(High Water Music)
With no shtick and few obvious hangups,
Homeboy Sandman has the outward appearance of a rapper with purity on his mind.
But the University of Pennsylvania-educated MC is more straight-up than straight-laced.
“The Good Sun,” his third album (and first with a decent distro deal)
is dense, literate and earnest, but there’s joyousness in the songs, the kind
that comes from puttin’ the work in. He’s the stoner who figured out a long
time ago that he had more fun thinking than smoking.
That said, “The Good Sun” isn’t an intellectual
exercise, per se. Sandman’s mission here is to wow with words and point out
that other rappers could be better writers: “All I hear is yadda, yadda,
yadda/All I hear is nada/And it’s gettin’ louder/So I made a vow to/Do
somethin’ about it,” he says in his nasal, well-metered voice on
“Table Cloth,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Def Jux
compilation. On the catchy, teeter-tottering, matter-of-fact “Mean
Mug,” he rolls his eyes at angry-faced MCs: “Towards what ploy are
you employing it?/You do know that it’s poisonous, not poignant/Have you
deployed it at your place of employment?/If so, which position have you been
appointed?” Somehow he sounds more like an imp than a scold.
Elsewhere he holds his own against some potent breakbeats
(“The Carpenter,” “The Essence”), communicates a certain
urgency about his craft (“Not Pop”) and slows down to explain his
worldview as an artist (“Being Haved, “Yeah But I Can Rhyme
Though”). Through it all, he piles up assonance and alliteration,
fearlessly reducing his job to a matter of saying interesting things at
interesting times over state-of-the-art indie beats. Somewhere in that brain
there’s an overtly political being, somebody with incisive thoughts about the
world beyond hip-hop. Maybe that stuff would poison the fun, though. And if
he’s indeed deliberately trying to stay away from the pitfalls of the news,
then “The Good Sun” is just music for music’s sake. And how rare is
that in hip-hop?
Standout Tracks: “The Essence,” “Yeah But I
Can Rhyme Though,” “Table Cloth,” “Mean Mug” JOE WARMINSKY