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Homeboy Sandman Pulls No Punches
Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A major complaint in hip-hop today is that its current crop of artists aren’t taking action as leaders. People see emcees as unwilling, and sometimes simply afraid, to take a stand. Homeboy Sandman is the exception everyone is cheering on.

For the past seven years Homeboy Sandman has built himself up from NYC underground hip-hop stalwart, to nationally known emcee. His reach has been aided in large part thanks to his signing with Stones Throw Records, which has not only grown his fan base exponentially, but has given him the ability to tour the world multiple times.

During his live shows Homeboy Sandman doesn’t just perform, he speaks with the audience, and gives his opinion on everything from radio playlist politics, to the content some of the more popular artists have decided to embrace.

Off the stage Homeboy Sandman is equally passionate about those issues, and others, as he’s recently become a bit of an internet provocateur, penning such acerbically titled pieces as “Black People Are Cowards” for Gawker.com.

I caught up with Homeboy Sandman during his most recent tour to find out about his life on the road, and why he pulls no punches when it comes to his personal politics. He also revealed some insider information about his next album, including the release date.

Adam Bernard: You’ve spent the better part of the past two years touring. Has life on the road taught you anything new about yourself?

Homeboy Sandman: Has it taught me something new about myself? Dag. I don’t know. Not really.

Adam Bernard: Stop quoting your song lyrics.

Homeboy Sandman: {laughs} I don’t like to sound check. I definitely learned that. (DJ) Sosa does the sound checks. He handles the sound. I also learned that I write Homeboy Sandman pretty cool now, because I've signed so much merch that I got a really quick Homeboy Sandman signature that looks pretty fresh. I always wanted to get into graff, but I never had a good enough hand. Now I got a good style with my Homeboy Sandman handle, so I’m pretty amped about that.

I just went to Niagara Falls for the first time, and (when) I was leaving the woman had this little piece of paper in front of where you pay to go on the boat, and I signed my Homeboy Sandman handle. I put a little arrow at the end of the N likes kids usually do doing graffiti.

Adam Bernard: Your tours have taken you all over the world. What’s the most lost, or out of your element, you’ve felt in a foreign country?

Homeboy Sandman: Good question. We did one show, it was in a place in Germany that was called Jena. The thing about it that was so strange was nobody spoke English, not even one person. We got (to the venue) and there were 200 people there, easy. By the time we were done there were 300 people there, and none of them spoke English. I’m thinking, what did you come to this show for?

They did not understand what I was saying, but they were having fun dancing to the music. I guess (the venue) had a built in crowd. I don’t know if there ain’t nothin poppin in Jena, because I was surprised to have that type of turnout for a bunch of people that clearly had no idea what I was sayin.

You know I’m very very intensive, and I like to have interaction with the crowd as far as building and talking, so I felt a little out of my element given that no one was able to understand a single word that I said, and nobody knew my records. Sometimes you’ll go places where nobody speaks English, but they know your records, and as long as cats know the records it makes up for that language barrier.

Adam Bernard: As a performer that’s something you figure out pretty early on. Was there a moment when you tried to do a call and response and it fell completely flat?

Homeboy Sandman: Definitely. When you do an a capella, and you have the impact points, and you’ll be ready for the crowd to be like “oooh, oooh,” and nobody says anything, you’re like alright, these cats don’t understand what I’m saying.

Adam Bernard: On the flip side of that, where did you have what you would consider to be your most unexpectedly rabid fan base?

Homeboy Sandman: In Poland there were mad cats. I had never been to Warsaw, and I was really really surprised how many cats out there knew the deal. Stones Throw’s got great reach out there in the foreign lands, so every place in Europe that I've been to I’ve been lucky to have some good reach, and some good knowledge of me out there, but Warsaw, Poland, I was particularly like wow, a lotta people there know the records.

Adam Bernard: Now that you’ve been around the world a few times, give me one foreign custom you wish Americans would adopt.

Homeboy Sandman: One custom that’s big overseas, that’s not really as prevalent in America, is thinking for yourself when it comes to music. That’s pretty refreshing. In America there’s like, “Yo, I never heard of this person.” It doesn’t matter if it’s the most amazing music you’ve ever heard, you’re still liable to get a, “Well, I’ve never heard of ‘em.” Out there in Europe they’re still a little bit more trusting of their own brains when it comes to music, even though they’re getting infiltrated by all the sadness and poison, as well.

They’re about fifteen years behind. Like right now they’re at a point where they’re using phat hip-hop to hook everybody in, and then they’re gonna okey-doke em and then just give them a bunch of wack stuff to ruin their brains. It’s kind of like what they did over here, how they hired Bobbito, and Evil Dee, to be on the radio, and got everybody hooked with phat records, then fired all of them and instituted the playlist. Right now they’re still using hot records over there to get everybody really hip-hop crazy, and then they’re gonna okey-doke everybody, but I hope that doesn’t happen.

Adam Bernard: You mention the okey-dokeying, and you are not shy about your politics, including writing some pieces for Gawker.com. You have this position now, you’ve elevated yourself as an artist, and you’re touring the world. What stances are most important for you to get out now in terms of your politics, especially in regards to music, but also overall, now that you have this position where people listen?

Homeboy Sandman: One of the things that’s always coming up is hip-hop being manipulated. I would just like people to take a look at hip-hop, and the way it’s presented in the United States, and recognize it’s a big okey-doke to sell you a bunch of shit before you go to prison. That, to me, is the biggest one.

It’s interesting how hip-hop came from the people, and I don’t think there’s ever been a weapon used against Black, and urban, people as strong as manipulating hip-hop. Making it cool to be a criminal, making it cool to be a misogynist, making it cool to be a bad person, making it cool to be a failure. The ability to make it cool, to be kind of despicable, to not care about anything but money. You hear so much like, “If it ain’t about money I don’t wanna hear about it.” Making it cool to really have no moral fiber, and to just be somebody who can be bought, and has a price.

I heard a rhyme the other day in the movie, I don’t know what song it was from, but it was like, “I don’t rap good, it don’t matter.” The complete extraction of talent from a culture, making it appear that people’s uniqueness, and people's God given talents are not anything that they should find strength in, or anything that they should find confidence in. Making it appear that money is the only thing to find confidence in, or any form of success in.

I’ve been out on tour. I do a speech every night about how crazy rap is. How you can’t get any more anti-Black than “I’ll kill a nigga,” but more than half the music we listen to is “I’ll kill a nigga” music.

I got a song called “Couple Bars” that I do, and a lot of times I make a little speech, like this goes out to women, which I love, and to me I can’t think of anything that is more fascinating, or wondrous, but yet you see hip-hop cats like, “Fuck women, I hate women, I don’t love these bitches.” To me that’s strange. That’s very strange. That’s a red flag. How can everybody be out here listening to, “Yo, we don’t like women” records? That’s crazy.

I think we’re in the dark ages right now. It makes me think about the dark ages that we studied historically. Nothing was going on in the Dark Ages, then you had the Renaissance, and cats started having something worthwhile going on again. We are in a new Dark Age right now. We are buggin. The shit we listen to is crazy, it’s corny. Cats are acting corny on a mass level. For real, this shit is wack. I love cats that can rap, and for cats that can rap, rap about whatever you feel like rapping about, but as far as my politics, I’m just trying to chill. I’m trying to relax, and enjoy myself, before the shit really hits the fan, because the way things are going ... people are crazy.

I put something on my Facebook about missing children and the shit gets like one like, and no shares. A celebrity stubs his big toe, and that shit is all over the thing. There are kids missing. People don’t even care. People are buggin, my brother. That’s my number one thing.

I know that’s like ten things.

Adam Bernard: When you have the articles on Gawker do you have to resist the urge to look at the comments?

Homeboy Sandman: I don’t really have the urge to look at them, luckily.

Adam Bernard: Gawker, YouTube, Yahoo!, these are places where, when someone posts something, the comments sections ends up a haven for horrific human beings to post whatever they want.

Homeboy Sandman: To keep it real, I haven’t looked at ‘em. Talking about the last Gawker joint, I haven’t looked at the comments even one time. I write some shit because it’s the shit I want to say. For me, putting it out there, and keeping it real, is what makes me feel good. Things get back to me, of course. I hear that there were a bunch of people online being like “Yo, whatever, we don’t feel you,” but I’ve had a hundred people come up to me in real life and tell me “Yo, we’re down for you, and we feel you.” I’ve had a hundred people call me up on the phone, reach out to me on the real, and be like “We’re down.” I’ve made amazing connections based off stuff I’ve written, and I’ve never had one person, not even one person, come up to me in real life having anything negative to say to me about anything I’ve ever written. Not even one.

People who know me know that I'm not a big computerized person anyway. That’s not real to me. I know social media is a big thing now, there’s a lot of opportunity for people to have personas, there’s a big safety net now for people to be behind. I guess people, I don’t know if the word is bravado, but people are more daring online, or have more to say, but to me that’s not even real, that's not the real world. I guess that’s why I’m not too involved in it.

I feel really blessed to have fans that support me at shows. I feel really have blessed to have fans that buy merch. I feel really blessed to have people that call me up, and want to build, and want to figure out strategies to implement. That's real. If you pull the plug ... I don’t pay too much attention to stuff that wouldn't exist if there was a blackout.

Adam Bernard: That’s an interesting way to put it. If the world blacked out, if we had the zombie apocalypse, you’d be totally fine.

Homeboy Sandman: {laughs}

Adam Bernard: You’ve been really consistent with releasing albums and EPs pretty much since the very beginning of your career. Has there ever been a time when you’ve felt either writers block, or exhaustion, and had to take a momentary break?

Homeboy Sandman: Sometimes I write more than other times, but there’s never been a period where I didn’t feel like writing. One time I was touring Europe I didn’t write very much, I only wrote one or two songs, but only writing one or two songs in a month is like the slowest for me, only because I love writing. I’ve grappled with writer’s block at different times in my life, but I think that’s very mental, and it just means that my head is not in the right place, and I need to get it in the right place. That’s how I take it as.

Adam Bernard: What are you working on right now?

Homeboy Sandman: I’m working on a couple of different joints. I write joints. I’ve never written an EP, or written an album. I make joints and I put them together in a way that I feel is sensible. I’m working on plenty of joints.

Adam Bernard: How many would you say you’ve recorded since the last EP release?

Homeboy Sandman: Shoot, me and Sosa, whenever we’re in New York we do two songs a week, on average, so we do about eight songs a month. Hallways, my next full length, is coming out September 2nd. It’s completed, we’re just working on the artwork now. The (official) announcement will be made as soon as the artwork’s finished.

When these Hallways joints come out, which is 12 joints, then I might have as much released music as I have unreleased music.

Interview originally ran on Arena.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM  
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