O.C., Homeboy Sandman, and the Infamous Ice-Grille

Stream: O.C. “Let It Slide”

Stream: Homeboy Sandman “Mean Mug”

Ever since the rec-room and park jam era, the specter of internecine violence has been stalking hip hop concert venues and clubs. For nearly as long, the global media has been diligently spotlighting unfortunate incidents. This fixation inspires right-wing pundits and policymakers to suggest, fallaciously, that causal links between the genre and youth violence can be established. The reputation of low-income urban Black and Latino youths, particularly those dwelling in close proximity to cities that house a disproportionate share of the headquarters of major media outlets (e.g. New York City and Los Angeles) continues to be sullied by such coverage.

Opportunistic fear-mongering notwithstanding, behind the perpetual media field day and apart from the often recklessly overdetermined analyses of academics and lawmakers that feed the public’s historic disdain for urban youths, ((I wrote this post discussing how such fear mongering even impacted the way that rappers wrote about youth violence a while back.)) the problem of violence is very real. It extends beyond the places where rap music is played for paying audiences, into the homes, schools, and streets where many fans spend the majority of their time. In these settings, rap music is enormously cultural influential. The menace, chaos, nihilism, and reckless pride that figures prominently in much of the music shapes the outlooks and behaviors of many young listeners. Although I am disdainful of unfounded claims of causality, my childhood and adolescence was spent in urban New Jersey, making me fully aware of how the misread “cool pose” assumed by so many of us often colored our interactions for the worse. ((I have written a number of pieces about this topic. This one best crystallizes my thoughts.))

The static generated by poses and stares is the topic of O.C.’s brilliant “Let It Slide,” an album cut from his lauded debut Word … Life. ((If you are not familiar with Word… Life, please get familiar.)) “Let It Slide” is interesting in that it urges cooler heads to prevail but also calls for the righteous to engage in self-defense when necessary. In O.C.’s estimation, tough times call for vigilance. He suggests that pre-emptive defensive measures are theoretically permissible and he launches into a series of vignettes to illustrate just how bad things have gotten for the good guys. He knows that on the streets of NYC, his mellow, affable demeanor will be read as a sign of weakness. He would prefer to suavely ignore the ice grilles pointed in his direction and get on with his day but it isn’t always so easy.

O.C.’s first verse describes a trip to a local nightclub with his cousin that very nearly turns tragic. He and his cousin arrive on the scene packing .25 caliber pistols even though they have “juice with the bouncers on the inside.” The spot is filled with American-born wannabe thugs pretending to be Jamaican rude bwoys and the mere fact of their existence has O.C. on edge. Prolonged stares cause O.C. to reach for his gun but his cousin acts as his surrogate conscience, telling him to keep his piece tucked and let the situation slide. Buckwild’s moody, vaguely sinister production is the perfect soundtrack for O.C.’s narration, at times stoic and cautious and other times agitated and aggressive.

In the second verse, O.C. describes an encounter with a random would-be assailant who stares for a few seconds too long. Without his cousin by his side, he is eager to flip into the “unstable human being” he describes in one of the song’s refrains; he squashes the situation at gunpoint. It seems odd that an emcee so singularly and strangely devoted to relating the life of the mind would choose to represent such an atavistic point of view, but the third verse clarifies everything. The song is in fact about a particular point of view, not one that Omar Credle adheres to all of the time, but one that O.C. the rapper can relate to his fans in a show of solidarity. O.C. insists that his stance is necessary to prolong life, but in the safety of retrospect, one has to wonder whether or not the philosophy espoused in “Let It Slide” invites as much trouble as it deflects.

In 2010, Homeboy Sandman speaks from a perspective that is influenced by the passage of time, as well as his own travels outside of the five boroughs. In NYC, violent gun crimes have dropped significantly from their late ’80s/early ’90s peak. ((There have been some recent indications that violent crime is on the upswing in low-income neighborhoods however.)) Homeboy Sandman attended boarding school in New England and then moved on to college and graduate school in Philadelphia, so one can surmise that he has spent a considerable amount of time maturing in environments where physical altercations are both rare and stigmatized. Like O.C., he is noticeably dedicated to his craft and pens intricate, cerebral songs, but unlike O.C. his take on the epidemic of threatening looks is not centered around a questionably preventative call to arms.

In “Mean Mug,” ((This song appears on Homeboy Sandman’s latest album The Good Sun, which is highly recommended. Peep this review.))  Homeboy Sandman parallels O.C.’s approach to the extent that identifies ice-grille-ing as a serious urban problem and acknowledges himself as a likely target. His critique is not limited to calling out “mean muggers” as duplicitous, however; he is more concerned with the psychological and societal harm caused by the widespread adoption of an aggressive pose. Much like “Let It Slide,” “Mean Mug” is an intensely personal song that consists mostly of an internal monologue that revolves around variations of the the age-old question “why is everyone fucking with me.” O.C. poses the question to establish his justification for pre-emptive aggression and then drops it, but  Homeboy Sandman extends his analysis outward, asking why so many of his brethren choose to walk the streets with such a negative demeanor when such behavior invites ill will, tragedy, and nothing else.

Homeboy Sandman does not make a causal argument per se but does hint at the possibility that the atmosphere of mistrust that mean mugs create is also one that is ripe for unjustifiable violence, i.e. “mean mugging.” The idea that the contortion of one’s face or a disapproving stare is an act of violence in and of itself is acknowledged by O.C. on “Let It Slide” but only to illustrate just how endangered he feels. Homeboy Sandman recognizes the phenomenon as symptomatic of much greater ills, and during the course of his monologue — which is really intended to spark a larger public discussion— concludes that the mean mug is habit-forming, contagious, and consistently destructive to those who hide behind its fortification. As a composition, “Mean Mug” lends itself to such analysis; in place of “Let It Slide’s” dense jazz and furious (for O.C. anyway) rapping we get a sparse, happy funk track augmented by laid-back yet powerful vocals.

Both O.C. and Homeboy Sandman realize that they can never convince all of their brethren to live more positively, but they both locate victory in the idea that the individual can better his life by transforming his behavior. Homebody Sandman seems far more optimistic that the remedy can prove as contagious as the ailment, though, and quite frankly, it is refreshing to hear rapping that builds upon familiar topics in a manner that is both optimistic and critical all at once.— Thun

Tags: , , , ,


25 Responses to “O.C., Homeboy Sandman, and the Infamous Ice-Grille”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by thetroyblog, SteadyBloggin.com and Labarthe J-P, Thun Nation. Thun Nation said: O.C., Homeboy Sandman, and the Infamous Ice-Grille http://bit.ly/fJ06ul […]

  2. […] O.C., Homeboy Sandman, and the Infamous Ice-Grille by Thun […]

  3. cenzi says:

    you forgot to link the review for The Good Son in your footnote

  4. cenzi says:

    oh! this one… I read it, adn i had to laugh when I read “His virtuosity is so consistent it’s almost boring after 14 tracks.” Sucks that the writers bar has lowered this much.

    true this = “Placing anyone on a track next to him is futile; they will be forgotten. “

  5. chronwell says:

    Let it Slide is classic but carryin heat usually leads to someone gettin shot over bullshit. Also dudes muggin and eyeing another man is some fluke faggot shit. Either step to the dude or look at a woman or something..

  6. Mindy says:

    Hi there, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of spam remarks? If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or anything you can advise? I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any support is very much appreciated.

  7. Jamey says:

    I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back later. All the best

  8. You are totally right! I loved looking through this and I will get back for more straight away. My own internet site is dealing with shillong teer counter, you can take a look if you happen to be interested in that.

  9. click here says:

    Many thanks for your superb write-up! I genuinely liked learning about.I will remember to take note of your blog and definitely will return very soon. I wish to encourage you to keep going with your nice work, even discuss garageband ipad also, have a good day!

  10. You’re certainly right, I’d really like to discover a lot more on the subject! I am as well curious about dental malpractice lawyers because I feel it is really very unique now. Keep this up!

  11. omega xl says:

    Hi and thanks for this amazing write-up! I really appreciated finding out about it.I will ensure that I bookmark the page and definitely will return later on. I wish to suggest that you keep on with your great writing, perhaps discuss omega xl cost too, have a nice evening!

  12. Could you please explain more

  13. Shelton says:

    Greetings! I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Humble Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the fantastic job!

  14. Parker says:

    Great paintings! That is the type of information that are supposed to be shared around the internet. Shame on the search engines for now not positioning this submit upper! Come on over and visit my website . Thanks =)

  15. My spouse and I unquestionably enjoy your site and find nearly all of the blogposts to be exactly what I am trying to find. Do you offer guest writers to create articles for you? I would not mind composing a story about mobile phone tracker or perhaps on some of the things you’re posting about on this site. Awesome page!

  16. I’m truly enjoying the design of your blog. Do you ever come across any browser interface problems? Quite a few of my blog audience have complained about my wifi router settings site not working the right way in Internet Explorer but appears amazing in Chrome. Do you have any kind of ideas to help correct that issue?

  17. click here says:

    You’re certainly correct and I trust you. Whenever you want, we might as well speak about smartphone price, something that intrigues me. Your site is definitely fantastic, regards!

  18. Simply wish to say your article is as surprising. The clearness in your post is simply great and i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the gratifying work.

  19. I was talking to a buddy of my own on this article and even regarding upvc french doors as well. I believe you made a lot of good points in this case, we are looking forward to continue reading information from you.

  20. Jacques says:

    After I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any approach you can remove me from that service? Thanks!

  21. karaj says:

    Hi, Neat post. There is a problem with your site in internet explorer, would test this… IE still is the market leader and a good portion of people will miss your great writing due to this problem.

  22. Admiring the time and energy you put into the blog and in depth facts you display. It really is great to find a blogging site once in a while that is just not the same out of date re-written information. Fantastic read! We have saved your webpage and I’m adding the RSS feeds to my Arvind Pandit website.

  23. I felt wonderful to read this and I believe you’re really right. Let me know if perhaps you’re curious about lucky patcher download android, that’s my major competency. I’m hoping to see you in the near future, cheers!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *