If You Canít Beat ĎEm, Join ĎEm
The children are our future and we may all realize this, but not enough of us cultivate the growth of the youth to assure that we have a beautiful future. Kids love celebrities, especially when that celebrity has a song that tells them exactly how to ďSwag SurfĒ or how to just be fly. If we knew any better, we wouldnít allow artists to dictate what our children become, especially if all they sang or rapped about was money, clothes and hoes. There was one teacher that saw the deterioration of our young people and decided to do something about it. He didnít create bold new lesson plans or plan super cool field days, he became an emcee. If you canít beat Ďem, join Ďem. Homeboy Sandman was born. Since becoming an emcee, he hasnít done anything else and thatís a great thing because we need music that has a pulse--music that cares. His first commercial release--The Good Sun--dropped on June 1st and in case you havenít heard it yet, please do yourself a favor. Homeboy Sandman is pulling hip hop out of the club, the bedroom and definitely off the block. Thereís so much more to rhyme about than the obvious and if youíre willing to learn, this teacher is willing to teach.
Congratulations on your first commercial release! I know it just came out at the beginning of this month. In case we havenít heard it yet, what can we expect to hear on The Good Son?
From a musical standpoint--it provides melodies, alliteration, assonance, wordplay and all the elements of music that make brilliance. There is all new music, an all new sound--from the production to the rhyming. The execution is all pushing the envelope. I donít really have a style, so Itís all different types of styles. We have a variety of content. We have songs up there about homeless people, the things we have in our pockets and making faces at people. One thing I am excited about when it comes to this album is the variety of content that I am looking to provide. I am so fed up that cats [these days] are rapping about seven things. Even if theyíre not rapping about money, criminality or something like that, they rap about how they donít rap about that. Thereís not too many dimensions. You can expect a lot of different angles and dealing with a lot of issues that nobody deals with in hip hop. In other music, you can make songs about anything. I would like for hip hop to embrace that as well.
Thatís true. People consider hip hop to be a culture. As broad as that is, Itís surprising that people canít cover more topics. Are you bringing something fresh to hip hop that people havenít heard?
Absolutely. The danger in looking at it as a culture--whoever decides where hip hop becomes popular gets to decide what our culture becomes. It used to be more cultural, in the streets and winds up on the radio. Now it starts on the radio and winds up on the streets. Weíre not the ones picking the records. Weíve given up our power of choice by showing that we wonít turn off the radio to the hogwash they give us. Itís not even us choosing what our culture becomes! Q-tip said, ďHip-hop can never be a way of life. It doesnít show you how to raise a child or treat a wife?Ē I agree with that, but hip-hop has started telling people how to treat a wife. Itís not people with our best interests in mind choosing which messages we get. It can make us one dimensional people if we can allow this music and only what is talked about in this music to stand for our culture. Thatís why I try to talk about whatever. I will make a song about eating watermelon. That happens in my culture. I write a song about cutting the grass or going to the beach--whatever comes to mind. Letís show them we have all different types of dimensions taking place in our lives and culture.
Letís talk about your name--Homeboy Sandman. Where did that come from?
The name did kind of come to me as if in a dream. Iíve always gotten a kick out of coming up with monikers for myself even before I started rhyming. When I came up with Homeboy Sandman, it had an impact. It had gravity to it that I knew I would stick to this for the rest of my life. This was before I started rhyming seriously. People think the Sandman puts you to sleep. Thatís not true. The Sandman grants you your dreams. Itís much more about the imagery thatís in your head and the ability to create these detailed images. This is what I do with my music. Sometimes Itís so vivid, you donít even know if Itís real or not. It speaks to the versatility. Think about the Sandman from Marvel Comics--the bad guy that turns his arm into a sledge hammer. Iím very much like that with the way I sound. I donít have a style. I donít sound the same on two different records. I always sound different because I fit into the grooves of the beat like sand. The Homeboy part--this is your homeboy, your man, your peoples. Heís from the building around the way. You see him all the time, heís got your back. If the Sandman lived in your building, heíd be Homeboy Sandman. Thatís how I came up with that.
It seems youíre all about self improvement--with your teacher/emcee transition and being a conscious artist. Do you feel that image of you helps your music on a selling level?
I donít feel like any type of label on my music hurts it at all. My music is undeniable. It speaks for itself. People always ask me what makes me different from other rappers. You donít ask John Coltrane what makes him different from other sax players. All you have to do is listen to his music. Iím a genuine article. Iím a musician. I make music. You listen to my music, you can call is conscious, sub-conscious, whatever you want. A lot of this stuff doesnít matter to me the way it matters to most hip hop artists. It doesnít limit me like that. The record has music in it that you donít always hear in hip hop. Thatís one thing.
Whatís peopleís biggest misconception of you?
I did this song called ďOlder AuraĒ the other day for another album--not The Good Sun. Itís just about how I feel sometimes when I tell people Iím an emcee or rapper and they assume all these terrible things about me just because of these stereotypes they have of rappers. Misogyny, aggression--Iím all about peace and love and nothing else. When people come to see and say, ďYouíre conscious,Ē Iím not talking about the stupidest possible things, does that make me conscious? I donít have songs about killing n*ggas, does that make me conscious? I do have songs that are conscious where Iím speaking on growth and spirituality. I consider these things to be conscious. I did a rhyme the other day, I was just having fun and this dude was like, ďI see youíre on the conscious tip,Ē because there was no body count or banging chicks. To me, it was bugged out because thatís a disturbing default. When youíre not just saturated with horrific things throughout, youíre automatically conscious. I look forward to the day when people donít suspect such horrible things and weíre elevated. Consciousness is a serious thing. Itís awareness. I consider myself someone who is conscious, seeks to be conscious and is always learning how to improve, but it goes beyond just not being horrible.
Do you feel you would ever fit into a category? Your lead single, ďNot PopĒ certainly is an opinionated testimony about how you feel about pop music. Do you want to be a part of mainstream?
I want my record to be heard by everybody in the world. I want to be on all the radio stations. I want my videos on all the channels. I want all of that. Itís not that I donít want maximum visibility. My music is created from a place in me that is true and real for me. Itís not created to subscribe to any type of framework or appeal to anyone in particular. Iím not trying to build a hit record. When I think of pop music, I think of rap songs that took 15 minutes to make; I think of R&B songs that took 15 minutes to make. I think of cookie-cutter. Pop is missing the essential, the fundamental, the truth, the pushing of the envelope, the musicality. The song ďNot PopĒ is to say, I will never create records to appeal to somebody. Everything is going to be true. Nothing will be conformist. I would love for that record to be heard everywhere, but thatís still not going to make it a pop record. This is music that lasts forever. When I think pop, I think temporary, disposable music.
You can be as dope as you want and work as hard as you want, but at the end of the day, itís about the fans liking your music. Do you feel you have a strong enough fan base to carry you over to mainstream?
Absolutely. I actually have the utmost confidence because I think about my conversion rate. Since Iíve decided I wanted to be an emcee, I havenít done one other thing. Itís been a ball the entire time. People talk about this cat sold a million records. How many records could he have sold? How many people got to hear his music. For me, the people that hear my music, support it. Itís always been this way. If 70% of the people that hear my music support it, then Iím good to go. Thatís how I can survive selling CDs at open mics and doing shows all over New York City. My conversion rate has shown that when people hear my music, Itís an undeniable thing. As my fan base grows, I donít expect that to change. The music is good and speaks for itself. Another thing about my fan base that gives me confidence that I never have to worry about anything is I love hip hop music. I was actually able to watch my last CD, Actual Factual Pterodactyl move across the country, then across the world just on the internet getting shouted out by people out of New York, Midwest--I can visualize the hand-to-hand. Then it spreads to other countries. I remember one time during a three-week span, three people came up to me and gave me the Blue and Exile Below the Heavens. They were like, ďYo, you need to hear this man. Iím putting you on because I know you love hip hop music.Ē Of course I listened to it and it was phenomenal; one of my favorite records Iíve heard recently. Blue is a phenomenal emcee. The point Iím making with that--thatís how music that is undeniable, carries. People that love music are not as not as fickle as, whatís this catís visibility like. They will never leave you until the music falls off. As long as the music doesnít fall off, then thereís a foundation there that lasts forever.
You were saying in pop music, thereís usually a cookie-cutter, cut and paste thing going on. Obviously there is a need and want for it because these records sell. Do you think people actually do want more or are they accepting what artists are putting out?
I feel like people are passionless and accepting anything. I feel like the fact that people are supporting it and buying into it, doesnít give any illustration that they love it. If you go to the supermarket and all they?re selling is oranges, then oranges will sell. How come all this garbage is on the radio? People say thatís what sells. The greatest selling album of all times is Thriller. That is an album about love. Motown was selling like crazy. Good music has always sold. When Common came out with Finding Forever, it was the number one album in the country--not even the number hip hop, but the number one in the United States of America. The week it came out, it could not get one spin on Hot 97 or Power 105--the two major hip hop stations in New York City. You?ve got a hip hop artist with the number one album in the country and he canít get spins in New York City!? These cats are going out of their way to make sure weíre not hearing music thatís good. If people heard music that was good, they wouldnít accept all this garbage. The elimination of options is what is taking place. That leaves people accepting so much of this horrific music. We have all the power. If we turn off the radio every time we hear someone talking about killing a n*gga, weíd change all of that by next week. If you think about some of the records that have come out in the last couple of years that have become hit records that everyone agrees thatís horrible--are out to see how far they can go with us. Weíve been failing miserably. Weíve shown that you can put out anything. Weíll eat it up.
Finish this sentence. I became an emcee to Ö..
Change the world. Make the world better and community better. I became an emcee to provide options and let people know that you can be the man being yourself even if thatís not like being other people.
What are you currently working on and whatís coming up?
Iíve got the album out--The Good Son rises. When people ask me if the album is dropping, I say itís rising. Weíre also working on a video for ďNot PopĒ which we have to keep pushing back because we have this amazing idea where we need permits for what weíre doing. Iím also four songs into an album Iíll be putting out. Iím not sure when Iím putting it out. Iím working on a project entirely produced by R. Thentic. This brother is a genius. Heís worked with a couple of people. Heís done a song with De La Soul, Mos Def. This catís production tells a story on its own. Thatís what I look to do. Iím very selective when it comes to beats and production. I always wonder why cats rap over beats that arenít good. Is someone making them do that? Donít they know these beats are no good? A strong beat makes so much of the negativity power because you have a hot beat and you can say anything over it. People are nodding and agreeing to it. Iím pouring songs into this album with R. Thentic. Iím always writing. Iím going to be on the West Coast this month and doing some Midwest stuff. Weíre working to solidify substantial road time for taking this show on the road to promote the album. Stay tuned in to Homeboy Sandman. Check out www.HomeboySandman.com for dates on when Iím stopping in to your town. Iím writing and touring. I wouldnít call it touring. Iíve been on the road a lot. When you have a tour bus, youíre touring. When weíre in the Jetta, youíre on the road. [laughs]