Pairing up was all the rage in the late ’80s/early ’90s. There was Guru and DJ Premier, C.L. Smooth and Pete Rock, Eric B and Rakim, etc… The rapper/producer dynamic has proven to be both successful and unsuccessful, yet more recently hip-hop is full of groups and solo acts. Yet, the occasional duo is fascinating. Not the idea of the same two people working together over and over again, but the idea of two people creating a project together. Whether there are any follow-up projects is another story, and it’s usually based on the success and reception of the original project. Homeboy Sandman has begun to exercise the pairing method in his last two releases, and cot-damn is it working out for him.
Producer M Slago handles the production on Homeboy Sandman’s All That I Hold Dear, and he is a great production candidate to follow Homeboy’s previous release, Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent. While the production on Kool Herc was an homage to the DJ of the same name, the production on All That I Hold Dear is a much more varied set of songs, one which covers a nice array of the sounds synonymous with underground hip-hop.
ATIHD starts off with a track called “King Kong Ain’t Got Nothing On Me”, a jolly, carnival-type beat with Homeboy exercising his red-light-green-light sort of stop-and-go flow. The song is light and well placed on the EP, a nice tone-setter. “Musician” puts M Slago on his 9th Wonder sh-t. It’s a go-in type beat for a rapper like Homeboy, who uses the song as his opportunity to speak on the public perception of rappers and hip-hop music, more specifically how it compares to musicianship in other genres. “And how I do too many features, please don’t start/ How can a artist make too much art?… Sixteen bars, three verses long, that’s the output of a Beatles album in one song/ No disrespect for Bob Dylan, but show respect for Madvillian.”
Elsewhere, others songs on the EP fall short, music-wise, when it comes to pure listening enjoyment. “Relapse” is set over a jazzy piano loop with some lackluster drums, and the same goes for a later track called “Sureshots” featuring fellow Stones Throw rapper MED. On “Relapse” Sandman compares a relationship with a girl to a relationship with drugs, which isn’t the first time an artist has done that. But his casual tone makes it harder to distinguish between the two, and that makes the song’s impact greater. The feelings that circulate and make one question the decision to leave something hazardous behind is about as relatable as it gets for this EP. Yet, on the other side, “In A Daze” is one of the more unique cuts on the release. The beat is reminiscent of MF DOOM’s work with its purposefully hurried, off-beat snare hits and a strange, kooky dry guitar loop. There is something oddly fulfilling about the chorus, where Homeboy’s purposefully lazy singing matches the guitar, walking his way down the scale with a break in the odd guitar loop.
“Knock”, the final song on the effort, is the kind of beat that makes you check your iTunes to see if something is playing over it. The sample simply doesn’t mesh with the drums, but this is the type of challenge that I appreciate. Beats that sound like a complete mess until it just clicks at a certain point, like “Night Court” by Mux Mool, are rewarding. But while it is a welcomed challenge, that doesn’t mean the beat necessarily works. The drums are rather weak and often take you out of the song, as you spend more time trying to wrap your head around the production than listening to the track itself. These slight flaws aren’t enough to completely mar All That I Hold Dear, but they’re absolutely enough to drag the listening experience.
3 out of 5
You can buy ATIHD on Amazon.