First of a Living Breed
A short while back, I was lamenting the lack of any recent hip hop albums that are both raw and emotive while taking advantage of today’s sound. Everything sounds so crafted, so heavily produced. I longed to hear something that sounded like something somebody made it. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want everything to sound like Biz Markie circa 1989 (wait, actually that might be pretty okay). I just wanted to hear something real, a person talking about life in a regular way that makes you care what you are listening to. Enter Homeboy Sandman.
Homeboy Sandman’s fourth LP, First of a Living Breed, scratched that itch for me. Opening with the video game sounding “Rain,” Homeboy Sandman executes excellent incorporation of the futuristic shit we’ve seen lately, with the likes of master El-P, into straight up beats and rhymes, a refreshing intermingling.
The piano intro on “Whatcu Want from Me” jingles, hinting at the varied use of instruments that is to come, each imparting its own feeling into the songs. On Couple Bars (Honey, Sugar, Darling, Sweetie, Baby, Boo) we start to understand Homeboy Sandman’s lyrical prowess, and his sense of humor: the word “breastesses” is used.
Boy Sand manages to provide enough diversity without being all over the map in a way that compromises the album’s cohesion. Space is very popular today, as are Russians, and “Sputnik” brings them together with an ominous back thump reminiscent of someone sneaking up on you, wordplay weaving a flowing narrative atop.
With “Illuminati,” Homeboy Sandman touches on the contentious and intriguing concepts behind privacy in the digital age (“Think they’re tapping your computer/ Your computer is a tap”), running the gamut of conspiracy theories, from chemtrails to allegations that they “save the orphans to keep them off the lawn.” Be sure to peep “Illuminati” in detail for a sharp rhyme about George W. Bush.
“For the Kids” is aspirational, as one might suspect from the title. Lyrics like, “I know you think being different makes you weak, but being different makes you strong,” delivered sung and off-key make this song and this artist endearing. “Mine All Mine” faded into the background for me, until he started talking about his hands on his nutsack.
“Cedar and Sedgwick” is the shining star on First of a Living Breed. Catchy, likable, African rhythms and simple percussion implant this song firmly in your craw. You’ll hear this in a movie someday.
“Not Really” finds Homeboy Sandman reflecting on how fame has not changed him. In a prime example of a rapper just telling a story with his rhymes, Homeboy Sandman eloquently and effortlessly walks the listener through a then and now retrospective on how the things that matter stay the same.
Mixing things up yet again, “The Ancient” brings almost an old west vibe, sparking flashbacks to “Rawhide,” supported by accompanying grunts. Frightening, but carrying a good message, “Eclipsed” follows, winding into the tinkling piano and synth of “First of a Living Breed.”
The album closes as it began, with “Let’s Get ‘Em’s” pounding drums and video game sounds, reminding us how it all began. With First of a Living Breed, Homeboy Sandman has made a solid album indeed.