Homeboy Sandman’s Hallways is proof that Boy Sand is trying to figure himself out just like the rest of us.
After the opening track “1, 2, 3,” which basically serves as a mic check for the rapper, Sandman slides right into “America, The Beautiful,” produced by Stones Throw’s Jonwayne. The first single off the album, “America”’s slightly haunting beat lends itself to Sandman’s surveying scope; he glorifies the flawed beauty of America, looking more outward than inward. The Blu-assisted “Loads” finds both artists trying to stunt on us listeners, which is not exactly the soul-searching we were promised, but the pair pulls it off.
A Sandman album wouldn’t be complete without the emcee discussing his diet. In “Activity,” he explains how he wavers in and out of veganism, and here, we finally see Sandman begin to shovel some dirt. The rapper questions his fickle tendencies, noting that he needs to be more focused. Sandman becomes more substantive with “Heaven Too,” where we witness the emcee trying to escape his knack for escapism. And then we land on the slightly meta “Problems,” the real meat of a record offering plenty of choice cuts: “I don’t know when to shave/I don’t know what to eat/I don’t know who to love/I don’t know who to beat/I don’t know how to be/I don’t know what to say/I don’t know when to leave/I don’t know when to stay.”
At this point, Sandman lays it on thick with the reflective track “Grand Pupa,” which turns out to be an extensive analysis of Sandman’s relationships with women. “Time to face my mommy issues finally…/The thought of being alone has always frightened me,” he morosely raps, before ending on the revelation, “When I meet her I’ll be ready/If we haven’t met already/Take a rest and rescue me/Acting like a refugee/Which has been my speciality/But the truth shall set me free.” By revisiting this notion of evasive escape, as he did earlier in “Refugee,” he pushes himself to evolve.
Sandman eases off towards the end with the comical, witty and perhaps self-deprecating song, “Personal Ad,” which he follows by pledging his allegiance to New York in “Stroll.” The soothing production of “Unraveling” and “Enough” end Hallways on a quiet note.
Sandman deviates from his past projects that featured solo producer work — White Sands and Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent, for example — to employ the talents of Blu, DJ Spinna, Oh No, Jonwayne and Knxwledge, among others. Unlike those solo producer albums, which provided a solid, more streamlined base for Sandman to voice his thoughts, Hallways benefits from the decision to present Sandman’s listener with an assortment of sounds crafted by varying minds. The production for many of these songs is thick and layered, and while cleaner, simpler production could also work in Sandman’s favor, the weight and gravitas of this project’s soundscape works: with heavy thoughts come heavy beats, and the two work well in unison. Sandman’s shift to broach a myriad of subjects at once, an exploration of his imperfections, aligns perfectly with Hallways’ mosaic of sounds.
Try and try again, Sandman does, and you can’t fault him for it. His sizable catalog proves his growth audible, and traceable by the avid Sandman listener, who bears witness to the changes of a man in search of understanding. Hallways, like many of Sandman’s albums, is for the listener who’s in it for truths and realities. Sandman asks — and kind of requires — that you do a little digging and explore his mental and emotional workings. On the off-chance you don’t want to sift through the less-than-complimentary grime, the album’s production is still worth a listen. Regardless, Sandman’s album stands as one of the more therapeutic, cathartic pieces of music to arrive in some time. We just hope he finds those answers he’s been hunting for.
4.5 out of 5
You can purchase Hallways on Amazon.