Homeboy Sandman puts in work! Since signing with West Coast indie stalwart Stones Throw in 2011 he has already released a full-length album, ‘First Of A Living Breed’ (2012), and five EPs. His music was originally introduced to label-founder Peanut Butter Wolf by Jonwayne, who was a fan. “He’s never paying for another meal again when I’m with him!” Sandman tells us graciously.
Homeboy, aka Angel Del Villar II, has recently released a trilogy of EPs, each with a single producer. He kicked things off in 2013 with the El Rntc-produced ‘Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent’ and followed that with the M Slago-assisted ‘All That I Hold Dear’. The New Yorker then bridged the Atlantic divide, joining forces with the UK’s very own Paul White for the latest instalment, entitled ‘White Sands’.
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‘Bad Meaning Good’, from ‘White Sands’
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On ‘White Sands’ we hear a more macabre take than we’re used to from Sandman, who's articulation of matters regarding life and death is inspired by White’s eerie production. “Every single beat I hear, I’m looking for it to connect to something that’s already inside me,” he explains. “There’s a lot of cemetery, death-themed stuff, spirituality themed, yin-and-yang-themed stuff in ‘White Sands’ that sets it apart from all of my other projects. But I feel that’s because [Paul] was able to tap into that part of what was going on in my mind and in my soul.”
Not wanting to stick to a particular production style, Sandman’s only requirement is that his music is pleasing to the ear. Having worked previously with the sample-chopping style of El Rtnc and the knocking boom-bap of M Slago, the production on ‘White Sands’ is arguably the most leftfield that he has taken on.
“I feel like Paul’s a visionary type producer, his stuff don’t really sound like anybody else's stuff,” he says. “There are certain people who have a unique sound and are innovators, and I feel like what Paul’s doing in terms of production is really primarily new stuff. He’s bringing stuff out in me that I never did.”
Despite having initially intended to deliver just three EP projects, Sandman doesn't see the process ending there. “I’m definitely gonna do more. There’s definitely a project called ‘Senile Chef’ produced entirely by 2 Hungry Bros that’s going to be released, and EPs with J57 and DJ Spinna that I’d like to be released. So this is going to be an on-going thing. Come to think of it, I’ll probably have an EP produced by Jonwayne as well.”
Working on these projects has informed the way he plans to assemble his forthcoming full-length, entitled ‘Hallways’, scheduled for a summer 2014 release. “I’m working with a bunch of different producers on it, and I’m looking to achieve the same level of cohesion and sonic continuum that I find with a single producer. So I really think that doing all of those projects is making me better from an executive producer standpoint.
“I’ve been keeping that in mind when I’ve been selecting songs and when I’ve been deciding on the running order. And even when I’m writing new songs, to perhaps supplement some of the stuff that’s already there.”
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‘Men Are Mortal’, from ‘Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent’
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Lyrically, Homeboy’s subject matter comes off as the words of a street journalist, which makes sense given his stint writing for the Huffington Post – which ended when his writing was deemed too controversial. While he is quick to tell us that his aim isn’t to drop knowledge on people, he considers that it isn’t really to entertain either. Rather, it’s to present his observations and experience, and he gets a thrill out of recording a fat hip-hop record.
Sometimes his stories can be fabricated, collaged together from similar ones to tell a believable tale, such as ‘White Sands’ standout ‘Echoes’, based on a woman he used to notice around the Lower East Side of Manhattan who seemed to disappear.
“That’s not her true story, I never spoke to her. I assume a lot. I take things that I’ve heard, or other stories from other people that I’ve heard living in the street. And I created her story. That particular woman was interesting because you saw her and she was very run down. But she could’ve been an attractive woman in another realm or dimension. So I took note of her and I realised when I didn't see her anymore. And there’s a lot of tales like that, that I know to be true.”
On the other hand, he likes the majority of his content to draw directly from his own experience, referring to the lyric from O.C.’s classic ‘Time’s Up’: “‘My album will manifest many things that I saw, did, or heard about / But all first hand, never word of mouth.’ I try to keep it like that. I like to try and keep it first hand, you know.”
Homeboy absorbs the environment around him, sticking to the traditional style of rap writing by carrying his rhyme book, two pens (in case one runs out) and his beats on an MP3 player around with him at all times. Writing rhymes is a daily affair, and this is reflected throughout our conversation in references such as, “I was working on the second verse of a joint earlier today and I’ma get back to that when I go downtown later. I write everyday.”
A traditionalist, but not confined to any boundaries, Homeboy Sandman is as experimental and exciting as any of your big-budget, Auto-Tuned, pyrotechnic, orchestral mainstream artists (no shots). But, considering himself a minimalist, he likes to push boundaries working within the confines of his own voice and a beat.
“I don’t sing particularly like Luther Vandross or nothing like that, but if I can hold a tune I’d rather hold it myself than have somebody else sing it for me, because this is my record and it’s me that created it. I think me trying to do everything myself is where a lot of my boundary pushing comes from. I gotta use my flows to make these beats keep from getting boring. So I gotta be creative. I gotta be innovative.”
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‘Couple Bars’, from ‘First Of A Living Breed’
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Words: Grant Brydon (Twitter)
Homeboy Sandman’s seven-track collaboration with Paul White, ‘White Sands’, is out now on Stones Throw. Get more information here.
Homeboy is on tour in the UK and Europe right now. Remaining dates below…
4th – Bodega Social, Nottingham
5th – Start The Bus, Bristol
6th – Sugar Club, Dublin
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