Five years ago, you could find an aspiring rapper named Homeboy Sandman bombarding the subway cars of the 7 train with promotional material claiming that rappers Mos Def, Big Pun, and The Roots’ Black Thought considered him the next great rapper. It was a promotional ruse, but one that seems to have paid off: His new album, First Of A Living Breed, was just released via Stones Throw and includes the track “Not Really” where he brags about now being able to call up his idol Black Thought. Naturally then, we pressed Homebody Sandman to laud The Roots’ man’s credentials – which segued into a bizarre crush-turned-dream he had about singer Nikki Jean.
Tell us about your fondness for Black Thought.
Black Thought has always been my favorite rapper ever since I got put on to [The Roots’] Illadelph Halflife. That’s my favorite lyrical album, although I really love Things Fall Apart and Do You Want More?!!!??! too – that one has a few more different atmospheres on it.
What about claims that he can sound boring after a while?
I talk to people who say they’ve never been a fan of Black Thought, but I love the dudes that blow me away with their rhymes. I’ve never been a casual listener. People tell me they find something boring about him – like his charisma doesn’t leap out and grab you, or he’s monotone – but I don’t really see that. He’ll have a rhyme like [on “Concerto Of The Desperado”], “You fold like Japan’s futons and fans/ While I design a plan to make a rapper step like a pedestrian,” right? But then if you also look at a song like “Lazy Afternoon,” it’s one verse but presented three different ways – so the lines are actually the same but he changes up the aura. I hear him switching it up, but I’m a technical rap guy. To me, he doesn’t sound the same at all.
What about the newer stuff from The Roots? He doesn’t seem as prominent in the group.
Yeah, there was a point in my life where I was trying to get everyone to listen to The Roots, then when I stopped messing with The Roots everyone tried to get me to listen to The Roots. So to make my Black Thought argument I will always return to Things Fall Apart and Illadelph Halflife. I wouldn’t start with the recent stuff. It’s not that Black Thought will ever come off wack but he’s in cruise control a little bit. It’s like he’s more a component in the group than the lead.
Is there anything about Black Thought’s music you don’t like?
Nah, Black Thought is just crazy. I don’t feel the same way about the new stuff as the old stuff, but he’ll never come off wack. He just did this feature verse with this girl Nikki Jean, who’s a singer that’s amazing. I actually had a dream about her one day… That’s an interesting tale… I had only met her one time at South by Southwest. We exchanged numbers ’cause we had a mutual friend in Peter Rosenberg, but then I had to go to the Czech Republic. I had the most vivid dream I ever had in my life so I wrote it down in my phone when I woke up. I was thinking I could email her but I didn’t have her email. So I called her as soon as the plane landed back in the U.S., ’cause I was buggin’ out! In the dream it was some crazy love shit!
What happened when you told her you had a dream about her?
When I first hit her up and told her she was like, “Oh, I think about you often.” But when I sent her the dream, it was like two days later and she never got back to me… The first day she didn’t get back, my boy J57 sent me a beat. That’s on the album [“Couple Bars (Honey, Sugar, Darling, Sweetie, Baby, Boo)”]. It starts, “I had a dream about you/ It was bugged, soon as I woke I wrote it out.” That’s all a true story. I wrote that song flying to L.A. the day after I got back from the Czech Republic. Then I sent her the song.
At this point did she think you were stalking her?
Nah, I ain’t stalking the chick! I don’t even know the chick! But after that she got back and we talked a little bit. And now we’re friends. She’s real sweet. As I say at the end of the song, “Thanks for inspiring a hot record either way.”