Homeboy Sandman has returned with his sixth full length album, and his third on Stones Throw Records, entitled Kindness For Weakness. Angel Del Villar II aka Sandman has been flying under the radar now for close to a decade as his prolific output has shown no signs of slowing down. His last full length came two years ago, but in between that time he has released a slew of EP’s, including an Aesop Rock collaboration entitled Lice, which dropped at the very end of 2015. On his latest, he loosens the reigns of his control to work with a wide array of producers, who craft beats for him that he eats up with seeming ease. They aren’t the usual though and nor is his rapping as he takes enjoyment in getting lyrical in front of Latin drums, flutes, trumpets, and Spanish birthday wishes.
The record begins with Hearts Sings, as a slinking beat dances away behind cinematic humming. Sandman comes in and immediately confesses he’s “got flaws and don’t care about who knows them” with his stoned delivery fitting perfectly with the syrupy production. Eyes then follows which sees him declaring, “You can leave me out of your loop, black, brown, poor, I’m not trying to be part of your group.” It’s a memo for his style and method in general as he revels in rapping in a voice that is uniquely his own. Beyond the wordplay though there is a funky bassline and a hypnotic chorus that will stick in your mind like a bad idea at 3am.
The rapid fire Real New York blasts into attention on the first beat and stands as one of the highlights of the album. Within it Sandman showcases his amazing flow as he rips off verse after verse, in a manner that’s genuinely funny. He goes from talking about “broads” not being able to handle him to teasing someone who he thinks can’t handle the right kind of drugs. “Go and take Tylenol, you not got the balls, you don’t know how to ball, not at all, You might need Ritalin, Adderall, You might be better off sitting in your pad playing paddle ball.”
The pace is then slowed down significantly on Seam By Seam, as he gets personal on a love song. “I’m all for bringing order to the water, while I’m giving you the sky, And if you were ever lost, I promise I would die, I love you you’re my lover and my pal, here’s the palace of Versailles.” The dreamy chorus floats in amongst the hazy production with choir hums, sombre piano and vinyl crackles creating an introspective atmosphere. It outlines his vision in crystal clarity, while the production obscures it slightly, as Sandman focuses on personal growth and the object of his affection.
“I’m making art for people who love art. I’m making art that I want to last for a billion, trillion years. I want my songs to be regarded, studied, like, ‘This is complexity, you can learn from this.’ I would love for everybody in the world to know my music, know my name, and know who I am. But I’m an artist, and great art is my success,” Sandman said in a recent interview.
However, on It’s Cold his social and political messages in his art are lost somewhat due to Steve Arrington’s admittedly dreadful chorus. If you can look past it though, there is plenty to soak in as Sandman outlines his bleak view of the city which he lives in. Nothing escapes from his vision as he declares the “city is a short putt into a clown’s mouth” before stating that there are “crack houses that need a crackdown” everywhere.
Talking (Beep) has a jazzy feel to it, with abstract squalls and a distinctly off-beat drum pattern. It sees Sandman getting angrier and angrier as the track develops, with hilarity ensuing when he dresses down troublesome women and Instagram rappers- “shut up dick you sound like this.” You can almost picture him standing on stage in some midnight jazz club, where the lights are turned down low and people sit sipping expensive single malts while trying to look unimpressed. “I met a rapper that sucks and is way more famous than I am, can you believe sucker tried to kick some knowledge to the boy Sand, telling me that I was a brand,” he riffs on top of all the mayhem.
Gumshoe then follows which is a funky two minute instrumental. It could seamlessly soundtrack a TV show about a mustachioed police chief on the beat, as he cruised around in the 1970’s looking for some small time drug dealers to bust. There is a crisp snare, roaming bass and enough funk within it to make you reach for the Aviators by the time the first drum roll comes in. The only problem is that it’s not nearly long enough.
Keep it Real features a down and dirty beat that burrows away in the background behind some regal trumpets, while Earth, Wind, Fire is an assault on the senses. There are trickles of piano, hi-hat flourishes, and a wild cacophony of rhymes that seem to stumble all over the bass drum that threatens to jump ahead of the beat at any moment. Then Funhouse and Sly Fox continue with the momentum as elusive women and bouncy rhythms take over.
God sees him getting philosophical, as he reveals his version of God. He may not “be a he” but he sounds content with the fact that he “loves” him. That is enough for Sandman as he goes on to say that, “there is nothing in this world that God owes me.” It’s a mellow reverie that drifts along with a sort of joyful acceptance and sense of place and satisfaction. The beautiful backing provided by a flute and a deep drum roll.
“I feel happier,” he revealed later in the same interview.
“I would find myself really frustrated at different times. I’ve been rhyming now nine years, and different times over the nine years, I would really feel frustrated about one aspect of society, one aspect of my career. And lot of it really came from feeling like something was supposed to be different. If I would only take the time and pay attention to how things are I would recognise that everything was fruitful and blessed,” he said.
It is this comfort and acceptance that flows through his latest album. Sure, at times he is abrasive and seems unimpressed with his lot in life; he bemoans rappers that don’t have skills yet are “way more famous” than him, and women that continually slip away from his affections appears to be a sore point. But that is all overcome by his dedication to his art and his strong sense of self. The new record an amalgamation of everything he has done so far. It features rapid fire rhyming, eclectic beats and a large dash of humour. And now, as he says on the records final track, Speak Truth– he has the confidence to “speak truth when you don’t know if it’s the right move.”
Read our feature about which three records changed Homeboy Sandman’s life here.