Groovin' to a Gentler Beat Eric Sadler, Who Produced Some of Rap Music's Most Influential and Controversial Albums, Is Happily Living the Quiet, Family Life in Atlantic Beach
Green, Tony, The Florida Times Union
To quote a famous song by rap group Public Enemy: "Don't
believe the hype." Even when it comes to the group itself.
PE's front-man, "prophet of rage" Chuck D., was actually a
relatively low-key, well-read Long Island, N.Y., college student
named Carlton Ridenhour, says Jacksonville resident Eric Sadler,
one of the founding members of the group. Scowling disc jockey
Terminator X was actually a quiet guy called Norman, who slept
with the bed sheets pulled up to his chin and is currently
raising ostriches in North Carolina.
Real life, said Sadler, can be diametrically opposed to the
images you get on television and radio. In more than 15 years as
a music producer (with Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Bell, Biv, Devoe
and others) Sadler has seen it all -- from the power struggles
behind best-selling albums to, "ghettos" that turn out to be
suburbs, and hardcore rappers who can't hold a beer. Real life,
he said, is a lot more fleshedout than pop culture.
"I don't like to do interviews about hip-hop because people act
like it is just one thing," he said. "Actually the music
encompasses everything; you can hear some hip-hop that has
country-Western in it, that has some classical in it, some rock
and roll in it. It's an attitude, a way of looking at things."
For example, who would have thought that one of the driving
forces behind one of the most influential -- not to mention
controversial -- pop groups of the past 20 years would be living
a relatively sedate existence in Atlantic Beach, surrounded by a
maze of palm trees and Spanish moss-drenched oaks? That he would
be living the domestic life -- his wife, Karen, heads up a video
production company out of New York, KD Sadler, Inc., and has
produced or worked with artists like the Pharcyde, Method Man,
L.L. Cool J., Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige. The couple has
two children, 7-year-old Karis, and 4-year-old Dylan.
To music fans, Sadler, now 38, is one-third of the famous Bomb
Squad, the production team responsible for some of the most
visionary music of the post-classic pop era. But while he is of
the music business, he isn't in it, per se. He was only
partially involved in the rejuvenated PE, which provided the
soundtrack to the Spike Lee movie He Got Game and headlined this
summer's Smokin Grooves tour. He is really the cool neighbor,
the good friend, the dad.
"I didn't want my kids growing up in a giant mansion or
anything like that," he said. "I want them growing up with
neighbors and kids knocking on the door wanting to know if you
can come out to play. I came down here, drove around Atlantic
Beach, saw the neighborhood, saw those trees, and that was it."
Sadler grew up on Long Island and went to Five Towns College.
He hooked up with the principal members of Public Enemy --
rapper Chuck D., Hank and Keith Shocklee, and mega-trickster
Flava Flav -- through hanging out at parties at neighboring
Adelphi and C. …