You're in law school, perhaps dreaming of living the life in the style of Franklin & Bash or those guys in suits who only people who watch it know the name of, but then you think, hey I'm from Queens and I want to make hip-hop. In one convoluted sentence, that's a brief introduction to Angel Del Villar II aka Homeboy Sandman. Having self-released his three previous albums through Boy Sand Industries, he's signed himself up to California-based Stone Throw Records, who released J Dilla's final record, to bring us First Of A Living Breed.
15 years ago moving East-coast to West-coast would've been a much bigger deal, and it shows how far hip-hop has come in that time. Alright, since the death of Biggie and Tupac, the likes of Kanye West, Drake and Lil Wayne have carried the torch, and the genre has gone through something of a reinvention, which has frustrated and delighted fans in equal measure. First Of A Living Breed is a strange combination of throwback and modern, with tracks such as 'Rain' and the heavily clichéd 'For The Kids' drawing from a wide pallett of genres to sound fresh, engaging and most importantly, different.
Even after a few listens, it doesn't grate, it keeps sounding like a record you've never heard before. It's no My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Take Care or Tha Carter III, but then it's not trying to be. When you've got three benchmarks of modern hip-hop to aim at, what's the best thing to do? Go a different direction. It worked for Frank Ocean, and it works for Homeboy Sandman. From the open and heart-breaking 'Couples Bars' to the tribal chanting of 'The Ancient', you're constantly on your toes as to where this record is going next, and that's why this record is so alluring.
Catchy, versatile and open, it's a hip-hop record that's difficult to not enjoy. It might not be everybodys cup of tea, but then hip-hop never is. As we approach the home stretch of 2012, which has been a relatively uneventful in terms of album releases, it's encouraging to see a strong contender emerge before the mountains of Christmas turd weigh down on the music world.