Homeboy Sandman spends a lot of time thinking.
That’s not groundbreaking news. Anyone remotely familiar with the Queens rapper’s body of work since his 2007 debut EP Nourishment knows he’s insightful, turning heavy truths into quirky and relatable stories and observations.
For years, throughout the release of more than 20 albums and EPs, he’s been part of a rare breed of rappers, the kind of artist who puts his whole self on wax. Listen to any of his projects, and you get a sense of who Sandman is in any situation: observant, self-deprecating, perceptive; unafraid to both challenge, and when necessary, disengage. His honesty and above-average lyricism have earned him high ranking in the underground rap scene and beyond; including an Instagram Live shout-out from Doja Cat, who declared him "really fucking dope" and one of her favorite rappers late last year.
His latest EP, There In Spirit (released on Mello Music Group), continues the trend. Produced entirely by celebrated Detroit producer/rapper Illingsworth, who’s worked with everyone from Phonte to Open Mike Eagle, Sandman says the project is partly about letting go of mediocrity and fear and holding himself to a higher standard.
“I found myself lately letting people know that I won't be there in the physical form,” he says. “Maybe it's because, you know, I'm not welcome in certain environments anymore. Or maybe because I feel like certain environments are toxic to me because I don't want to be around certain energies.”
He’s quick to clarify that he still has love for people and that everyone is perfect and made in their own special way.
But as of late, he’s felt another shift taking place. Rearranging his inner circle isn’t about leaving anyone out – it isn’t about the trendy “cut people off” wave that’s scattered its way across social media for the past couple of years. He barely uses social media at all, offering up his email (email@example.com) to fans interested in contacting him.
“It’s just about changing and growing and moving away from places and spaces to new places and spaces, to new people,” he clarifies. “It isn’t about ‘I tightened my circle and everything becomes better.’ It’s just like, my circle moved over here and now it encompasses different things like a Venn diagram moves over from one to another, and there’s space in-between when stuff isn’t for both.”
I found myself lately letting people know that I won't be there in the physical form,” he says. “Maybe it's because, you know, I'm not welcome in certain environments anymore. Or maybe because I feel like certain environments are toxic to me because I don't want to be around certain energies.”
Take his video for the EP’s mellow, piano-heavy lead single, “The Only Constant” as an example. It starts off with him wearing an outfit that’s way too big for him. By the video’s end, he’s completely outgrown the outfit, and eventually, it melts away from him completely, a lifeless heap on the ground.
“It was very much about the change and the growth and the shedding skin,” he says.
While he says that the growth and the realizations he’s experienced have come gradually, he’s creating at lightning speed, recording nearly every day. Since 2019, he’s steadily released projects — Dusty, Don’t Feed The Monster, and Anjelitu, pushing his creativity. He shares that There In Spirit is actually uses previously released Illingworth tracks, some of which were re-worked, encouraging listeners to take a deep dive into the prolific producer’s catalog.
“There’s another meaning of There In Spirit,” he says abruptly, veering off in the conversation when another thought comes to mind. “I believe spiritual reality is the primary reality for sure. Physical reality is there, but I believe that’s not as important. And I believe physical reality is based on spiritual reality. I don’t believe it’s the other way around. So I believe that getting my spiritual reality correct and being in touch affects my physical reality.”
He says he’s still in the process of finding his truest voice, and as he continues his search, he’ll be writing and making music.
“I make art perpetually," he says. “Part of staying nimble is not only finding new sounds to rap on, it’s not only finding new flows to rap through or finding new topics to rap about. It’s also about opening up more — it’s about finding more about me to put out there.”