, so it was symbolic for us to go down there and pick up the product. Now I’ll never do that shit again. I’m shipping from now on. When does this album comes out? I Pledge Allegiance featuring Grind Time Official is 22 cuts long. I’m a drop it officially on October 31st. I’ve been dropping it off at some tastemaker spots early, but it’s officially dropping in your Best Buy and all those places on October 31st. Right now, its self-distributed and we have some one stops that are picking it up. They’ve been taking orders of five to ten thousand. So what really happened with Purple Ribbon? I didn’t leave in the sense of fuck them, I am just on a sabbatical. I still talk to Big Boi a few times a week and go through the office, but until they figure out what they’re doing as an organization, I can’t properly represent them. In the meantime, I am building the Killer Mike and Grind Time Official brand. Paperwork-wise, I am on whomever shows me that big bag of money. What ties me to Purple Ribbon is my loyalty to Big Boi – Antwan Patton. If he secures a better deal, then we’re back in business. If I find a better deal, I am going to make him a part of that situation, because he saved my life. My loyalty goes beyond any contract. Is it weird to have a gold record and not have a second major label record in stores? I’m a fan of consistency. In order to have longevity, you [have to fly] below the radar for a while. EPMD and Mobb Deep, who went gold every time, were my fucking heroes. Their music was always dope. Eight Ball and MJG, UGK, had 15-year careers. Kriss Kross was dope, but they’re not EPMD. They sold five, six, seven million records as kids; Erick And Parrish changed hip-hop. But it’s hard to be a rapper without a gimmick. It’s not a rappers’ fault. There are no fledgling rap labels with the specific intent of putting out [innovative] artists anymore. One of Def Jam’s earliest slogans was “Our artists rap because they can’t sing.” I knew every Def Jam record I bought had a certain amount of authenticity. Right now, small labels aren’t reaching out to do anything. But labels have to answer to big corporations now. Does that make it more difficult for you today? I am six foot three, three hundred-some-odd pound black man. The name Killer Mike has shut me off from endorsements, which could have put me in front of a different audience and expanded my fame. But The Killers, three or four skinny white guys, get endorsements out the ass. So that’s subtle racism, but I’m not tripping off it. I don’t run the corporations that make these decisions. It’s my job to get directly with the fans. I’m used to rap being treated unfairly. So therefore, I’ve got to overcome those obstacles. I stopped trying to chase the impossible: corporate acceptance. I don’t care if I get a deal from a major sneaker company. I’m supporting A-Town sneakers and other fledgling companies. So when you see me, I’m wearing the Hundreds, Crooks and Castles or 10 Deep. I’m not chasing Heinz, Nike, Reebok, Pepsi and Coke and asking them if I can change myself to fit them. Why is independent hip-hop so strong down South? We were closed off from traditional hip-hop venues for so long. Even if you don’t get money off CD sales, you can get money off shows and put out your own record and ride to the next town. If you’re in the South, you can eat. It’s a little harder up North just because they haven’t worked hard enough on building their independent market. I haven’t had a record out in three years, but thanks to South Carolina, Tennessee, North Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, I haven’t filed for bankruptcy. A lot of small down South labels are signing deals with Asylum. Is that a possibility for Grind Time Official? I just want to do it in a way that makes sense monetarily. Asylum is offering $25, 000 or at most $50, 000, on the front. They’ll support you. They’ll do great at taking a radio single that’s regional and blowing it up and [giving you] a video after a certain amount sold. That’s not a bad situation, but I’d rather work my ass off and walk into a joint venture with more on the front to better situate my artists and producers. I’m looking for a situation that’s inclusive of my company. I want somebody who wants to help me build the next thing. Right now, I’m a player on the farm league team with potential and people are scouting me. But I’m not going to run and ask people to sign me again. If I do what I’m supposed to do, then my phone will ring. How many albums would you need to sell to feel successful? Success for me would be between 250, 000 and 500, 000 albums independently. I’m not uncomfortable being on the underground. I done slept in the palace, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t my palace. I’m back out here getting money. Me and my crew, see us in a year.
iHipHop Blog Team