After a five-album-long winning streak of underground-popular, critically praised LPs, Queens, New York-raised rhyme-technologist and Stones Throw Records artist Homeboy Sandman (Angel Del Villar II) might have looked poised to make another white-hot masterpiece after 2014’s magnificent Hallways, though his latest issue, the Kindness For Weakness album (May 6), feels more like a nice body-temp-warm point in Sandman’s career relatively speaking. It still surely holds up to almost all hip-hop standards, but as a whole, it meets the excellence of each of his preceding efforts but it doesn’t necessarily surpass them. The casual yet verbally diligent East Coast emcee has his moments of purpose here yet it feels like the main point of the album is not to spit some hands-down shocking verses and songs or reveal some mind-blowing beats but rather to further establish his cool yet crafty style and sound and make his voice stay in our ears and memories for enough time as it’ll take him to drop his next bombshell.
Dawning with casual backpack rap, philosophy and memories, Sands proceeds to hit up his dude I Am Many for “Real New York” as the two Eastern big shots shoot down clowns and flash their badges around town in the anthem. “Seam by Seam,” the first big catchy cut on the project, enlists guest Until The Ribbon Breaks for a lovely love song, delivered rap style of course. Its dramatically romantic beat may not seem to meld well with Sand’s hyper-lyrical delivery at first, but it is a passionate single nevertheless. The next two songs are pretty hefty as well. “It’s Cold,” featuring the multi-talented Steve Arrington, seats us front row center in view of the cruel unfriendly ghetto and city that Homeboy Sandman saw go unchanged before his eyes ever since he was a kid, and the hard pummeling curveball that is “Talking (Bleep)” vents on the frustration of being ahead of the curve compared to others.
For sure not ignorable, the succeeding (pun intended) handful of four tracks leading up to “Sly Fox” are not made up of the album’s proudest elements, but we do get some mystery music and funk in the two instrumental interludes and monkey bars of rap from linguist-gymnasts Mystro, yU, Tah Phrum Duh Bush and Shad. The scent on the nose of “Sly Fox” is of Sandman’s crush’s pheromones, “God” to him is his non-denominational spirituality and his faith in others, “Nonbelievers” is more random rhyming thoughts and the heavy “Speak Truth” is a melodically-hooked appeal for us to be honest in word, brutal or soft, ugly or pretty. Kindness For Weakness definitely has replay value because it’s just very good, despite some minor imperfections. It’s not a drastic change of course for Sandman, but it’s him doing his skilled talented calling like he’s always done it. There is no mistaking him with anyone else in the game right now as he’s a true keeper of the hip-hop faith and a great practitioner of the art of rap. Props to Homeboy Sandman.