Homeboy Sandman is one of the few MC’s whose style is equally at home on a track by Jon Wayne as it is by Exile, or J57, or Oh No etc. As a Stones Throw recording artist, he’s in safe hands with a broad audience who understand the wider sonic backdrops he plays with in his music. Fuelled by the opportunity to see him live as part of a line up alongside some of his collaborators, we found ourselves at ‘The Garage’, on a rainy Friday evening in Islington, London.
Wah Wah 45 artists Paper Tiger kicked off the evenings entertainment with their journeys into electronica and bass. A robust, bass driven performance comprising of live instrumentation, percussion, synthesis and turntablism paved the way for the following set courtesy of producer Paul White. White’s performance focused on his more electronic work, touching on dance music at times rather than the straight up beats of his mix tape releases. The highlight was undoubtedly his use of live keys, guitar and drums over the backdrop of Roland SP808 beats, which offered an interesting change to the de rigour laptop performances of the beat making world.
Boysand entered the stage around 9:30pm to introduce a brief showcase set from fellow NY MC, I Am Many. Look out for more from this MC in the future, his repertoire of deep beats and conscious rhymes serving as the perfect appetiser for the main event. From then on it was Homeboy Sandman all the way, kicking off the set with the uptempo ‘The Carpenter’ from 2010’s ‘The Good Sun’ and progressively moving through his impressive back catalogue.
Vocally, Sandman’s vocal performance is clear and composed, yet his stage presence is anything but this as he strides, jumps and punches from either side of the stage, dripping sweat from every pore. Even when pushed to the limits of vocal dexterity on tracks such as ‘Men Are Mortal’, rhyme delivery is never compromised, breath control maintained at all times.
Joints like ‘Illuminati’ and ‘Musician’ are seamlessly interwoven to create a performance of different audio textures, tempos and vocal delivery. Occasional nods and whispers to DJ Sosa tailor the set to ensure we get the most from our 60 minutes with the Queens MC.
For seasoned fans there was plenty to keep you bouncing, via a paint by numbers set such as ‘Not Really’, to new tracks from his latest EP with Paul White ‘White Sands’, all climaxing with a roof raising performance at the end of the show of the 144BPM ‘Table Cloth’. It’s hard not to get caught up in the energy and respect the skills on display, both lyrically and technically.
All too often UK Hip-Hop gigs can seem a little formulaic, as some artists simply go through the motions to get through another date in an ever ending list of European gigs. If I had one criticism of the show, it’s a shame that the potential to perform with the other artists on the roster, particularly Paul White, was not realised. That aside, Homeboy Sandman is an artist who delivers the vibe missing in so many Hip-Hop gigs of late – it’s part sport, part music, but still ultimately a compelling and invigorating ride through beats and rhymes.