Homeboy Sandman is a rapper from New York City who is signed to the holy grail of all hip hop labels– Stones Throw, home to Madlib, Dilla, Doom, and a veritable treasure chest of other hip hop luminaries. Sandman’s latest release, First of a Living Breed, is his most refined release to date, and should hopefully give this earnest hip hop revivalist the recognition he deserves.
The keyword with Homeboy Sandman, and what sets him apart from other rappers, is grassroots. Through interviews, live shows, and ciphers, he has displayed an earnestness and clarity of purpose that is a breath of fresh air in a hip hop culture where the hype outweighs the substance a million to one. This grassroots ethic is embodied in his latest video, where Homeboy Sandman walks down a New York City Street in a single take, getting dap from fans and admirers, throwing down in an impromptu cipher, and signing records– all while rapping the lyrics to his ode to things staying the same. “People ask me if my life changed. Here’s what I might say: Not really.” These days, hip hop is high on excess, escapism and fantasy. Homebody Sandman brings it back to the source, by rapping straight from the heart about his experiences with a distinct lack of excess and frills. This music isn’t underground or mainstream– it’s just hip hop, plain and simple. This, for me, is what makes Homeboy Sandman an important hip hop artist.
Here’s an excerpt from an article Homeboy Sandman wrote for Huffington Post:
“I’ve had the honor of becoming friends with Crazy Legs of Rocksteady Crew, the legendary breakdancing crew that was featured so prominently in early hip hop movies like Style Wars and Wild Style. A conversation that I had with him about hip hop’s birth (which he was there for in person in the 70s in the South Bronx) helped me formulate my theory about why hip hop has become the most popular musical genre among youth in the entire world, to where Rio de Janiero is denser with graffiti than Queens, and kids in the Czech Republic wear baseball caps and call each other n******. It’s because somehow all those broke South Bronx kids captured the essence of cool. The spirit of it. Couldn’t be cool because of money, everyone was broke. Couldn’t be cool because of where you lived, everyone was in the slums. Couldn’t feel good about yourself because of your school because schools were a nightmare, or even because of your family as families in the South Bronx in the 1970 were plagued with every societal ill that society has to offer. But if you were an athlete, you could be a bboy. If you had some charisma, you could be an emcee. If you were artistic, you could be a graffiti writer. This was the inception of hip hop. Being cool without anything. Without being any certain type of person. Being cool only because of your talent.”