It was a cold February night in east London’s Cargo when we met Homeboy Sandman before he jumped on stage for another date of his European tour. The Stones Throw artist was kind enough to take time out of schedule so we could ask him a few questions and today we release that interview to coincide with the release of his new project Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent, which is out today on Stones Throw Records and you can purchase it here.
While on stage he put a phenomenal amount of energy in to his performance and even took out his joke book of original material to keep the crowd entertained when DJ Sosa was hit with technical difficulties. He played every track we wanted to hear and ended the show with the ridiculously catchy and upbeat Watchu Want From Me? produced by Oddisee. If you’ve heard his music before you’ll know it was a dope show, if you haven’t check out some of his material and the interview below.
RhymeOnBeat: How did the name Homeboy Sandman come about?
Homeboy Sandman: I love the word homeboy, me and my boys called each other homeboy even when that word wasn’t in heavy use we stuck with it. So people called me homeboy a lot, I called them homeboy a lot. It’s like your boy from your home, you can depend on them, you can trust them, it’s your people, it’s love. The sandman is bring you a dream, paint that picture in your head so vivid that you feel like you awake the entire time. Sand is about time, about distance, it’s about journey, footprints in the sand. Through the journey you become a man, so it’s my journey from a boy to a man… Homeboy Sandman.
ROB: Rappers always get graded and described in terms of how they compare to the greats that came before them and which other rappers they sound like. Your music doesn’t really fit into any existing mould so how would you describe it to anyone that’s never heard it before?
HS: Well I would say i’m a musician first and foremost. I like to characterise my hip hop music as beats, production and melodies. So beautiful so melodic, so intriguing that even if my rhymes were completely wack it would still be very pleasurable to listen to. Plus rhymes that are so insightful, clever, creative that even if i had no melody it would be ill to listen to.
ROB: In your music and the articles you have written you are very critical of the content on mainstream rap mainly because “commercial rap is a commercial”. There are a vast number of artists that actively stay away from negative themes prevalent in those songs so saying that, whose music are you feeling at the moment?
HS: I’m a huge fan of Oddisee, I don’t get to listen to very much because I’m always creating but I’m a huge fan of Oddisee. Also YC The Cynic from the Bronx I’m a huge fan of, I’m a huge fan of Blu. I was just discussing Brother Ali, I just did a two month national tour with him, so those are some of the guys. I’m a DOOM fan. I’m a Ka fan, I’m a Mystro fan too.
ROB: On ‘Not Really’ you say you’re Black Thought’s biggest fan? Have you actually managed to tell him yet and what did think of it?
HS: Yeah i’ve got to fan out with the Thought a couple of times, he’s thankful. To be honest with you I’ve only been star struck twice in my life, the first was the first time I met Black Thought and the second was the second time I met Black Thought. I met him times after that but I’ve never been regular and I always feel nervous around him, I feel stupid, it’s kind of interesting. He’s a cool brother and he’s appreciative, he’s crazy cool. The last show we did together was the lyricist lounge 20 year anniversary in New york, after my set he shared some real encouraging sh*t with me that I keep with me. Black Thought the super lyricist your arch nemesis.
ROB: What inspires your music? What makes you get that pen and pad out and start writing a song?
HS: The truth is I have a lot of frustrations, or maybe just observations, I see things that are awry and amiss. It’s the same reason that I write articles, I see things and I got a point of view and a perspective that I feel is important, unique and honest and I’m looking for any avenue that I could broadcast that to people. I’m a musician and I make bars and that’s my primary force but if cats were like ‘give a speech on Hampstead Heath’ I would give a speech, I want to spread the word. I have so much to say and I see so much every day. I’ve been writing this entire tour, I was writing stuff in Germany and Switzerland. I’m seeing different things and it’s giving me stuff to write. It’s every day, it’s everything I think, everything I see, everything I breathe. I never have a lack of inspiration. There’s never been a song written about a table and how a table with its four different legs is like four corners of a block and it provides support for the whole structure… you can rap about anything if you’re creative with it. There’s inspiration everywhere.
ROB: Do you miss teaching or do you think you hold more influence as a rapper?
HS: I definitely have more influence as a musician. I go into schools regularly, I’ve been into 3 or 4 schools this year. Obviously my schedule only allows me to go in one day at a time but I was a teacher, I was a high school teacher for two years, and I would have an influence and It was cool but kids want to be like rappers. In the city of New York, in America, kids just want to be like rappers and that’s just the truth. I get more attention from kids going into a school for one hour as an MC than I got in a year. I still build with my [past] students, they’re in my videos. We’re all teachers, everyone in the whole world has someone looking at them trying to figure out what they’re going to do based on what they other person is doing.
ROB: What is next for you on the horizon musically speaking?
HS: Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent drops in late April/early May [this is released today, see link below] produced entirely by El RTNC (aka Rthentic). It’s an 8 track record mixed by Dave Dar and the sh*t is phenomenal. People ask me what’s my favourite joint and I love all them joints but Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent is my favourite. I don’t like to say ‘this is better than this’ because I always do my best but I’m always changing. This Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent, cats ain’t heard nothing like it, not from me not from other people.
ROB: ‘Whatchu Want From Me’ is one of the catchiest rap songs we’ve heard in a long time. Are you hoping to work with Odissee again?
HS: Absolutely. Oddisee you got to kidnap him, he’s just so busy. He’s the man but he’s doing so many different things all the time. I’m waiting on his verse because I got another record I’m working on called Bravery Bunch. I’m waiting on his verse for the Diamond District one. There’s definitely going to be more music from me and Oddisee, he stays in Brooklyn so I’m able to dart over there and chill with him.
ROB: How is life as a Stones Throw artist? Is there a lot of pressure to constantly step your game up considering some of the very talented artists on their roster?
HS: They got amazing artists but no there is no pressure. For me I’ve been taking everything very seriously from the beginning. I put a lot of pressure on myself, people ask me ‘is there pressure?’ but nah I got here with no bread, I got here with nothing but bars. That’s why i’m here, because of bars and hard work. If anything I don’t even need to come as correct anymore because now I’m on Stones Throw, I could be like ‘make sure that sh*t ain’t wack but I’m going to put it out’. I’ve been having to go hard, the pressure is behind me.
ROB: You have a song called ’Gun Control’. With the well funded pro gun lobby in the United States do you see President Obama having any success in terms of his gun control drive?
HS: I don’t really follow politics to keep it real with you. As far as all that ‘Gun Control’ sh*t, that song is about guns in rap music. I don’t like guns, I would never carry a gun because that’s me. Everybody’s acting like cats be acting wild because of guns, motherf*ckers just act wild. I’m a free person, I have sovereignty over myself. If I was a gun owner and someone was trying to take my gun they can’t take it, that’s why I understand the argument in America. They’re trying to say the cops will have guns and nobody else will have it but cops are already picking of cats like crazy. The only people that are following laws are law abiding citizens. Criminals do not adhere to laws so if you’re going to take the guns away from everybody but the criminals they’re going to be like ‘we’re the only ones with guns’. I don’t use guns, I’m not scared of guns because I walk with God wherever I go.
ROB: You clearly disapprove vocabulary commonly used by a lot of rappers such as the N word, what are your thoughts on expletives in rap music?
HS: The N word is a sick, stupid and hateful word. The N word means inhuman human. So much stuff in this world is crazy, people ask me where I get inspiration from. The number one word you hear in certain neighbourhoods in New York City is ni**er, shut the f*ck up! I don’t curse the way I used to, I got a rhyme that goes ‘I can’t talk without saying motherf*cker, I can’t talk without killing motherf*ckers’ but that’s my old shit. I used to curse all the time, then I stopped so now when I do it it’s a little more flavourful. I’m not trying to be vulgar but if it fits I’ll spit out an expletive.
ROB: We’ve seen Brother Ali a number of times and he puts on a great live show. How was it touring with him?
HS: Touring with Ali was such a blessing and a pleasure and a learning experience. the man is an amazing human being and an amazing performer. His fan base is open minded, talent appreciating and forward thinking. As a supporting act on a national tour, you can’t ask for much more.
ROB: Lastly, you got a track with Mystro called ‘What I Want‘…
HS: Yeah Mystro is the brother, I ain’t seen him yet but I hope he’s here tonight.
ROB: Have you had a chance to listen to any other UK hip hop artists?
HS: Yeah man, I’ve rocked with Mystro. He’s the man and his last album is ill. Ty I know. Producers wise I was with Paul White yesterday, Invisible Think is on my last album. I rock with a lot of UK based producers. For rhyming I can’t say I’m up on a lot of cats but there’s definitely talent.
A huge thanks to Homeboy Sandman for taking the time out to speak to us. We’re genuine fans and we hope you take the time out to appreciate and buy his music (see links below)