These two albums share a common theme: good rappers who have been disappointing me lately. Kool A.D.’s work with Das Racist showed that he was talented but, so far, his solo work has been underwhelming. Homeboy Sandman is a brilliant writer at his best, but his best hasn’t been showing lately. I still have faith in both of them, though, and at the rate that they release music, we’ll probably see plenty more of them this year.
Kool A.D.: “Not O.K.” (self-released) Kool A.D.’s former Das Racist partner, Heems, can be summed up with the titles of Das Racist’s mix tapes: “Shut Up, Dude” and “Sit Down, Man,” catchy and commanding. By contrast, Kool A.D. is more like the title of their album, “Relax.” He’s calm to the point of seeming disconnected, throwing out as many references and meta jokes as fast as he can and seeing what sticks. This makes his records perfect for a few laughs. But none of his tracks – not even this mix’s exceptional “Pass the Milk” – are on par with Heems’ best songs, which supplement the humor with actual concepts. Not to mention better music. Grade: B PLUS
Homeboy Sandman: “White Sands” (Stones Throw) After his major success in 2012, with two EPs and a full-length, all of them terrific, he’s been lagging a bit. Last year’s “Kool Herc: Fertile Crescent” featured memorable choruses (particularly the sample in opening track “My Brothers”) but forgettable verses. Its follow-up, “All That I Hold Dear,” suffered even more from similar problems. By hiring Paul White, who produced several tracks on Danny Brown’s “Old,” you would think this would persist.
Instead, the writing has mostly improved, with every track except “Fat Belly” featuring at the very least memorable rhymes. I’d still easily recommend “First of a Living Breed” or “Subject: Matter” before this one, but it’s a step back in the right direction. Grade: B PLUS