UPDATED MARCH 2022
Homeboy Sandman raps clean and smart. He has an old(ish) school flow, an amazing vocabulary, and has made it his mission to talk frankly about diet and nutrition, the meaning of God (“God got reasons for shit that’s gut-wrenching”), and how to make the world a better place by treating each other better. His first album was called “Nourishment.”
You know, light and superficial stuff like that.
Just about every time I hear a HS song, it makes me think. He’s deep.
Let’s look at all his albums, so you know where to get started if you’re interested in hearing more from this fascinating and brilliant poet…
There Is No Spoon (2008). His true debut, a mixtape. It’s rough and formative, and versions of almost all of these songs appeared on later official albums.
All That I Hold Dear (2013). An EP and one of the flimsiest of his releases. But when you put out so many songs in such a short period, you’re bound to make a misstep here or there.
Chimera (2012 EP). Just a few songs to hold people over until First of a Living Breed dropped. He released a second EP, “Subject: Matter,” soon after this one.
Homeboy Sandman Is the Sandman (2014). HS teams up with Blu again on this EP. There’s a song called, “Conjugal Visit To The Prison Of The Mind.” Is there anything else you need to know? No.
Nourishment (Second Helpings) (2007). Sandman’s debut album was indie and made him an underground, unsigned sensation. He offered songs about love, vitamins, and drinking buttermilk. It’s uneven–unlike many rappers, Sandman didn’t come out of the box polished with his best stuff. He’s grown as an artist, and has gotten much, much better with age.
Lice 1, 2, and 3 (2015, 2016, 2017). These were three EP collaborations with Aesop Rock. At the risk of losing my indie cred, I’m going to publicly say that Aesop doesn’t work for me. I appreciate his skills, but something about his delivery just grates on me. Still, HS’s stuff on these three releases is pretty good.
Subject: Matter (2012 ). The second of two 2012 EPs designed to promote his 2012 album. Standout tracks included “Canned Goods” and “Mine all Mine.”
Dusty (2019). Funky and fun, but not as consequential as his other stuff. He has a whole song about “Pussy” and how much he loves it. It’s funny but, again, kind of light and silly.
Orphans (2013). A DJ Jay mixtape that, as of this writing, is still available for free at Bandcamp. Check it out!
Veins (2017). A fine album, but not as fine as I expected given that this is Homeboy Sandman’s seventh full-length and since 2014 he’s been making some of the best indie rap music of his (or of almost anybody’s) career.
Humble Pi (2018). An EP team-up with Edan.
The Good Sun (2010). A Cream sample, “Not Pop” (about not being a pop rapper, of course), the fun “I’m indie so I’m not tough” song Mean Mug, no-name producers, and barely any features. But the best part of this album is the spoken intro to the title track, which goes like this: “Talking to my boy the other day/He said if he gave every time somebody asked/He wouldn’t have nothing left for himself/But he ain’t never tried that…”
Tour Tape (2015). Literally a tour tape–a cassette release for fans only with the raunchy sex romp, “Lions,” which goes: “I give chicks my 9 Well, it’s more like six/But its width is like biscuit size…”
First of a Living Breed (2012). His fourth album, and the first release on the Stones Throw Records label. He’s able to entice producers like Oddisee, Jonwayne, and 2 Hungry Bros. He’s become much better at matching his thought-provoking content with his fast rap style, so that his wonderful bars aren’t swallowed up in a blur. He can still come off a little preachy, but his sense of humor is getting better honed, which takes the edge of that. “For some all the world is a stage with a stage manager/For others the world is a cage, hear the cage rattle/Complaining is played as a baby’s rattle…”
Senile Chef with 2 Hungry Bros (2021). Another too-short EP.
There in Spirit (2022). A 7-song collection of some of the best work of his career. The biggest standout track, “Feels So Good to Cry,” is probably the first rap song in history to talk about grief and regret with the singer owning his responsibilities in a break-up, regretting the pain he’s caused, but accepting that true emotional relief is the only way to get past it.
Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent (2013). This is billed as an EP but it’s got 8 songs and feels like a solid, slightly short album. It’s a terrific tribute to one of the greatest hip hop DJs in history. Don’t miss the track simply called “I.” It’s everything you could want from a HS song.
White Sands (2014). Paul White produced this EP and…Wow! Fat Belly is just a list of all the things he loves to eat, but in his hands it becomes fascinating. “Oreos are vegan/So are kettle cooked potato chips/Russet flavor be my favoritePlus my girl in love and don’t mind if my belly fat/I love her if her belly fat but love her belly flat…” And on Word to Mother he promises to “stick up every Starbucks.” White’s beats are amazing–I wish this had been a proper, full album.
Actual Factual Pterodactyl (2008). How many rappers include two bars as the name of the album title? Full of gems like the (yoga-inspired?) “God Fire Breathe,” which has this terrific set of bars: “I don’t mean to sound too high, I don’t smoke/I don’t mean to sound too high, I get low/I don’t mean to sound too high, I gets down for mine, it’s all alkaline in my flow…”
Hallways (2014). Until now, Sandman’s albums have been consistently good. 2014 is where he starts making albums that are consistently great. Songs like Loads (featuring Blu, who was at a career high point at the time), Problems, and J-Live’s feature on Enough all find Homeboy Sandman continuing to deliver smart, conscious rap…But now he seems to be doing it effortlessly, and having a great time doing it. The woven pattern on the cover symbolizes the complexity of his work and message.
Anjelitu (2021). Sadly, the year of the quarantine didn’t give us a proper HS album. But we did get two great EPs. Why do I love Anjelitu? Two reasons: Cow’s Milk and Beef. Two songs that combine wit, solid dietary advice, and food-as-politics. Great stuff.
Kindness for Weakness (2016). I find this to be his most musical album, with cuts that are much more like songs than traditional raps. It’s a personal favorite of mine, even though critics didn’t resonate with it as much as some of his other stuff. I really like RJD2’s instrumental track, Gumshoe, and these other key cuts: Real New York, God, and Sly Fox.
Don’t Feed the Monster (2020). Here’s something rare: A rapper’s most recent album is his best! Quelle Chris provides slowed down beats, which is unusual for HS, and Sandman’s lyrics are more serious than usual. That said, he does not sacrifice his intelligent wit or his need to question everything about every social convention. The very first line on the album is “I got my trauma from my mama/she used to beat me down as if she was the brown bomber.” From there, he talks about his challenges in relationships, how he loses faith sometimes, and closes with an ode to his own personal growth:
The old me don’t owe me
We all make mistakes
The new me’s the true me
Since all fears been faced
The old me’s my homey
The new me’s my ace
I’m lonely by no means
I know me, I’m straight…