Sandman has built a story around himself over the years, employing music as a tool for personal development along the way. His catalog is a journey — a traceable, mappable documentation. His think-pieces are tools to both inform and lecture; how can we do better? Those writings claim to contain some answers, but why choose to criticize in this manner? Perhaps there’s another narrative that we should consider, one that we might not immediately see.
“Nothing happened, b. Nothing happened [because of my article]. I saw everybody ‘up in arms.’ We’re up in arms on Facebook and my point is like, you’re not up in arms, b. You’re not up in arms at all. That was my point, like there’s no up in arms taking place.
But for me, I don’t know why it was so important to me to be like yo, you’re not up in arms. I think about why it bothers me. I have a theory and I think I feel guilty about feeling empowered. I think I feel guilty about my life being so awesome. I talk about the guilt that I had. I had guilt — obviously it wasn’t white guilt — but I have privilege.”
Because Sandman is a minority, and because he’s an indie rapper who isn’t in it for the money, it might not strike you that he would feel guilty or privileged. But indeed, the Queens MC has had it pretty good — at least the way he sees it. He grew up in a two-parent household, enjoyed a great education and lives a successful career in a field he loves.
“I see a lot of people that haven’t had that, I feel like those are beneficial things to me. And so I feel like that’s been a lot of my drive. Like okay, I’ve had all these great things.
I think the white privilege thing is internal — it’s in my head. My whole life I’ve gotten all these opportunities that were unusual, that all these other people didn’t even get, people in my family. I’m different from everybody in my family, just because my life has been different. But I think that I feel like I have a responsibility, I have an obligation to earn all this privilege I have.”
Yet now, it looks like the tide is turning: Sandman has — at least partially and for the moment — relinquished his title as the pundit of indie rap. The growth he has now chosen is purely about propelling himself forward, rather than about forcing growth on others.
“There’s a lot of reasons why I called it Hallways but yeah, as my [song] “Refugee” says, I’m trying to figure out where I belong. And I belong with myself. Like right now, as I have this interview with you, I feel good that I belong with myself.
I kind of wonder why at different times in my life it’s been so important to me to try to like rally people. I don’t know if I’m discouraged or what but I have the way I live my life, right? And people have the way they live theirs.
I think my article was very much like, yo this is the way I live my life, you should live your life that way too. And I don’t know why I felt the urge to do that — I’m not saying I never will again, maybe I will, I’m trying to figure it out. It seemed like yo, cats are allowing stuff and when the stuff happens they complain. I would never live that way. That’s just me. I guess everybody’s different.”
Right now, we’re watching a rapper simultaneously stuck and not stuck in the middle of a successful career. For Sandman, Hallways acts as some sort of turning point.
“I’m somebody who’s trying to figure out what’s going on. Or I used to be someone who was trying to figure out what’s going on, now I’m just like fuck it, I’ma just have a good time. I’ma have a good time today. And you know, I’ve been having a great fucking time.”
Though he’s moving in a different direction, his opinions are still there, still loud. The way he asserts his beliefs in person is still indicative of the same Sandman who wrote powerful think-pieces for HuffPost and Gawker. Now there just seems to be a tinge of disillusionment and exhaustion. In the very least, the Queens MC is still using rap as a means to an end — he is always trying to reach another plane of mental clarity. Maybe all he needs is a new outlet, or a break from the conscious rapper label he’s been allotted. After all, labels aren’t really his thing.