Quintessential New York hip-hop exists, hidden behind polysyllabic names and open affairs with higher education or illustrious side-careers. Lyrically and musically, Homeboy Sandman has repped this sound for his whole career, but the pure aesthetics of Tour Tape catapult the old-school feel. Released only on cassette tape, available only at his live shows during an early 2015 tour, the tape’s title is literal and decidedly intentional in describing the content: if you’re a die-hard Homeboy Sandman fan, this is for you. For the uninitiated, Tour Tape peaks early and late, rewarding those who drifted through the predictable middle.
But what peaks they are. His Christgau-lauded sex raps open the project with the impressive “Loins”, where low-brow sex brags are masked by such delightful, often self-deprecating bars like “I be a six-four nympho, ‘cept I’m six-five / I six-nine / I give chicks my nine / Well, it’s more like six / But its width like biscuit size.” His delivery throughout makes you pine for him taking his talents to the screen. In a way, the forgettable “There It Is” highlights the joyful absurdities of the tracks to bookend it, the aforementioned “Loins” and the “Lark On My Go-Kart”-beat-used “Meet the Mets”, where he threatens a whole song about Daryl Boston and chastises “If you don’t know about Gregg Jeffries / Your whole wisdom is elementary.” He’s having too much fun, and in this is where Sandman wins over those on the fringe of fandom, when he’s straddling the extremes.
The extreme for which he’s most famous in the mainstream is his political fire, and on Tour Tape, one of his best songs on the topic, “Air Raid Too”, positions itself as the release’s penultimate. Over a powering stadium rock-esque beat, he laces the song with wall-to-wall quotables. In this song, one of the most impressive strings of this still-young the decade, strikes for its applicability to hip-hop tropes and growing societal unrest: “Good heavens / Sometimes in the hood, it’s like the hood Yemen / They only setting the stage for cats to make legend / When they don’t give any aid, they only give lemons”. Home(boy)’s not playing that, and this ferocity bodes well for his assumed follow-up.
Prolific as any rapper this side of Gucci Mane, Homeboy Sandman’s multimedia presence is a perfect compliment to Killer Mike’s meteoric ascent as a public figure. He’s fulfilling the position carved out by the cross-medium reality jolts first provided by Das Racist, but without any of the joke-related baggage. If Tour Tape is for the fans, the reemergence in speaking on current events in publications, as well as on tape, predict another necessary voice directing the conversation in hip-hop towards its pure founding ideals.