While there are plenty of raps out there that are not as deep as the writings of Aristotle, Dostoevsky or even your average student majoring in Philosophy, most hip-hop songs deliver one or more messages (such as "I'm better on the mic than you", "I'm dangerous" or "As a society, we need to be more conscious"). They make some kind of sense, though it may not necessarily be profound or feature a clear moral or political angle. Perhaps they can entertain the audience while doing so. Some listeners may need a greater understanding of the historical context to get the references and other words, but usually you can understand what rappers are trying to communicate, even if they are not, say, gifted storytellers or commentators. Very rarely do rappers refuse to engage even in a basic rhyme pattern. After all, rap's foundation - the main thing that distinguishes it from other forms of hip-hop culture such as DJing and breakdancing - has always been speaking in rhymes rhythmically.
Homeboy Sandman's 'Veins' album opens with 'Between the Clouds', a quite arresting combination of off-kilter production - drums chopped into a very unusual pattern - and an abstract series of words sprayed via a disorientating cadence over a minimalistic clipped guitar riff and bursts of energy. The creative beat, executed oddly but with skill, thankfully just about stands up, but that feat seems far less impressive when you realise one can derive little depth, in terms of significant meaning, from his lyrics, although this song has more of that than most here.
Although raps are based on rhymes, great practitioners of the craft are about more than that. It seems that for most of this album Sandman fails to see that, and sometimes he does not even rhyme. That is the case at the beginning of 'Underground Dreams'. In the same song he also ends two boring lines with, respectively, "pay taxes" and "payin' taxes". Can you find a rap couplet that is lazier than that? Thankfully, its lyrics are not entirely bad, though, as it features the well-put ending ("Another life, another lie") which adds a spark of evocativeness to a largely dull set of words delivered in a way that is not very entertaining either.
Continue reading: Homeboy Sandman - Veins Album Review
One thing's for sure, signing to Stones Throw has made Homeboy Sandman one of the most productive rappers around today. Prior to signing to the hip-hop juggernaut label, Sandman was somewhat complacent with his recordings and generated a buzz largely from shows around his home city of New York.
Continue reading: Homeboy Sandman, Chimera EP Review