Appearing both fierce and charming simultaneously is a fine art few can achieve. But Homeboy Sandman, aka 32-year-old rapper Angel Del Villar II from Queens, New York, strikes this balance with the the aplomb of someone who, to be fair, probably had to hone those skills defending his rather posh name at school.
|Homeboy Sandman at Cargo, London|
After a decent set by Wolverhampton hip-hop troop Paper Tiger, who have some decent hooks but perhaps try to do too much with too many instruments competing in their half hour set, Sandman takes the stage. From the off, he's a man on a mission to inject further life and a smile into a crowd more than happy to oblige.
Kicking-off with his irresistibly catchy landmark The Carpenter tune he shows he's here both to exult in the breadth of his range and lap up the praise of an adoring audience. His brand of hip-hop stretches from harsh lyrics churned across the top of a soulful underbelly to acapella treats as the thoughtful rapper unravels his thoughts. He has plenty of the ferocious character of his New York hip-hop forefathers but this is underscored by some intelligent themes which have won him a regular column on The Huffington Post's site. He is also able to draw on an interesting past which included stints as a teacher and a barman at the Lennox Lounge in Harlem where Shaft used to drink and from his father, a boxer from the Dominican Republic.
All almost seven foot of Homeboy Sandman command each tune as he stalks the stage in London, spitting each tune like the words just came to him. He spins personal mantra Whatchu Want From Me? into an audience-participating mantra which anyone passing by on Shoreditch High Street might have mistaken for a shady rally kicking off down one of its back streets.
Perhaps the most enthralling moments come between tracks when he stops to make an observation or a daft joke although he often stops himself short of their conclusion in faux-embarassment despite them beginning interesting tales.
Homeboy Sandman is not a new whippersnapper to the scene - last year he released his fourth album on the spectacularly consistent Stones Throw label - but his profile could and should be a lot higher with the tunes, guile and wit in his armoury. With performances like this, that could soon change.
Video: Homeboy Sandman pontificates on milk in the UK