Homeboy Sandman Talks Writing Methods, New Subject Matter In Rap

Listening to a Homeboy Sandman verse makes Rap songwriting fun again. The Ski Beatz-produced, “Yeah, But I Can Rhyme Though” , from his The Good Sun album releasing tomorrow on Fat Beats/High Water Music serves as an example. The DXnext alum’s delivery is a circus of flow, cadence, content and character. HBS’ third official release and first label-backed project calls to mind the versatility and range of albums such as Mos Def’s Black On Both Sides and J-Live‘s The Best Part. In a year filled with Recession rap and darker subject matters, this release is unique simply for sounding happy.

Earlier this month, HipHopDX asked Homeboy Sandman about his writing methods, particularly when the tempo of his flow appears to have the acceleration of a Japanese sports car. “When it comes to editing, I do a lot of outlining in my head,” answered the Queens emcee. “By the time the pen hits the paper, once I write something down, it’s very seldom I go back and cross it out. It’s because I think things through at length before anything hits the pad. Before I start writing, I’m thinking about technical stuff, like what the tempo is going to be. I always say I start with the melody first. So is this going to be something where a rhyme is really intricate, where I’m going to have line after line with seven out of 10 words rhyming with the next seven out of 10 words in the next line? Or is it going to be something with just the end of the bars rhyme, something that’s not going to be as dense.”

The subject matter often dictates the techicality, he said. “You know it all depends on what the song calls for, it all depends on the feel of the song and the vibe of the song. Me, myself, I feel one of my strengths lies in my versatility. As a fan, I love listening to [The Roots‘] Illadelph Halflife, 15 years later, and discovering something that I didn’t [notice] before. I really love records that are dense, [the ones] you have to kind of pick apart. On my album, [the song] ‘Calm Tornado,’ it’s really really dense, and I love albums like that for people like me, who maybe want to write it out, or read the lyrics to see where is he hiding, what is he saying in this, you know I love stuff like that that you really have to breakdown.”

With such an in-depth approach to songwriting, Boy Sand was asked if his notebooks are filled with scribbles and crossed-out bars. “Most of my editing is pre-editing. I have a lot of confidence that I can do whatever it is that I decide to do with a verse.” 

Besides flow, subject-matter is an important part of Homeboy Sandman’s music. The Good Sun features songs that tackle homelessness (“Angels With Dirty Faces” ) to environmental and health concerns (“Strange Planet”). In a culture that loves topicality, whether it was Big Daddy Kane‘s “Erase Racism” verse that responded to Yusef Hawkins’ 1989 murder in Brooklyn, to Chuck D’s “By The Time I Get To Arizona” outcry over Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, HBS was asked why he thinks more emcees aren’t tackling these issues in today’s Rap world. “Right now, one of the big problems is that somehow we’ve been convinced that there’s certain things that people want to hear,” he said, elaborating, “that we can’t deal with certain subject matter, that we can’t rap about certain things. The reasons why I’m dealing with different topics of health or of education [is that] I’ve always said, that diversity of content is key. That’s why I love to have a song about people making mean faces (‘Mean Mug’), love to take content that hasn’t been covered before”

“Mean Mug,” produced by Ben Grymm, looks at the culture of people not willing to smile, and without being preachy, Homeboy Sandman looks at the simple effects on day-to-day life because of this.

The University of Pennsylvania graduate, who said that he and classmate, Double-O from Kidz In The Hall briefly worked together, added that emcees feel limited. However, those limitations are self-imposed. “When you talk to people about Hip Hop records, people are acting like there’s only five or six things you can rap about. You can only rap about money – even if you’re not rapping about money and crime, you rapping about how you don’t rap about money and crime. People are nervous, they are nervous, like nobody’s going to listen to them if they do a record about subject matter. People are scared to rap about things that haven’t been rapped about before. It makes us as a culture very… one-dimensional.”


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  • behind da barz

    --------the chemicals R identical, we're one & the same / with 7 letters in all 3 of my government names / walked on water, nah, neither did jesus / its a parable to make followers & readers believers--------i gave her my honorable discharge & she took it like a soldier--------what's a black beetle anyway, a fuckin roach-------she told the director she tryna get in a school-he said "take them glasses off and get in the pool"---------what ya'll call swag to me is faggotry-------my outfit so disrespectful / u go 'head n sneeze let my presence bless u--------its quite amazing that u rhyme like u do / & how u shine like u grew up in a shrine in peru-------its hard fuckin with niggaz u hope u can trust / ure a fool if ure main bitch is easy to fuck--------beyond the walls of intelligence life is divine / i think of crime when im in a new york state of mind - ------THE WAY SOME ACT IN RAP IS KINDA WACK / IT LACKS CREATIVITY & INTELLIGENCE / BUT THEY DON'T CARE BECAUSE THEIR COMPANY IS SELLING IT / ITS MY PHILOSOPHY ON THE INDUSTRY--------From days I wasn't "Abel/able", there was always "Cain/caine-------know how to leave anything in 30 seconds / when you feel the heat coming & flee with the murder weapon--------ayo my silent moments' loud as the crack of thunder / my hunger like the crocodile that attacked the hunter-------i'm something between platinum & flop, underground & mainstream / conscious, backpack, scratch dat; same thing---------this phiscal year im'a stay hot, buzzin / wit dudes that help me shoot like a-rod's cousin-------i fight chicks who bite dicks / give 'em lock-jaw then make 'em fight pits ------all we see is terrorism on telievision ------i'm da illest nigga alive watch me prove it / i'll snatch your crown with your head still attatched to it ------slap your face till your head ache your neck break / the next day slash your throat thru the neckbrace ------ I'm ahead of the game, ahead of these lames / I'm a head case, the head nurse gets me better with brain ------ure now dealin with da kid who heat-holds & reloads / like god gave him a gta ammunition cheat-code ------once upon a time i used to grind all night / with dat coke residue that was ipod white ------ --i took trips with so much shit in the whip / that if the cops pulled us over the dogs would get sick (sniff) ------ i put my lifetime in between the paper's lines / i'm da quiet storm nigga who fight rhyme ------brain cells are lit ideas start to hit / next the formation of words dat fit / at da table i sit making it legit / when my pen hits da paper...aah shit -------i save money while u spendin ure doe / i must stash like da hair between your lip & your nose ------age don't count in the booth / when your flow stayed submerged in the fountain of youth -------when i'm writing i'm trapped in between the lines / i escape when i finish da rhyme - ------if we can't eat together then u aint my mans / so when u see me in da streets dont shake my hand- -----money is da root of all evil / dats why u always gotta now where u stand with your people--------i can show u how to gamble your money, handle a gun / & be a family man & go home to your sun- -------black diamonds in my jesus-piece / MY GOD-------its like da ball be over the plate & they dont call it a strike- ------i'm a gangsta & a gentleman, show you both sides of the coin / knife at your throat-gun at your groin- --------my testimonial be "death to a phony mc / you wanna impress me, show me a ki--------lord knows what homey would do if i showed him da 9 / a one-eyed man is king in the land of the blind--------on da road to riches & diamond rings / in the land of the blind a man with one eye is the king--------you lack the minerals & vitamins, iron & the niacin--------stares get exchanged then the 5th come out / the tough guy disappears then the bitch come out--------if you got a bith you dont argue with dat bitch / you dont listen to dat bitch all you do is fuck dat bitch-------know da bitch b4 you call yourself lovin it / nogga wit a benz fuckin it------went from $20Gs for blow to $30gs a show / to orgies wit hoes i never seen befo'-------i'm intelectual; passed more essays / than police motorcade parades thru east l.a.-------DEAD IN THE MIDDLE OF LITTLE ITALY LITTLE DID WE KNOW / WE RIDDLED SOME MIDDLE-MAN WHO DIDN'T DO DIDDLY-------visualizing the realism of life in actuality / fuck who's da baddest; a person's status depends on salary-------mechanical movement, understandable smooth shit / that murderers move with-the thief's theme--------DEEP LIKE "THE SHINING" SPARKLE LIKE A DIAMOND / SNEAK AN UZI ON DA ISLAND IN MY ARMY JACKET LINING / HIT THE EARTH LIKE A COMET - INVASION / NAS IS LIKE THE AFRO-CENTRIC ASIAN; ½ MAN, ½ AMAZING-------& why certainly i'm squirtin / bust a nut then get up & wipe my dick on your curtain-------walk by your casket & spit in your face--------i know how to get my peers off me / make 'em cry & die from high blood-pressure cuz tears are salty-------i'm not trying to give you love & affection / i'm tryna give you 60 seconds of erection / then im'a give you cab fare & directions / get your independent ass outta here - question?---------black cat is bad luck; bad guys wear black / must've been a white guy who started all that--------either you're slinging crack-rocks or you got a wicked jumpshot--------all us blacks got is sports & entertainment--------2 many athletes, actors & rappers / but not enough niggaz at nasa - ------why did bush knock down the towers?--------I REACT LIKE MIKE / ANY ONE TY-SON, JOR-DAN, JACK-SON / action, pack gunz, ridiculous--------all the teachers couldn't reach me & my mom couldn't beat me / hard enough to make up for my pop not seeing me---------kings from queens, from queens comes kings / we're raising hell like a class when the lunch bell rings---------excuse me miss, can i give you a minute? / may i buy you a glass of ice with liquor in it?--------what goes around comes around i figure / now we got white kids calling themselves nigga / the tables turn as the crosses burn...---------YOU LOVE TO HEAR THE STORY AGAIN & AGAIN / OF HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED WAY BACK WHEN--------i guess they got a grudge cause i won't budge / playin tough, staring down the judge with my hands cuffed---------A CHILD IS BORN WITH NO STATE OF MIND / BLIND TO THE WAYS OF MANKIND--------who shot biggie smalls? if we don't get them they gon' get us all / i'm down to run up pn them crackers in their city hall----------its kinda hard to be optimistic / when your homey is laying dead in a casket----------they say the blacker the berry; the sweeter the juice / i say the darker the flesh; then the deeper the roots---------i took your breath away then we'd perform cpr---------there's no real way it can be explained / i guess its just the way i smile when i hear your name--------CASH RULES EVERYTHING AROUND ME / C.R.E.A.M. GET THE MONEY, DOLLAR DOLLAR BILL Y'AAAAALL------------see I’m a poet to some, a regular modern day shakespeare / jesus christ the king of these latter day saints here / To shatter the picture in which of that as they paint me as / a monger of hate and satan a scatter-brained atheist--------i remember marvin gaye used to sing to me / he had me feeling like black was the thing to be------------this be that put-you-out-your-misery song / that makes you ask your man 'is this the joint he's dissin me on?'---------foul all your life now ure 90 / on ure death bed u regret being grimey---------INDUSTRY RULE #4080, RECORD COMPANY PEOPLE ARE SHAAADYYYY / so kids watch your back cause i think they smoke crack---------society's a weak excuse for a man-----------planet earth my place of birth / born to be the sole controller of the universe---------the mic had my prints, on on it was a body---------a squealer tells, but the dealer still sells---------some young male put in jail / lawyer so good his bail was on sale----------i'm just takin a piss......unless you're gonna do it----------fuck street clothes, we thug it out in tuxedos / stomp niggaz with hard bottoms in casinos--------people higher up have the lowest self-esteem / & the prettiest people do the ugliest things-----------IF YOU ADMIRE SOMEONE YOU SHOULD GO 'HEAD & TELL 'EM / PEOPLE NEVER GET THE ROSES WHILE THEY CAN STILL SMELL 'EM-----------goddamn, what a nigga gotta do to make a million / without the fbi catching feelings--------i got a story to tell / in these streets we got drugs & guns for sale---------we keep the nine tucked chop dimes up rap about it / wild out fuck niggaz up laugh about it---------- read between tha lines of ya eyes and ya brows / ya handshake aint matchin ya smile---------what the fuck i rap for? to push a fuckin rav-4?-------fuck all the glamour & glitz, i plan to get rich / i'm from new york & never was a fan of the knicks----------the white boy blossomed after dre endorsed him / his flow on renegade-fuckin awesome...applaud him-------before i start you know i gotta / pay homage & respects to afrika bambaata---------DRUGS IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS / MONEY IS THE KEY TO SEX------i pimped my crib so i must exhibit------- I - WILL - NOT - LOSE !
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