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Homeboy Sandman

  • Nourishment (Second Helpings) [Boy Sand Industries, 2007] *
  • Actual Factual Pterodactyl [Boy Sand Industries, 2008] A-
  • The Good Sun [High Water Music, 2010] A-
  • Subject: Matter [Stones Throw download EP, 2012] A-
  • Chimera EP [Stones Throw EP, 2012] B+
  • First of a Living Breed [Stones Throw, 2012] A-
  • Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent [Stones Throw, 2013] B+
  • All That I Hold Dear [Stones Throw EP, 2013] ***
  • Hallways [Stones Throw, 2014] A-
  • White Sands [Stones Throw, 2014] *
  • Kindness for Weakness [Stones Throw, 2016] A-
  • Veins [Stones Throw, 2017] A-
  • Dusty [Mello Music, 2019] **
  • Don't Feed the Monster [Mello Music Group, 2020] **
  • Anjelitu [Mello Music, 2021] **
  • There in Spirit [Mello Music Group, 2022] A-
  • I Can't Sell These [self-released, 2022] A
  • Still Champion [Mello Music, 2022] *

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Nourishment (Second Helpings) [Boy Sand Industries, 2007]
Penn grad and law-school dropout Angel Del Villar solidifies his career plans ("Kain News," "Us and Them"). *

Actual Factual Pterodactyl [Boy Sand Industries, 2008]
This logorrheic rhymer says he comes music first, which means extended loops from anywhere: speed-rock, roots dancehall, humming and whistling, Bach or somebody, Jon Hassell or somebody, Kenna nailing his Thom Yorke impression. On the one about the ill-fated mambo contest, there's a mambo; on "I-Tunes Song," there's an intrusive jingle. But though the loops have some jam and Kenna will never sound better, what sustains is the words. Some you'll get right away, others you'll let pass with your head spinning. But they'll be there waiting. Conscious enough, Homeboy loves to play, which greatly enhances his wisdom hear how "Or" arrays 200-odd "or" rhymes: "I am a sight for sore orbs/Flow like a cyborg albacore." Married to this hip-hop for richer or poorer, he's never been divorced. His brand of hip-hop is nothing like yours. A-

The Good Sun [High Water Music, 2010]
He's a believer--once withdrew from a freestyling contest rather than rhyme to a gunshot beat. He's a vegan who forswears cursewords and caffeine although not reefer, brags about how poor he is, and is avowedly "not pop." But he's no ascetic. His songs come equipped with brief melodic hooks, his rapid rhymes brim with delight, and from gravelly to singsong his flow is always ready for whatever comes next. Sandman has heard the insult knuckleheads aim at every rapper who makes them feel guilty: "Maybe you think I'm whinin' like BeBe and CeCe." But he knows he rhymes for love and for the fun of it, and so will you. A-

Subject: Matter [Stones Throw download EP, 2012]
He says this EP's subjects matter because no other hip-hopper has touched them, and except for the opener about his creative process, he's got a right, as in the one about his material possessions thatincludes his sock drawer. His beats stick, and even when he's merely rhyming there's a musicality there: "Carpe diem/As a.m. turn to the p.m./The zone I be in/Muy bien." From the grounded erotic obsession of "Unforgettable" to the down-in-the-flood nightmares of "Soap," he's got a vision. And nowhere is his subject matter more materialistic--philosophically, and maybe even dialectically--than in "Canned Goods": "Other food spoils much quicker/The spoils go to the victors." A-

Chimera EP [Stones Throw EP, 2012]
The beats on these six songs tend low and thrummy, less than catchy but they stick with you. The philosophical lyrics are braggier than usual, and in a touch I like, every damn one is reproduced on the cover of the vinyl version. First side, "I Do Whatever I Want" and especially "Cops Get Scared of Me" prove somewhat less than compelling. But the second begins with a a geopolitical analysis so much shrewder than the unpromising title "Illuminati" that the two excellent if lesser tracks that follow are, well, illuminated. B+

First of a Living Breed [Stones Throw, 2012]
Between speed of delivery and brevity of line, Sandman's nonstop tunefulness here tends jingly no matter how gritty his flow. So listen up, Goya Foods--he's a Dominican vegan with an old rhyme called "Canned Goods," and if you're real nice maybe he'll let you attach it to a garbanzo commercial. As a sucker for babies, let me praise the sample that runs through the "Wear Clean Draws" variant "For the Kids"; as an elder, let me remind those who've forgotten (as I had) that the treated verbalese of "Cedar & Sedgwick" namechecks the birthplace of hip-hop. Sandman's rhymes are so unfailing I wish he'd tell stories as well as pile on rhetoric, because rhetoric is harder to sustain at the level of interest he deserves. I also wish his best album didn't recycle one standout each from his two 2012 EPs. But there aren't many rappers who can top a strong collection with a progress report on their careers which credibly reports that the nicest thing about earning money is having more to give away and transforms a diffidently childish "not really" into a dynamite hook. I mean, what a boast: "Not really." A-

Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent [Stones Throw, 2013]
The guy who cashes "checks for packs of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked" is so skilled he risks being too smart for his own good--a little like Aesop Rock, except that a) he's not white and b) he's not an obscurantist. He wants to set his people on the right path and keeps thinking up explicit ways to say so. But none of them have gotten near that goal so far, not even theoretically, as they might if his skills included the ability to rise to actual hits, as opposed to pleasurable musicality, and also to sink to them. Not that that kind of skill comes any easier than the rhyming and rapping he's so good at. But I'm struck by my favorite song on this EP, "Lonely People," in which a raggedy "Eleanor Rigby" refrain flexes against verses that begin: "Look at all these wannabe famous people/All they talk about is famous people/Every statement be defaming people." True enough, obviously. But it makes me wonder whether fame is really something he's willing to go for. B+

All That I Hold Dear [Stones Throw EP, 2013]
"How can a artist make too much art?" ("Runts," "Relapse") ***

Hallways [Stones Throw, 2014]
After throwing down 34 straight long-"E" rhymes over a Philip Glass beat and cutting them short with a "Damn, I said 'street' before," the self-starter explains why America ain't so bad--legal protections and consumer goods that add up to "We are the 99 per cent locally/We are the one percent globally." And although the percentage is more like five for most Americans, the perspective is tonic from a man who's always been as class-conscious as alt-rap gets. Fine with me that he's no longer vegan. Fine with me that "Personal Ad" is a sex boast few this side of Jay-Z would have the cool or balls to pull off. A-

White Sands [Stones Throw, 2014]
The lesser verse of Angel Del Villar II, best at its happiest and grimmest ("Fat Belly," "Echoes") *

Kindness for Weakness [Stones Throw, 2016]
Strictly on the down-low (is that the phrase?), Angel del Villar has recorded more quality long-players than anyone over the past decade. He's not a great--his sibilantly articulated flow just isn't as beautiful as Jay Z's, Lil Wayne's, or Nicki Minaj's. But when I wanted to demur mildly from his 2013 All That I Hold Dear, all I could do was quote his perturbed "How can an artist make too much art?" The answer is for the artist to fall in with a disrespected genre, as alt-rap seems doomed to remain, kinda like polka. His staccato three- and four-beat lines suit the rhyme-mad verbiage and moral directness you should love him for, and it's nice that he adds a common touch and a sense of humor. Highlights here are the lyrical "Heart Sings," the rousing "Real New York," the unrequited "Sly Fox," the religious "God," and the more religious "Speak Truth." Give him a fucking break, willya? A-

Veins [Stones Throw, 2017]
Given how it signs off by wrapping "God" and "Speak Truth" around "Nonbelievers"' and its "light brown privilege" verse, 2016's 16-track, 40-minute Kindness for Weakness feels so much like a signature classic that this 10-track, 25-minute follow-up seems trifling despite its identical minutes-per-song ratio. But on both albums, Sand remains the most consistent song-crafter in whatever we're supposed to call the game he's playing. Accept his rat-a-tat delivery and his looplike beats and recognize how rarely he lets four lines pass without proving that "Every single morning I handle boredom by being born again." Never one "to waste time tryna be cute," he rocks his "Fila and Le Tigre on the Tigris and Euphrates," reads Moby Dick between sets, and delivers delight. If his flow and beats were a smidge more iconic, he'd epitomize the kind of major minor artistry Le Tigre--hell, Spoon or somebody--parlayed into legend. A-

Dusty [Mello Music, 2019]
"I'm trying to be slower on the draw/But more and more seems like a loss to draw at all/I think that's noteworthy"--but Mono En Stereo jazz-lite beats or not, is it really? ("Pussy," "Noteworthy") **

Don't Feed the Monster [Mello Music Group, 2020]
Includes two of Homeboy's most interesting rhymes ever, but his collaborator Quelle Chris has never had enough interesting in him ("Trauma," "Alone Again") **

Anjelitu [Mello Music, 2021]
Skills ace as ever plus Aesop Rock augments their lice trilogy, but his distaste for beef seems inconsistent with his love for "cow's" milk and any 36-year-old who's never washed a dish should grow up already ("Go Hard," "Lice Team, Baby") **

There in Spirit [Mello Music Group, 2022]
Angel del Villar has long been a wonder on sheer rhyme output alone, but in recent years his music has gotten too predictable--unique to him, but predictable nonetheless--to hold up its end of the bargain. That changes drastically on this EP, where the production is why you want to hear the sharp, wide-ranging lyrics again. Thank Mello Music's Illingsworth for polymath beats and samples so textural, environmental, and hooky they can set me to grinning all by themselves. And if I'm not mistaken--can't locate the reference I tripped over in my research--one of them originated with none other than Helen Reddy. A-

I Can't Sell These [self-released, 2022]
Twenty in all, which he "can't sell" because he hasn't cleared samples that originated with not just beatmakers from Diamond D to Umra but elements discerned in Sault's "Free" and the Fiona Apple soundtrack number "Dull Tool" as well as tunebeds traceable to Venezuelan electronic composer Angel Rada, 1957 Crescent City breakout Frogman Henry, and the Parks and Recreation theme song. He will, however, give them away via Bandcamp, and should you reciprocate with a gift of your own will gratefully accept it. This is, after all, the finest album of one of hip-hop's most prolific careers--including Aesop Rock collabs, some 25 albums and EPs since 2007. He just wants you to know that money doesn't help you play in the snow--and about a thousand other things as well. One that touches me especially criticizes as it celebrates the many bus routes of Queens. A

Still Champion [Mello Music, 2022]
Sometimes you should just settle for contender ("Radiator," "Fresh Air Fund") *

See Also