Out of all the things you expect to come out of a rapper’s mouth during an interview, would you ever think praise for Billy Joel would be one of them? Well, obviously, you’ve never spoken to Homeboy Sandman.
“I feel like Billy Joel is an amazing songwriter,” says Sandman, 34, on the phone from Santa Fe, N.M. “Like, one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard.”
Joel’s name comes up when the topic of influential artists enters the conversation. Sure, Sandman (real name: Angel Del Villar II) name-checks various hip-hop giants – Mos Def, Eminem, assorted Wu-Tang Clansmen – but he isn’t afraid to admit he’s a fan of artists from other, less turnt-up genres.
“I listen to hip-hop but, also, I was lucky,” he says. “My father’s a huge music fan and had all different types of genres playing at home when I was growing up.”
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Whether he’s listening to music or creating music himself, Sandman, who’ll be opening for Aesop Rock Monday in Carrboro, enjoys delving into things more stereotypical rappers shy away from. (This also explains why born-and-based New Yorker Sandman is on the West Coast-based Stones Throw label, which has released albums by such offbeat hip-hoppers as eccentric MC/producer Madlib, masked rapper MF DOOM and the late, great J Dilla.)
Several tunes from his latest album, “Hallways,” released last September, have the 30-something MC riffing on where he is in his life. (The standout track is “Problems,” basically an anthem for any middle-aged man stuck in a rut and surrounded by hipsters.)
“I don’t really put too much strategic thought into the art that I make, you know,” he says. “I pretty much make joints about how I’m feeling at any certain time. Some of them are talking about stuff I see around me – you know, societal stuff. Some of them are talking about me in an introspective way very confidently. Some of them talking about myself in an introspective way insecurely. … I’m a unique human being ... feeling a whole myriad of ways.”
And while Big Sean and other chest-thumping rappers are ready to say they don’t mess with time-wasting girls, the Sandman cops to needing female companionship on the tracks “Grand Pupa” and “Personal Ad.” Sandman says he’ll never understand why male rappers generally act like they don’t need the fairer sex.
“I mean, isn’t that the strangest thing you ever heard?” he asks. “I mean, is that the paradigm – you know, we don’t like women? I mean, that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. Women are the most amazing thing in the whole (expletive) world. More than anything else, at least for me, isn’t that crazy?”
Sandman doesn’t just express himself on the mike. He’s also written essays and op-ed pieces for Gawker and the Huffington Post. His articles round up both page views and controversy; his Gawker op-ed on the Donald Sterling scandal, titled “Black People Are Cowards,” reportedly attracted more than 1.3 million views in its first week of publication.
“The type of things I write for Gawker is not like the type of stuff I need to look up a bunch of facts for, you know,” he says. “It’s stuff that’s passionate – it comes straight from the heart. The type of stuff that I was writing for HuffPo is like argumentative writing – you know, like trying to make a point and trying to prove it, you know what I’m saying, and trying to make a convincing argument of a certain, specific point.”
So, whether it’s on wax or on a website, Homeboy Sandman will continue to bring up topics that are certain to get people talking.
“You know, it’s like having a conversation with people,” he says. “I get opportunities to have conversations and have them spread. I have them spread through music. I have them spread through articles. When I have something to say, I say it.”