Greats are not always known. Homeboy Sandman has been coming out on top in the underground rap world since late 2008, the year he blessed ears and minds with the celebrated LP Actual Factual Pterodactyl. Coming from the diverse neighborhood of Elmhurst, Queens, Boy Sand was always infatuated with music but was expected to become a lawyer, and he took steps to fulfill that expectation from family and friends. Still, confidence and support from his father, a former boxer who is now an attorney, led him to withdraw from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University four years ago to pursue his dream of becoming a rapper. “I'ma die one day anyway; might as well be an MC,” Sandman expressed to XXL. Now he's four albums in, releasing his latest LP, First of a Living Breed, back on September. Fresh off his newest project and wrapping up his tour with Brother Ali, XXL met up with the Stones Throw artist to discuss his skills, creative control, his new album and more. —Christopher Minaya (@CM_3)

On His Choice to Sign With Stones Throw:

On His Choice to Sign With Stones Throw

Homeboy Sandman: “Stones Throw is a great place for creative criticism. I have super-duper confidence in Peanut Butter Wolf’s musical knowledge, acumen and wisdom. I’ve taken critique and advice from Stones Throw and gone back to my records and been like, You know? That makes sense on this hook. I do have difficulties working with others, but the label is great 'cause they’re very understanding, and I’m very upfront about that too.

“I do whatever I want all the time; if you’re down to get down with what I do and you trust me on that then we should build. Creative integrity, from the artist’s standpoint and also from the label’s standpoint, is one of the major reasons. Stones was one of two labels that I looked at before I got signed, and I said, 'When these cats catch wind of me, I bet you me and these dudes will get along.' I respected them, and I respected how they got down. My goal is to represent worldwide and to represent being you, to speak on things you see and not allowing yourself to be manipulated.”

On How Beats Shape His Content:

On How Beats Shape His Content

Homeboy Sandman: “The canvas is the beat to me; I’m never gonna sound the same unless I’m rhyming over the same beat. Like, my background is in jazz and Spanish music, and my Spanish is terrible. Stuff I was listening to growing up, I ain’t understand the words or it didn’t have words. So, the melodies and the rhythms and the cadences were everything. I also do a lot of determination about what I’m gonna be rhyming about. 'Does this sound happy? Does this sound sad? Does this sound high energy? Does it sound contemplative or reflective?' I like to choose beats and select beats that already have something to say even before I’ve started writing."

On “Cops Get Scared of Me,” from his Chimera EP (2012)

On "Cops Get Scared of Me"

Homeboy Sandman: “Sometimes you can tell from cops’ posture that they [are] some assholes, that think they’re hard ‘cause they’re cops. Me, I like to walk up behind those cops just so they like, 'Who is this big 6'5" dude?' Good cops aren’t scared of me; everybody, whether they [are a] cop, robber, politician, who thrives on making other people fearful is scared of me 'cause I’m not scared of them. Anybody who spends [their] time trying to thrive on people’s insecurities, trying to be a bully, are scared of me; that’s what that song meant.

“When I say, 'I always have something to say/I always have something to prove,' that was dealing with immaturity and then being involved with bravado, [which] I think is immature. Being involved with going too hard, going too far to make a point. But, really most of it comes from insecurity that was inside me. Now, I always have something to say that’s thought-provoking and important. So, the 'never got nothing to do' actually has a couple of meanings. The true grammar of double negative makes a positive, so at the same time I’m saying, I always have something to do in the true grammatical essence of it.”

The Development of His Artistry:

On The Development of His Artistry

Homeboy Sandman: “I won’t say I haven’t changed ‘cause I think as a person, I’m always looking to evolve. I mean my art comes from me as a person. So, I mean I’ve gone through a lot of changes in my life, as far as the way I live, eat, work out, think. But as far as integrity, it’s always been something important to me. What they’re talking about is not so much the person evolved, but that person has lost some of their integrity. I think that’s what people are talking about when they say change. So, the foundation as far as the things I value, honesty, integrity, complete absence of biting and all these things, these are ingrained in me and will never change."

“You know, the brain is muscle; I use my brain to do this. You use your bicep to do a curl; I use my brain to write a rhyme, and I want to keep challenging myself. My first album from 2007 was called Nourishment, and I had a joint on there called ‘Kain News,' and it was me doing a news report. It’s hot record; to me, that was a major, major challenge. A lot of rhymes is very ‘Yo, I’m nice rhyming. I’m the man.’ So, that’s like the most primitive of it, but building on that, it’s gets more challenging. At this point, there’s nothing I can’t rhyme about and make dope. I can rap about whatever and have it not be corny ‘cause that’s how ill I can get with it and I feel that way and I have that confidence. From a rhyming standpoint, from a creative standpoint, I don’t feel any weaknesses. I could get better; I could get better freestyling, so there are things to improve upon, but the bars I’m constructing now they wow me more than my older bars.”

State of Hip-Hop Now Compared to Before:

State of Hip-Hop Now Compared to Before

Homeboy Sandman: “To me, you’re the best when nobody can do what you do. I know full and well that nobody can rhyme like I rhyme in the world. Some of the cats are talking about Redman, Mos Def, and Big Pun. They were doing things that no one else could do, and to me, that’s what makes you the best. I want to be better than myself, and I want to be bite-proof. Cats couldn’t bite me if they tried. That’s where I’m at with it, so I feel nobody can rap better than me in the whole world. There’s people that do things that I don’t do. Shouts to them. But, can’t nobody rap better than me in the whole world that I’ve ever heard.

“I just think that limited info is a disadvantage. I don’t think the younger generation is dumb or nothing. I just think that anytime you have less access to stuff, you’re going to be disadvantaged. The disadvantage is just the access; it’s not like when I was growing up and you had a wide variety of people, so you could even pick the ones you look up to. There’s a lot more uniformity today, so kids see more uniformity. You could only put out what you take in, not completely, but it affects a lot of it.”

On Rap Beef:

On Rap Beef

Homeboy Sandman: “I could be dropping names about shit I think is wack, but when it really comes down to it, these are all my brothers, B. Brothers have fights. Brothers act different, but there are guys that I really look forward to having the chance to speak to, man. I mean I taught high school for two years, and I understand the difference between attacking a kid for doing something stupid and finding the right time to speak to them with respect, and that it’s more effective to show respect.”

On First of a Living Breed:

On First of a Living Breed

Homeboy Sandman: “There’s no life in anything that’s already been done. It’s like a Xerox copy. You can take a Xerox copy of a Picasso painting; [there] ain’t no life in that. I don’t believe that there are no original ideas; I think original ideas are probably a lot more like prime numbers. They get more separated, but you never run out of them. You need authenticity, and you need innovation ‘cause everything else is dead. Art that isn’t to further the art form is dead. Careers that are not to further the art form can lead to fame and fortune, but they are dead; nothing that is going to change the world is coming from that. Nothing that people are gonna be talking about in 500 years is coming from that. A breed that is not here to imitate, replicate, duplicate; we are here to institute something you have never seen before with all our heart, with all our bars, all our hooks, all our production. Hip-hop is young; there’s about to be a changing of the guard, and I’m coming out representing for that breed. That’s what First of a Living Breed is all about.

“My tagline has always been, ‘Boy Sand like you never heard him before, as usual.’ A lot of my stuff is melody based; I want to have melodies so crazy that even if I had no bars, you would want to listen. And, I want to have bars so crazy that even if I had no melody, you would want to listen. If its word choice reminds me of something I’ve already done, I don’t want to use it, and I don’t use it. And, that keeps my music from sounding like my music; that’s what I mean by ‘I hate biting so much I don’t even wanna bite myself.’ So, there’s never been a ‘Not Really.’ There’s never been a ‘For the Kids.’ There’s never been an ‘Eclipsed.’ It’s just all: ‘What have I not rhymed about? What have I not put together? What have I not compared?’ I want to go where I have not gone before, and I think that’s always gonna keep my joints different."

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