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Homeboy Sandman | Rich album review

Following up his 2022 collaborative LP with rapper/producer Deca, Still Champion, Homeboy Sandman reunites with producer Mono En Stereo for a new 11-song project Rich.

Mono En Stereo, of course, has a rich history with Homeboy Sandman, having crafted his 2019 LP Dusty, and, most recently, a solid chunk of his unofficial 2022 holiday release 12 Days of Christmas & Dia de Los Reyes. Going back even further, he produced all eight tracks on the 2013 EP Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent under the monicker EL RNTC.

As you run through this latest project, Mono seems intimately aware of the MC’s strengths, playing to them with precision. For example, “Biology” fits the calming tone of Sand’s vocals like a glove. Similarly, “Off The Rip” feels like audible sunshine. Things are so smooth at points on the album that Sand manages to gloss over some rather heavy talking points. It may take a few listens to fully absorb everything.

For example, “Off The Rip” touches on shaking a porn addiction (“No more clutching in my palm in front of porn”), shunning unnecessary scientific exploration (“Leave well enough alone before you need to get rescued”), and subtly shading MCs who sell out their artistic merit for profit. Speaking to the latter point, he raps, “Which brother married to the game divorced next? All of my money’s from rewards for lost pets.”

His thoughts on the state of rap weave themselves into several records on the project, most prominently on “Therapy,” where he aims at the new generation of mainstream spitters, exclaiming, “Media put on everyone that flows wrong in the world, go and put some clothes on little girl.”

Elsewhere on “Crazy,” he jabs at the industry’s status quo for focusing more on designer labels than purposeful lyricism. “Pay no mind to the garb; shirt and slacks are just distractions from the change of the guard,” he raps.

Another central theme on this album is the dissolution of his relationship—something he seems to take with a relative grain of salt, striking a glass-half-full retrospective on the humorous “Then We Broke Up.” He delves deeper on “Loner,” though, as he describes why he needed to walk away.

He makes a specifically relatable statement here for anyone who has had to leave a relationship; while wondering if he made the right choice, he notes any attempt to reconcile would: “Just be tightening the noose and simply biting off way more than I can chew… and other things for which I am not in the mood.”

The break-up isn’t exactly out of nowhere; on December’s “Seventh Day Of Christmas,” he detailed many of the issues they were experiencing. However, it seems especially sad given how much of a strong role she seemed to play in his life.

Taking a hard, unpopular stance and standing on it is one of the biggest strengths Homie Sand has shown (in past albums) and continues to show prominently on Rich. He shares his views on COVID vaccination (“Therapy”), processed foods and his disdain for getting high — not to mention his dislike of marketing and overt commercialization.

More high level, he rhymes throughout the project from the outlook of a shaman who sees behind — as he rapped on “Fine” — the thick smoke that keeps the truth revealed. From this perspective, he appears to reject the program, so to speak, choosing instead to read between the lines (peep his reference to the push for one world government on “Crazy”).

Of course, this isn’t a perspective everyone shares and could be a turn-off for some listeners; however, though he’s far from the first MC in recent memory to make similar points, his calm, confident tone doesn’t affect the enjoyment from the raps.

Ultimately, Rich sees Homeboy Sandman rapping from what feels like the outskirts of contemporary hip-hop culture; he shines lights and draws lines in the sand [pun intended] but deliberately doesn’t offer concrete answers or definitive paths to spiritual and social salvation.

Instead, he’s inviting us along on his journey, and as he suggests on “Loner,” he’s far from perfect.

His previous LP, Still Champion, marked the end of a mental and spiritual health roller coaster that started with his Dusty LP, hit rock bottom on the 2020’s Don’t Feed The Monster and began to see the light on 2022’s There in Spirit. All that to say, though he’s a “prophet not for profit,” he’s also very much a work in progress, something he humbly acknowledges.

Longtime fans know he isn’t one to waste any bars, and Rich is some of Sandman’s best. While it doesn’t sonically break ground, the message of reevaluating the concept of richness and how we—as people—choose to accept the messages being beamed to us daily is both potent and timely.

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