Homeboy Sandman’s Songs So Astonishing They Are Undeniable Proof of God
The East Coast rapper shares 12 musical cases supporting the existence of a higher being.
From the first line of the first track on Homeboy Sandman’s new record Don’t Feed the Monster, it’s pretty evident that the rapper’s new project is a bit more serious than the prankster hip-hop the NYC-based artist has been churning out for over a decade—by himself or tag-teaming with Edan or Aesop Rock. Midway through the song he recalls a childhood experience of humping his dad’s girlfriend’s leg as a five-year-old, with many such uncomfortably sexual early memories likely taking on new meanings for the artist upon revealing them to the broad audience he’s accumulated over the years.
“Don’t Feed the Monster was costly,” he shares of his new record, produced by Quelle Chris. “I felt worse than I’ve ever felt in my entire life en route to getting to the place of writing it. I felt lost and I felt hopeless, but in the end I wouldn’t change a thing, because you get what you pay for.” He chalks this miraculous expulsion of difficult memories up to the helping hand of God—even though, as he later notes, he’s not a Christian. How else would such a thing occur? “Also, Quelle Chris is a genius,” he adds.
Don’t Feed the Monster hasn’t been the only act of God in the rapper’s life, as he attests to with the playlist he put together for us, which compiles a dozen tracks hewn from various divine interventions. Stream the track list he threw together for us as you read on for Sandman’s individual cases supporting the existence of a higher being.
Mickey Factz, “A-“
The name of this playlist comes from this song. Mickey Factz wrote a song about the letter “A” without using the letter “A.” I know what you’re thinking—that’s impossible. Can not happen. And if it does happen, there’s no way it can be good. Except that it’s not only good. It’s mind blowing. This dude teaches you about the history of the letter “A.” Historically. Phonetically. He talks to you about his life at the same time, and his family, and celebrities. He says “Seldom broken / if it is, then it’s pre-fixed,” but actually even as I begin to quote lines, it becomes obvious right away that the only way to comprehend the magnitude of this feat is by listening to it.
You’ll need the context, since pretty much every line has a double meaning (just as in the quoted line “broken” and “fixed” have their conventional meaning regarding functionality, as well as secondary meaning with regard to pronunciation and parts of speech). Mind you it’s so hard for me to even write a single sentence about the song without using the letter “A” that I won’t even try. But an entire song? That rhymes? About the letter itself? Such a thing could never, ever occur in the absence of God. Listen and you’ll agree. “I know you seen it before, B.” No Mickey, we have never ever seen it before.
When I heard “A-” I thought to myself, “This is the most impossible song since ‘Palindrome.'” Th1rt3eN is Marcus Machado on guitar, Daru Jones (affectionately known as Daru Drummer by pretty much every single musician of note in existence), and, on vocals, the legendary and perpetually God-confirming Pharoahe Monch. For those of you who don’t know, a palindrome is a word or phrase that’s spelled the same way forward as backwards. “Racecar” is an example. “Dogma / I am God” and “No X in Nixon” are significantly more impressive examples, and by the time he gets to “Cigar, toss it in a can, it is so tragic,” God is sitting right next to you. The beat is dirty! And as an added bonus, there’s also a bunch of extraordinary non-palindrome rhymes in there too (though none straying too far away from the topic, of course).
Bizzle, “Hold Me Down”
If you listen to Don’t Feed the Monster you can hear that I’m coming to grips with and facing much of the shameful, absurd, ridiculous nonsense that I’ve been taught was cool my entire life. The most shameful is that woman are primarily for sex, which is pretty much basic training in America, whether you want to admit it or not. And I get so sick of all this horrific trash normalized by media and by people programmed by media (which is most of us in my experience, such that my desire to disassociate with past versions of myself has at times manifested symptoms eerily similar to split personality disorder) that when I heard “Hold You Down” I heard God speaking directly to me. “We were taught never to commit, never love a chick / Had a momma, so I should have known better from the get.” “You ever played chess, then running around treating your queen like she’s a pawn ain’t never made sense.” Plus, on the God-within-God tip, he says, “You still Will Smithin’ / I’m trying to fill banks out here, and I ain’t really with the Aunt Viv switching.”
Quelle Chris & Chris Keys, “Sudden Death”
When Quelle Chris is not lacing me with beats that are proof of God he is often kicking his own raps that are proof of God over production from Chris Keys, which is proof of God in itself, and this year’s Innocent Country 2 is no exception. This album is too beautiful and I considered highlighting “Make It Better,” and I considered highlighting “Outro / Honest,” and I guess being 100 percent truthful I considered every single song on the album—but in the end I decided on “Sudden Death.”
You could tell that Pharrell is a genius because he’ll spit a rap to make a beat to make some hybrid superjam like “She Wants to Move,” and you can tell that Kanye is a genius because he’ll spit a rhyme to make a beat to hop genre to make a whole album like 808s & Heartbreak. For Quelle Chris—who is one of the most gifted writers and gifted producers to ever enter hip-hop’s pantheon—to make the first single for his most recent album a song where he’s singing the entire time, that it’s extraordinarily soulful and undeniably infectious not only speaks to the wondrous depths of his musicianship and versatility but is also indisputable proof of God.
Jeanette Berry, “Space & Timing”
I be writing rhymes and at any time somebody could call me on one of them. At any time somebody could challenge me to prove to them that the claim I make in “Extinction”—that cool people are an endangered species—is accurate; that there is, in fact, a talent crazy as Aretha Franklin that is an unknown because she doesn’t have to look. I’m not worried, because I will promptly direct them to this song by Jeanette Berry. Jeanette Berry doesn’t have a stable of engineers to make it sound like she can sing. Gorgeous as she is, she doesn’t bend over backwards to adhere to societally imposed standards of beauty. She works with a soulful band rather than a million dollar production team.
Does any of this put her at a disadvantage with regard to creating art? Nope. All she needs is her own phenomenal writing (how did no one else think of flipping space and time as physics concepts as the space and timing necessary for relationships to flourish?), the previously mentioned funky band, and an otherworldly voice to create a track that will convert you at first listen. While not a Christian, I find tons of God in the Bible, and that’s definitely some David and Goliath ish right there.
Steve Arrington, “Joys of Love”
I grew up listening to Steve Arrington as the lead vocalist of Slave, and even when my parents weren’t blasting “Just a Touch of Love” or “Watching You” I was hearing Slave samples in songs from A Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, and Mariah Carey, so just the fact that he’s still making such beautiful music is proof of God in itself. Dude is having a crazy 45-year run—I would love to get it poppin’ like that in my own life. But beyond that, what I love so much about this song and so much of Steve’s recent work is that he seems to be such a clear channel. The music he makes sounds effortless. Natural. It sounds like he steps into the booth and tells the engineer to “drop it” and beautiful music just kind of exudes from him. It’s not easy to describe, it’s almost something like hip-hop songs made by amazing freestylers that create in real time, but also so much more polished and elegant than the picture that that particular description creates in my mind. I know the fact that he’s been amazing for so long must have something to do with he’s just perpetually in the zone—but even still, human beings can’t just emanate art like that. That’s magic. That’s God.
Deca, “Clay Pigeons”
First of all, these four books have recently come into my possession without me looking for them at all (one through a friend, the other three I literally found on the street): Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, The Sacred Hoop by Paula Gunn Allen, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyer, and The Impersonal Life by Joseph Seiber Benner. Then, I actually read them (which God facilitated with the current influx of down time many of us have experienced). Then, I was talking to Matty Diamond, looking to make sure he was onto my new ish, and he says to me “You up on Deca?” and sends me the “Clay Pigeons” link. And three minutes and eight seconds later I’d heard that all of the spiritual, and mythological, and nature vs. technology, and personal evolution, and power of thought, and misinformation, and yin and yang, and creativity, and life, and purpose—concepts that had been rattling around in my head—had been brilliantly captured in one magnificent rap song. Coincidence? I think not. God.
Flaco Navaja, “Cántale a La Vida”
My Spanish is pure trash. Everybody speaks it, but me, I’m like some freakish accident. If it’s a life or death situation I can communicate, but otherwise I’m way too ashamed of my atrocious accent and miniscule vocabulary. I conjugate everything wrong, it’s a joke. I say all this to say that there’s much of this song that I don’t understand. There’s a good amount that I do understand, but lots that I don’t—but that’s just verbal language-wise. Because this song speaks directly to me in a thousand ways. And I don’t know if all those Spanish instruments awaken something often dormant in me or if it’s just Flaco’s astounding voice, which is so calming yet so striking, but I do know that I love this song without even understanding much of it, which speaks to the power of music as vibe, and the power of vibration, and just pure artistic energy transference. Which is God.
Kahlee and Ralph Quasar, “Building Buildings”
Everyday I ask people “How you doing?” and I get back so much “Terrible, horrible, 2020 is awful, everything’s awful, the world is awful, the world is falling apart, misery is life.” Feeling like everything sucks and finding comfort in collective misery is very in right now. Folks wanna lead all conversations with it, and God forbid you should be feeling upbeat, you’re liable to be a major turnoff. So when I ask somebody how they’re doing and they express gratitude I can feel God resonating out of them in a special way. And, likewise, when I meet people who prefer to praise what they’re into rather than bash what they’re not into, I’m equally grateful.
So when I can be recipient of all that in the form of a flavor rap record with production that makes you feel “like you’re on a beach in Hawaii, even though you’re not” (as opposed to “feel like you’re on a beach in Hawaii,” even though you’re not. Understand the difference?), and a hook that’s had me singing “Biggest building in the towwwwwwwwn” ever since I heard it, and Kahlee dropping positive and uplifting lines like “Stop failing the same and level up / You’re fighting a big boss, your life ain’t fucked up / The next stage, ride the wave, don’t stop keep going / Bonus round, go hard and collect coins”—and yo, just now, as I’m writing this, the sun started shining directly on me through my window and it’s mad warm!
Googie and Henry Canyons, “I.O.U.”
Me and Googie went to school at Hofstra at the same time. One time him and his crew beat me out in a competition to open up for Lupe Fiasco on campus. He’s dumb nice. One time I went to go see Sammus rock in Brooklyn and when I got there Henry Canyons was on stage warming it up, and the best word I can think of to describe the effect his set had on me is “strong.” He’s dumb nice. And now they’ve joined forces for an album called Hijinx and I literally could have picked any song at random to include on this list, but peep “I.O.U.” because I came to know both of these dudes by pure luck (which, by this point, you can probably tell that I don’t believe in). The point is that God is at the Grammy’s, and God is in the mainstream, and God is in the underground, and God is at the talent shows, and on the street corners, and in the dive bars, and at the open mics. God is everywhere, so always keep your ears peeled.
Aesop Rock, “The Gates”
As an artist, Aesop Rock is perhaps the most shining example on this list. As far as “The Gates,” listen to it, it’ll blow your mind right away, and you’ll be astounded by the flow and the rhymes and the vocab and the style and the beat (which he also made, by the way). Like many Aesop songs, you will be incapable of sleeping on it even if you wanted to. And there’s no sense in quoting any individual rhymes without quoting the entire song. I have no idea how the universe began (and I’m comfortable with that. Though I will admit that before the scientifically agreed upon “Big Bang Theory” there was nothing at all, and then all of a sudden there was a speck of infinite destiny, basically from nothing to the craziest, most inconceivable thing ever, way more mind-boggling than the universe which it’s supposed to be an explanation for, is so, so, so, so silly. By the way, fractal math proves that infinity can occur without ever repeating itself. Am I the only one who recognizes the implications of this as far as people who believe that ridiculous theory because of the explanation that, given infinite time, even the most unlikely things are guaranteed to occur? Anyway…) but I did once hear someone say (can’t remember who, sorry) that saying this glorious universe occured by mere chance is like saying if you strike infinite Home Depots with infinite tornados, at some point a tornado striking a Home Depot will assemble a fully functioning 747 jet. Which is obviously ridiculous. As a child I thought lighting bugs were proof of God. If there’s no God, how can this bug’s butt light up? It’s the same with Aesop. Listen to “The Gates.” You can’t get Aesop without God.
The Koreatown Oddity: “Weed in LA”
KTO’s Little Dominque’s Nosebleed has been my personal favorite album this year as far as listening enjoyment front to back. He performed “Weed in LA” in LA two years ago when I was out there with Edan doing a Humble Pi show and I’ve badgered him periodically ever since for updates on its release. It’s finally out. Thank God.