There’s no need to beat around the bush, here at RapReviews we’re big fans of Homeboy Sandman. We’ve been featuring him in some way, shape, or form, be it an interview, album review, or placement in a podcast, since 2008. With his latest album, First of a Living Breed, having just been released on Stones Throw Records, and Sandman currently on a huge US tour with Brother Ali, we thought it was high time we caught up with him again.
During a relaxed moment before the tour’s New York City date at Bowery Ballroom we sat down with Sandman at a local park, where we later found a few of the city’s finest rats were, in fact, beating around various bushes, to find out how life has been treating him since signing to Stones Throw. Sandman also discussed the new album, what he remains proud of when it comes to his previous releases, and his strong desire to help bring about a rebirth of individuality. Sandman then revealed what aspect of his goals coincides with Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Adam Bernard: Take us back to the day you received the call from Stones Throw. Where were you, who you were with, who did you hug first?
Homeboy Sandman: I was in my parents’ house, on their computer. It was actually in an email he sent me. We had already been talking a little bit. I had aspirations of maybe I’ll impress him to the point where he wants to rock with me. I started sending the rthentic RTNC joints (songs produced by rthentic RTNC), and I didn’t hear from him for a while. He’s a very busy guy. I didn’t hear from him for a month, or maybe two months.
AB: At that point you were like alright, maybe…
HS: Yeah, I was like maybe he wasn’t feeling the joint as much. I wasn’t really disheartened, but I was like, alright. Then he hit me out of nowhere. I had hit him weeks earlier like “did you get a chance to hear those joints?” He hit me like “yo, I got a chance to listen to those joints, some classic stuff in there. I think we may want to sign you.” I was just like wow.
AB: And you had your family right there with you?
HS: Nobody was home. I was on their computer because I didn’t have a computer, so I used to stop by there to use theirs.
AB: So you had to find someone to give the news to?
HS: Who’d I hit up? I think I told Alice in Wonderland. I think we were working together at that point.
AB: As a true independent artist you wore a lot of hats that had to do with the business of being an artist. When you signed, some of those hats could be taken off. Which were you happiest to see go, and which responsibilities, if any, do you miss?
HS: Man, to be honest with you, old habits die hard. I be micromanaging. The label, they know what they’re doing. My publicist now, Jon Kim, is getting me fantastic looks. I have like four different publicists in four different regions of the world. This cat Ben was just able to get me the London Metro paper, which is like the New York Metro, and there’s a picture of me right there. It was on my birthday. People hit me up like “you know you’re in the London Metro paper with a beautiful fantastic write up?”
AB: But being a micromanager, you miss a little bit of that grind?
HS: The thing is, I’m happy that I don’t have to beat people in the head with the publicity tip anymore. That’s really fresh. But I still, I can’t stop thinking, “yo, what mags do I wanna be in that I haven’t been in yet? Who do I gotta hit?” I still was hitting people to come to this show tonight. I can’t stop trying to fill up the press list. They’re like “we’ll fill up the press list, you don’t need to fill it up,” but I can’t stop. I’m like “we’ll both fill it up.” It’s great to be able to focus on the music, though, and just doing the music. There was a long part of my life where if I sat down for fifteen minutes I felt like I was doing something wrong. I don’t feel like that anymore. I feel like I can chill, I can enjoy myself, I can enjoy the company of my family, and my friends, which is dope.
AB: Do you feel having more time to work on your craft has changed you at all musically?
HS: I just feel like as a musician I’m always improving and evolving, getting better and better and better, so the more time I can spend working on it is paying dividends from the standpoint of me getting stronger and stronger. This First of a Living Breed record, people ask me “is this your favorite record?” I love all my records, and I love all my songs, but I am capable of doing things on this record that I was never capable of doing before. Part of it is because I’m at different places of my life. I couldn’t have written a record like “Couple Bars” before. I needed to go through some romance, experience (that) in my life. I couldn’t have had the frustration and the anger that I have in “Eclipsed.” I needed to witness some things. I just get stronger and stronger the more I work, so being able to work more definitely helps.
HS: I want to see more courage in the world. I want to see more faith in the world. I want to see more people who are not ashamed to be themselves. I really want to see that. What makes people weak is feeling inadequate. Feeling inadequate is what makes people like “oh I don’t feel right. How am I gonna feel right? Maybe I’ll spend a lotta money, or maybe I’ll do something kinda stupid.” Feeling secure is empowering, and everybody is dope. Everybody. Everybody’s different. If everybody were themselves everybody would be different because everybody’s different, so whenever you see uniformity, that’s irrefutable evidence of people straying away from being themselves, because if people were being themselves they could not be the same, it would be impossible! There are so many people feeling like something’s wrong with them because they’re not like somebody else, and I try to eradicate that in my own life, it’s something I struggle with every single day.
AB: I think everybody struggles with that.
HS: Yeah, I think everybody does, too, but I would like to see us all do better.
AB: When you look back on your previous releases, Nourishment, Actual Factual Pterodactyl, etc., what about them are you most proud of?
HS: I was always looking to do things in new ways. I was always looking to innovate. If you go back to the earlier records, I can see my influences. I can see people going “you like Big Pun a lot, you like Eminem a lot,” on “City Darker” “you like Black Thought a lot.” I hadn’t come into my own as much, but I was still doing joints like “Or.” I feel like by Pterodactyl I was really developing my own voice, but on Nourishment I was still doing real lyrical exercise joints like “Us And Them,” and I was still challenging myself, so when I go back, and I look back, I’m still able to appreciate that about myself. I’m proud of the fact that even when I was looking to develop myself, come into my own as far as my musicality, that I still was always looking to innovate. People don’t even know, but before I stopped smoking there’s a tape out there that I left in this girl’s car that she knows she has, it’s a CD, and it’s Homeboy Sandman, I recorded it at Lightning Music Studios up in The Bronx, and I would record at the 45 Sound Booth in Brooklyn, and it was Boy Sand talking about the hoes I’m getting with. It’s crazy. It’s true.
AB: You’ve come A LONG way from that. Speaking of coming a long way, for the most part you’ve had almost universal support while coming up in the scene. You’re a nice guy, you made it a point to be at everyone’s shows. Sometimes when an artist signs, though, that changes for reasons that have nothing to do with the artist. Do you feel you still have that support, or have you experienced any backlash for being one of the guys who made it?
HS: I can’t really say that I have (experienced any backlash). There’s been a backlash I’ve experienced from the jump for being a cat that’s comfortable with being himself, and this was before I got into rhyming. You go into certain environments comfortable being yourself and people, we look at each other like mirrors, a cat will see me and it will kinda remind him, I think, of how he kinda is a little uncomfortable, but I’ve always gotten that. Even though I don’t get it as hating, hate is misdirected love anyway. Checkin for me hard is checkin for me hard. So the longer I keep going, and the more my body of work grows, and the more my fan base grows, and the more my notoriety grows, it’s more of that “who does this dude think he is coming from New York City not rapping about how tough he is? Who does this guy think he is? Is he trying to make fun of us?” I’ve gotten that from the jump. As far as the support and the love, from the B-List love, we all came up together at Freestyle Mondays and the Bowery (Poetry Club), that’s all fam, we still all support each other, I feel.
AB: Have you had a moment that has stood out to you like “wow, this is really happening, I’m making it?”
HS: It’s great when fans recognize me in the street when I’m with a girl. That’s a good look. If any fans read this, when you see me in the street with a girl be like “oh son, you my favorite, son!” I don’t know, there’s been some things that have blown me away. All the feedback I’m getting. I’ve gotten more feedback off of First of a Living Breed than I’ve gotten with all my other records combined, just because of the fact that Stones Throw put it out. I really feel I made it when I went for it. Going for it is making it, so I’ve been doing good, which is I put out “Not Really.” I’ve been doing good.
HS: I really would like to be in everybody’s ear in the whole world. The only ish I’m really on is that Bill and Ted ish, which is to become Wyld Stallyns, and the world is a better place because of how dope my records are. That is really the tip I’m on, and we’re a long way from that, but we gotta keep chugging along to get there. We do it fan by fan. Brother Ali, super shouts to the Brother, man, he’s really changing my life. He’s bringing me in front of crowds that don’t know you unless you’re there. We’re in Birmingham, Alabama. We’re in Tempe, Arizona. These cats know Ali, they know all of Rhymesayers. Rhymesayers has touring on smash. They’ll know Immortal Technique, they’ll know Tech N9ne. They’ll know cats that tour, but if they ain’t seen you… we were in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 700 kids in the room, and I’m like “who know the Homeboy Sandman joints,” and there was like one girl. How can you have 700, Brother Ali fans, at that, so these are people who like good hip-hop music, and I know I’m not a household name, but I didn’t think you could have 700 and that many people wouldn’t know me, but it’s THAT important to get into some of these markets, live.
AB: But the one that knew you, it was a girl.
HS: It was a girl. She sounded like she was cute, but I couldn’t really see her.