Exit the malodorous mist that plagues hip-hop, and enter Homeboy Sandman as rap’s own Book of Eli, fumigating the genre’s outbreak of impurities. His artistic Stones Throw Records endeavor First Of A Living Breed is the extermination of extreme ratchetness of the type that celebrates gang violence, unwarranted promiscuity, and imbecilic drug usage.
Although the production is inundated with an assortment of genres, Living Breed is textured in one unique, hard-to-bite style. Vocally similarity to Jadakiss and Lloyd Banks, Homeboy Sandman has a rebellious spirit and Eminem’s straight-in-your-face pugnacity, qualities reflected throughout the album. The appropriately obscure and tumultuous “Illuminati” is redolent of an #Extinction Level Event occurring in today’s afterworld chaos: “The war on drugs has been going on for so long…For some reason all the brown ninos turn to Nino Brown…Rap to them about cap and pows instead of caps and gowns/ They’ll drown in booze, which they couldn’t take/And debt will make ‘em slaves/ And then we cut the pay and lengthen days…At any moment they decide they could make it end…life is hopeless, times are hard/ And keep it focused on religion so they never look for GOD.”
This is Homeboy Sandman at his deepest-walking the fine artistic line between mastermind and lunatic. His inexhaustible penmanship coaxes listeners to further sink their ears to the album’s abyss, a pull that’s hard to defy. It is a rare characteristic at a time when most hip-hop artists drop ADHD records that keep the radio’s dial spinning for lack of cohesiveness. “Rain” is decked with opulent cadence and Pac-Man/Super Mario Brothers video game scoring. The clannish “The Ancient” brings a rawness straight out of a Kill Bill scene. By contrast “For The Kids” underscores empowerment to disadvantaged youth: “Little Black girls your hair is beautiful/ You can leave it natural, its suitable…You’re not an ugly duckling/ You are smart/ I know you think that being different makes you weak/ But being different makes you strong.”
The most impulsive is the cut-no-corners album title and track “First Of A Living Breed” that concisely preaches his philosophy in life and art: “The matrix can’t own me cause I’m my own agent…I made an A-list, but drove my spaceship/ Kept my nose nowhere near your anus/ People told me I should not burn bridges/ Why I need a bridge for someplace I ain’t trying to go? As a new emcee, ya’ll ain’t help me spread the news/ Now you need me more than I need you.” Ever the non-conformist, Homeboy Sandman is indeed a new breed but First Of A Living Breed is written as much for the dying breed; an obituary void of condolences.
-Hector De La Rosa