Take a moment to reflect on 90s rap, the likes of Eminem, OutKast, Nas, Tupac. Then remember second millennium rap, the 2000s, at the end of the aforementioned artists’ (respectable) careers and into the likes of Lil Wayne, Drake and Wale, who are good, but spend too much time claiming they’re great to make innovative music.
There was a chasm in rap and for a while, rap became boring. Then slowly, beginning late in 2009, rap began twisting and stretching with the likes of Danny Brown, Das Racist and Shabazz Palaces, and in 2011 it exploded as all three dropped innovative LPs that spawned a creative surge and a wealth of R-rated rap gifts.
Homeboy Sandman, actual name Angel Del Villar, is one of these gifts. He boasts a unique backstory: An Ivy League undergraduate who got his degree in English at the University of Pennsylvania, he’s now 38, and a retired public school teacher from Queens, New York.
His strange story breeds skeptics, but he answers his doubters with, “Yeah, But I Can Rhyme Though,” a track from his first commercial release in 2010.
“Subject:Matter” is his subsequent EP and it’s an underlining of his 2010 assertion, a flashback to the nineties: daring, innovative and shrewd. At its brightest moments this is so called indie-rap at its finest, cementing 2011 as only the beginning of a hip-hop renaissance.
Homeboy Sandman flashes viscous skill without being flashy or succumbing to vanity. He turns his focus on “Subject:Matter” to subjects as immediate as “Canned Goods,” where Sandman showcases his storytelling, “We’d already been cleaning out our closet/ and straight to the Salvation Army for deposit./ My Mommy/ had figured out that everyone passed the mail room while they was walking through the lobby/ so that was prolly/ the best location for some boxes set up to collect donations.”
With lyrics such as these Sandman dips and bobs through Ivy League English-major vocabulary on par with Andre 3000.
He grounds himself in realities, explaining on “Mine All Mine,” “My insurance is Web M.D./ My cup runneth over my tank runneth on empty.”
Grounding himself in common troubles, a lack of insurance and gasoline, while simultaneously experimenting with metaphors, results in unexpected possibilities.
Occasionally, the frugal beats require faith, taking a while to mesh with what Sandman attempts, but the rewards for believing are immense.
On “The Melody,” the opening track, he’s showing off, rapping, “As A.M. turns to P.M./ the zone I be in/ is muy bien,” kicking off the 22 minute EP as the track concludes with a sly, “Enjoy.”
Homeboy Sandman even plastered the cover with a message that explains his name, titles each track, and outlines his philosophy. With the content to back it up, “Subject:Matter’s” cover reminds, “The subjects actually matter.” It’s Homeboy Sandman’s shout to the rap universe.
Image courtesy of stonesthrow.com