New York MC offers colourful dissections of his immediate surroundings.
Marcus J. Moore 2012
Homeboy Sandman can rap, so much so that he breaks down his cadence for listeners to appreciate his message. It’s not for arrogance’s sake; it’s to savour his authenticity.
But he’s still humble. “I’m still Black Thought’s biggest fan / Just now I can call and tell him so,” Sandman ponders on Not Really, a standout on this LP, his first for Stones Throw. Not bad for a guy who dropped out of law school to pursue a full-time hip hop career.
Born Angel Del Villar II, the Queens MC is a throwback to times when merit was earned with fluid lyrical dexterity. Sandman knows he’s nice, and he’s okay with being that dude. Still, his songs feel more like conversations than actual verses; his cadence is noticeably dissectible, even if you rewind a few times to fully absorb the meanings.
As with any Sandman release, …Living Breed is full of unforgettable rhymes, each one delivered in his own quirky way. And at times he overloads the instrumentals with overwhelming results. On Rain, for instance, Sandman wields an oceanic flow that culminates with a celebratory squeal at song’s end.
On Sputnik, the feel is remarkably old school, and Sandman fills the space with lofty metaphors, referring to pale corpses and zombie porn. He sees himself as the old man from the Dos Equis beer commercials. He equates infidelity to two potheads looking for smoke. These comparisons are certainly absurd, yet they work. Sandman can rap about anything and make it sound intriguing.
To that end, a track like For the Kids survives because of his magnetism. It’s a clichéd attempt to encourage the youth; drill into the lyrics, and Sandman provides his own peculiar take on an old motif. “Think before you speak / Wash your hands before you take a leak,” he says. However, Illuminati might be the album’s most thoughtful song, his voice distinctively sullen as he ponders inner city blight and racist TV images.
At its core, …Living Breed is a kaleidoscopic look into Sandman’s unusual persona. He’s affable and easy-going, yet his head remains firmly in the clouds. The outcome is impressive, and throughout he remains true to himself and his esoteric style. So much for a law degree.