EPs, or extended plays, seem to be growing more common in the rap world. To be fair, they do afford emcees the opportunity to come back to the public more often with new material, and if they’re gathering buzz, it’s a sure fire way to keep it building. Angel Del Villar II, aka Homeboy Sandman of Queens, New York, seems committed to the format lately. He released two of these “too short for an album, too long for a single” records in 2012 (‘Subject: Matter’ and ‘Chimera’) to go along with a full-length album ‘First of a Living Breed.’ 2013 is shaping up to be identical with the release of the EPs ‘Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent’ and now ‘All That I Hold Dear.’ Two things are for sure at this point: Homeboy Sandman is busy, and he’s consistently good.
‘All That I Hold Dear’ is another homerun for the Homeboy. I like these EPs better than I liked his LP from last year because they’re better for playing in one sitting. Don’t get me wrong, ‘First of a Living Breed’ is solid from start to finish, but it could get to the point where you skip a few songs to get to your favorites. I call records like that “playlist albums,” and the majority of rap albums are like that. What tends to happen, though, is some songs get skipped over that are great, but need more time to grow on the listener. In the case of ‘All That I Hold Dear,’ there are no bad songs.
Homeboy recorded a song in 2010 called “Yeah, But I Can Rhyme Though.” He wasn’t lying; here, he gets right to work on ‘King Kong Got Nothin On Me.’ His delivery and the way he rides a beat with his vocals have always been nothing short of impressive. He effortlessly bends the majestic-sounding vocal sample and a bubbly synth to his will with calculated delivery and occasional long pauses between rhymes. Where a number of rappers rhyme in a manner that resembles a machine gun (your sleight of tongue rappers like Busta Rhymes) or a cannon (rappers that are heavy on punch-lines such as Redman), Homeboy Sandman is slower and more deliberate, like a pro hitting key spots on a dart board. This may not draw in the average listener in search of “hype” in their music, but if you’re open-minded about it, this spoken-word poetry style is rewarding.
The production is solid on this record, but that’s not saying much because, well, he rides a beat like a champ. The lyrics are as witty and relatable as ever. The line “Oh, there he go…saying things I would know if I went to school / That’s nerd rap (long pause) be careful, I heard that” off “King Kong” blends perfectly with the beat, and is a brutal shot at artists and listeners who like their rap “dumbed down” enough to get a few chuckles. “Lyrics first” hip-hoppers will instantly be drawn in.
You get 7 tracks total with ‘All That I Hold Dear.’ Homeboy Sandman’s EPs have been between 6-9 tracks long so far. The distinction this one has from the others is the production. It’s less abstract than ‘Chimera’ (which still stands as my favorite) and resembles familiar hip-hop production more closely, but again, it’s solid. If you’ve never heard Homeboy Sandman rap before, you can start anywhere you’d like.