As a member of the Five Percent Nation, Sadat X’s lyrics have always been respected for their potency. Even when they’ve picked up their fair share of controversy other the years, X has remained one of hip-hop’s crowned kings of wordplay. Potency tends to dilute with time, but the Brand Nubian member’s strict love for the craft has ensured he can still approach tracks like “Eyes Straight”―which comes produced by one of the genre’s most promising talents, Mr. Gensu Dean of MMG (as in Mello Music Group) pedigree―like he did when laying down wax on One for All.

That said, Love, Hell, or Right, Sadat’s ninth studio album is no “cream of the Planet Earth," as he proclaims on the title track. It’s surprisingly refreshing to be the work of someone operating for over 24 years in the industry, sports a cast that would be making headlines if attached to A$AP Rocky, and is seamless at points, but fails at major junctures to keep listeners’ attention. If seven of the strongest tracks were pieced together to form an EP, with the Lootpack-UGK hybrid “How I Used To Be” leading the way, Sadat would be fighting off blogger fanboys with a stick the size of his legacy. Instead, he casually breaches the top-50 hip-hop album territory for 2013. Whether he remains there or not will be determined by what follows.

Again, it should be repeated (like plenty of Love, Hell, or Right’s best tracks) that this is a quality release, especially when judged by the context of X’s career. It’s hard to say if some of hip-hop’s biggest acts right now will even appear on a Google search twenty years from now, let alone drop a solid release. But Sadat X has done just that, all after already cementing his place as rap royalty, and while working full-time as a special education teacher.

Quantity has been praised over quality for a long time in hip-hop, and that ultimately is what keeps Love, Hell, or Right from gaining a higher score. But something remains to be said about an MC who can recruit the likes of Roc Marciano, Masta Ace, N.O.R.E., Showbiz & A.G., Marco Polo, and more, at an age other rappers would be filling their second bankruptcy. —Bogar Alonso (@blacktiles)