Kool Herc: Fertile Cresent is Homeboy Sandman’s 8th studio album, 4th EP, and 5th offering since finding an artistic home at Stones Throw Records. The latest disc is entirely produced by El RTNC (formerly Rthentic RTNC). Although El RTNC did work on HBSM’s previous albums, “First of a Living Breed”, and the “Subject Matter EP”, the audio theme is quite unique. Far more long loops and simple hooks were employed on this tape than on previous Homeboy albums, which drives home the theme of this project being an ode to old school hip-hop; hence the title, “Kool Herc: Fertile Cresent.”
Track 1 – My Brother’s:
The album opens with live instrumentation, or a sample of a live recording: soulful baseline, organs, a funky drummer, distant ethereal synths, and a clavo. It reminds me of the intro of J-Live’s All of the Above a bit. This transforms abruptly into a minimal beat of acoustic rock drums and cowbell.
And goodgawd, out the gate Homeboy Sandman displays the typically complex patterns and multi’s that he’s known for, delivering raw socially mindful content, without being preachy, and maintaining an NY edginess. HBSM can do a song like this, or Angels with Dirty Faces, which is a song about being kind to homeless people, perform it at EOW and not be seen as cornball or pseudo neo soul.
Homeboy Sandman gets busy for about 1.5 minutes and sets the tone of the album: no nonsense, no gimmicks. Beats and rhymes is what you’re here for. Better yet, rhymes and beats. This is music for those who buy music to hear what the rapper’s saying, and still put their fist to mouth and get squinty eyed over a dope verse.
“Stop it ya stockin ya self. That’s ya pocket ya robbin. Ya noggin, you knockin ya pops, if you poppin, it aint ya opposite hollerin help. How the hell you model yourself? What you got in common is greater than ya problem. Apologizin proudly and smell the pollen and stop the violence, and stop the violins…acknowledge and do the knowledge. That nonsense is garbage, we here to harvest in this garden lawless. Be humble and honest, be modest not martyrs, tomorrow’s not promised. I beg ya pardon, breath in some oxygen breath some carbon.”
Track – 2: Oh, the Horror:
Here, Sandy speaks on stupid rapper clichés, and spits anecdotes about it being assumed that he must have a rap sheet just cuz he raps, “…sheeeit.” – Homeboy Sandman “Oh, The Horror”. It’s message as I understand is, just cuz the guy raps for a living doesn’t mean he does any of the dumb things everyone who doesn’t know anything about rappers think rappers do. It’s a short song, straight and to the point.
“I ain’t gotta rap sheet, just cuz I rap! Sheeeit.”
Track 3 – Lonely People:
America has an obsession with celebrity and an insatiable desire to be more famous, and this joint speaks to that explicitly. Homeboy Sandman reminds me of Mario Van Peebles on the hook, “Aaaalll those lone layyy peeepoohh.” I swear, ever since Mos did Umi Says and Pharoahe did The Light, every backpack rapper thinks he should sing hooks. The track starts with spooky French film score sounding organs and a French vocal sample that’s similar to something Madlib would have selected for Madvillain. Just hearing this, I’m reminded of a dungeon level on Super Mario Brothers.
“Walkin’ around aimless tryna fit in with the A list people. Always up on what’s the latest people.”
“Latest people, y’all the lamest people. I break it down just for the laymen people. For lays they down to lay with people, but scared of labor. They’ll let a label all between their labia, in order to rock some labels they’ll do the Macarena.”
Track 4 – Dag, Philly too:
An ill, almost pristine jazz guitar loop, which progresses to an organ breakdown, and circles right back into the guitar loop. There’s really no real concept to this song, it’s on some random braggadocios and styling. Nice track, understated, dope performance lyrically, but a bit boring.
“Spent 3 years over ya head. My name mumbled under ya breath. Now I’m the boogie man under ya bed. Terrorizing ya village here to pillage and plunder ya bread.”
Track 5 – Moon:
This is a song about love, in the form of a few stories of HBSM falling in and out of love. “I thought I was in love last week…” begins the first story of falling for a girl who suffers scars caused by the sins of previous cats. The second tale begins, “I thought I was in love last month.” He concludes the song with a few bars dedicated to his latest love. The beat is again, very simple – some echoing piano chops and lo-fi drums are all that back Homeboy’s anecdotes of love sparking and fading. The hook is lazy to me.
“It’s not that I was overwhelmed by her past deeds. But through her life she’d been considered a black sheep. And through the hatred she behaved like a bad seed. She’s so ashamed of what she became she can’t sleep. Just for survival she was fondled by strange dudes, so any moment she was liable to change moods. A silver tongue, but out in public she stayed mute. As I’m the Son, it’s only right she was named Moon. A few appointments all my points been made moot. And she was poised to be appointed my main muse. As she wasn’t after Sand’s paper, I made moves…to try and save her much like sand paper can make smooth…”
Track 6 – Men Are Mortal:
A flip of the same sample Kanye used to create Diamonds In Sierra Leone, but chopped and arranged completely different. When I read the title I was hyped, because it seems like it was going to be on some, “listen up dudes who think they’re big shots; you’re not.” But it’s really just more spitfire random brag rap. I’m not mad at that, but the beat isn’t ill enough for me to listen to this joint more than a few times. The bars aren’t crucial enough to rewind and try and decipher. This sounds like filler and is very skippable.
“…she blew my tuba scales, I keep her wetter than a grouper scale. I’m hard to trail unlike a group of snails.”
Track 7 – Peace and Love:
What ever record this loop is from, I need in my life and on my shelf. Anyways, the beat’s simple and really dope. Forgive me for not being able to identify the language of the sample, but it’s either Portuguese or Eastern European prog-rock. There’s a reverb on Homeboy Sandman’s vocals which makes the song sort of seem like the music he’s rapping on was recorded with him in the room, instead of him rapping over the sample which was recorded decades before. The content is straight forward – violence is wrong and we should choose peace and love over harming each other. This is a reoccurring theme in HBSM’s catalog, almost a pleading with young kids in the city to choose peace and love over violence.
“Geniuses, Nefertiti and Tut, that’s who we were once…Son.”
“Ironically arms ain’t ways of reachin’ up.”
Track 8 – I
Rthentic, I see you. I’ve been holding on to this very rare film score record for a couple of years, but alas, Rthentic beat me to it. It’s a very busy track with very few isolated parts, so I get why they looped it and let it breath. Much like Peace and Love, this one has a gritty reverb to the vocal track, which makes it pair well with the beat in the back. And much like much of his catalog, Sandy ends this one much like he began it, with enlightened and vulnerable content, delivered in always impressively complex patterns, over beats that never sound like whatever is trendy, while remaining soulful and progressive and holding true to the rule that the emcee should shine brighter than the beat. If that rule still applies to you, as it does me, you’ll dig this.
“I” concludes this EP and at this point I think it’s clear what we can expect from Homeboy Sandman at Stones Throw – sample-centric production, heavy in film scores, jazz, soul, and foreign prog rock, and intensely complex rhyme patterns chock full of socially aware bars. The minimal quality of the beats is similar to recent Blu albums, and the lyrical stylings are all Homeboy Sandman.