by JAKE PAINE
Philadelphia rapper Sandman was a driving force in the Re-Up Gang‘s three acclaimed We Got It 4 Cheap mixtapes throughout the last five years. However, Tuesday afternoon, he told HipHopDX that after the mishandling of the group’s self-titled album [click to read], he is focusing on solo endeavors.
“When it comes to my music, dog, this is what I love,” said Sandman Tuesday afternoon. “I’m not tryin’ to be a god-damned architect or nothin’, or else I’d put my time into that. When you have a movement like the Re-Up Gang, something that came out of nowhere that was turned into a cult following, I just don’t see how people dropped the ball on the last project. So it didn’t make sense for me to stick around if shit ain’t in my best interest.“
He elaborated further, stating that a key point in his dispute was the album’s video, which featured on The Clipserapping. “It ain’t in my best interest to put out a ‘Fast Lane’ video, after three years of nothing but street-driven music.” The album the aforementioned single promoted added to the displeasure “We gave y’all three critically-acclaimed mixtapes just to give y’all this toilet bowl-ass album and their video. To me, it’s unjust. The fans are onto it now too, ‘Damn, that’s it for the Re-Up?’ ‘Cause now all you hear about is [The Clipse' forthcoming album] Til The Casket Drops. The Re-Up Gang has been phased out; I guess I was just supposed to play along. I’m not no fuckin’ nut!“
Acknowledging he was the last addition the longtime collaborating trio, Sandman says he defined the group as fans know it. “There is no Re-Up Gang. Before they added me, it was The Clipse and Ab Liva. That was it. That’s what it’s been reduced back to. Naturally, they’ve got to go around and promote the Re-Up Gang album now, ’cause it’s out, and to be honest, I feel like I don’t have to do that.” Rather, furthering to statements he made two DX two weeks ago [click to read], Sandman disassociated himself from the Koch Records release. “I want to apologize again,” he says to finds, comparing the release to his own affinity for EPMD‘s early catalogue. “What the fuck would I feel like if after three classic albums, they had that fourth album after the beats I just got [on The Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang]. To me, I just don’t think whoever – either Koch [Records] or The Clipse did not believe in this Re-Up movement. Or it didn’t mean nothin’ to them. What the fuck vision do you have that you’d squander this? ‘Cause if that were the case, you should have done this three years ago.“
Sandman revealed that he was initially told that Re-Up‘s album would be released June 9th on Columbia Records, before a delayed date was given and the project shifted to an independent. “You coulda told me that after we played the album for 20 people in a room, walkin’ around smiling.” Additionally, verses were cut and adjusted, and Sandmanremains unclear on who was behind it.
Although he says the group as we know it has dissolved for now, Sandman does wave the flag for his brethren and fans. “I could be bitter. You know how this shit normally looks. But I’m a G, Cannons Inc. is real, and I’m not runnin’ around not talkin’ no shit. I’m forever the Inc or The Re-Up Gang. The Re-Up Gang ain’t goin’ nowhere, and after I blow, niggas are gonna wanna do reunion albums and all that, but right now, [no]. I feel like they think that the Re-Up is all from them, the success of it.“
Now focused on his solo career, Sandman just shot a gritty street single “Anchor” from his free downloadable albumGianormous. Unlike “Fast Life,” this video, the artist said, embodies the imagery he feels matches his music.
Providing context for the video, which includes robberies, kidnapping and weapons, Sandman says is a metaphor. “The criminal backdrop [in the video] is a metaphor for how hard you’ve got to go in the rap business. No matter what, you’ve got to push – you’ve got to get out there.” “If you listen to the song, it’s about Hip Hop and how run down it is. I’m just talkin’ about bringin’ the east back, I shout out Clark Kent and tell him about how we used to chill.“
Besides the historic producer and executive, the rapper also namechecks early ’90s superstar MC Hammer with the line, “With no good music and so much propaganda, you mothafuckas make me miss Hammer.‘” Sandman expounded, “It’s just so much bullshit [now]. When I was a kid, Hammer‘s music was considered garbage. If you didn’t dance, you didn’t like Hammer. But I liked Hammer better than the shit that I listen to today [laughing], and I’d rather hear it. As far as I’m concerned, if this is what the game has come to, then where the fuck is MC Hammer? Find MC Hammer andTone-Loc,“ Sandman ordered, “And tell them, I need records from them.“
This video also marks a return to substance from gangster rappers. “When you seen a black-and-white video back in the day, you knew you was in some trouble. It reminded me of the N.W.A., the Ice Cube, the D.O.C.…I just wanted to get back into the hard mode, like [EPMD's] ‘Head Banger’ and that. Every video that I see is a Chevy on 22′s, a bitch with a big butt, and a nigga with all this jewelry or not. That’s run of the mill now. Like, what do I gotta do, rent a fuckin’ 747 [jet] now to stand out? So I just kept it real.” The video was directed by newcomers Alec Sutherland and produced by Todd Dossantos. Crew members are woven into the plot in the video that also features Sandman‘s mother andCannons Inc. members.
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by Geo JUNE 5, 2011
Walking up to meet Sandman, the first thing I see is the flash of light fom the photo shoot. Night time, light drizzle, in a back lot off a side-street in Northern Liberties. Sandman’s hulking frame stands before the lights of a Dodge Magnum wagon as the photog snaps away.
“Yeoooo, Caaaaaanonnnnnnnnnnnn,” I yell.
Sand doesn’t holler back. He’s in grind-mode flicking it up.
Photos finished, Sand approaches me with his big hand outstretched. We exchange pounds and head inside a friend’s house/ studio to knock out the interview. First, a stop in the studio where the finishing touches are being put on a new track called “Roam,” a single with Sandman accompanied by an acoustic guitar and hook courtesy of Cookie Rabinowitz. A break from the norm but Sandman is no stranger to breaks. Good or bad.
His first deal was offered to him at 15 years old by RuffNation Records. There is a Trackmasters produced album no one has heard. At one point, he had a deal with Interscope Records. During a meeting with Capitol Records A&R President Wendy Goldstein, Sandman walked out after she asked if he could make Chingy records.
We move upstairs where Sandman, draped in a dark Dickies outfit, Timbos and a black Phillies New Era cap, sinks into the leather couch. Known for his stylized and versatile flow patterns, voice inflections that ride the beat flawlessly and well-crafted storytelling rhymes, he settles in while waiting for his weed bol to come through.
I promise not to ask any questions about what happened with the Re-Up Gang, his former quartet with Malice and Pusha T from the Clipse and Philadelphia’s Ab-Liva. The situation was tight and looked promising but yet again, another situation imploded. There were accusations and a fallout. Then the quartet became a trio with Sandman’s departure.
“Naw, I’m going to speak on it,” he says. “For the last time. And that’s it.”
The details are virtually irrelevant but Sandman makes reference to questionable decisions that were made by those in charge. Pusha and Malice were the “CEOs.” He doesn’t agree with some of the decisions they made, noting that not one video was shot for the critically acclaimed We Got It 4 Cheap mixtape series. In the end, he accepts it. There’s no ill will.
“Shout out to Clipse,” Sand states. “Shout out to Liva.”
There was a point in time where the pairing of Sandman and the Clipse may not have made much sense to Sand. The Clipse are known as the forefather’s of coke rap. Sandman was vehemently against drugs since seeing his grandmother’s house get raided in his youth.
“I come from a family of kingpins,” he offers. “All that shit I said, I’ve seen. Every day.”
He is still able to recite a rap he wrote when he was 15. Hat pulled low, his eyes close as he zones out and dips into the memory banks. For 5 minutes straight, Sandman spits a capella style. Originally over the Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker” beat, the rhyme is full of the staple street images. But listening to the story and saga unfold, you realize it’s not a happy ending or glorification of the lifestyle.
“Back then all my rhymes were aimed at the downfall,” he notes.
Later, Sand is in the middle of kicking another anti-drug rhyme from his younger days when we his weed bol arrives. Sandman acknowledges the entrance of his connect and finishes the rap he won a school contest with. The last line: “Do yourself a favor/ And don’t sell drugs.”
So how did he transition from anti-drug dealing to stone cold hustler?
“That’s life,” Sand explains earnestly.
But while many rapper’s are braggadocious about it, he isn’t trying to justify his actions. Only explain them.
“Another reason I go at this rap shit so hard,” Sandman explains, “is that I don’t ever want to hustle again. Not like that. The game is fucked up.”
During high school, street life took him away from a serious football future.
The rap game got him off the corners.
Sandman connected with legendary DJ and producer Clark Kent. Clark said he didn’t want to fuck with a drug dealer. Sand had to make a choice. What really pushed him over the edge was Clark telling him he gave the same choice to two other drug dealers: Biggie Smalls and Jay-Z.
When put like that, the choice was clear. Sand told his business partner he was out the drug game and gave him all his work.
“Philly is hard,” he says. “The shit I was listening to, I was seeing. Whether drug dealing or fighting or block parties and happiness. The whole reality of what was going on here. It was real. it was pure. But it was also hard. Being from Philly, you are prepared for anything.”
Part of what it prepared Sand for was battle rapping, he says, noting the influence of Philly’s Schoolly D, the original gangster rapper.
“We breed rappers,” he says. “I was able to spar all the time because they were rappers everywhere in the city.”
One of his early breaks came at a roller skating rink on Roosevelt Boulevard in the Northeast. Sand was taking on someone over a game of NBA Jam. The other kid started freestyling and when the game ended and EPMD’s “So Whatcha Saying” came over the speakers, Sand decided he had to let the dude know he was nice with his word game too. A cipher broke out. That cipher grew into weekly battles. After a chance meeting with the owner of the rink, who was impressed with the number of people the weekly battles attracted, Sandman was hired to perform on Friday and Saturday nights for $500. His manager/ mother, then known as PDP (Positive Duo Productions), negotiated the deal.
Back then, Sandman wasn’t known as Sandman. He went by his government name, Daytwine. When I ask where the name Sandman comes from, Sand starts fucking with his phone. He wouldn’t be the first rapper to take a call, send out a Tweet or check his email during an interview. But it turns out he is calling Aisha, the girl who gave him the nickname when they were teenagers. The woman on the other end of the speakerphone is sleepy and sultry. I have no idea what she looks like but with a voice like that, I can only imagine. After some gentle prodding she relents.
“He got the name from kissing,” she says. “His kisses used to feel like they were putting me to sleep.”
His boys used to clown him. Then, one day on the football field, he delivered a devastating hit, putting someone else to sleep in an entirely different manner.
The name stuck.
Sandman dropped his Mt. Crushmore mixtape back in May. If you have any doubts about his skill level, please refer to him blacking out over Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now.” On the original track there is a guest spot for the silver-tongued Busta Rhymes. Sand manages to out bust Busta’s flow.
But here’s a dirty little industry secret: In the studio there is a technique known as “punching in.” It is the practice of being able to take snippets of vocals and arrange them, cut-and-paste style. More times than I can count I will hear a rapper on a mixtape, then see them in person, and realize they are a studio legend. They only sound good because of the studio engineer.
He has a mixtape of his crew – the C.A.N.N.O.N.S. Inc. movement, with 11 MCs – ready to flood the streets. He has visions of a distribution deal and a major label merger. He wants to turn C.A.N.N.O.N.S. Inc. into Philadelphia’s hip-hop Motown.
For his own projects, he has videos for Mt. Crushmore en route. He’s re-releasing hisGinormous mixtape with new tracks. His latest album, Grains of Sand, just dropped.
Those breaks don’t happen as a result of luck but from a combination of relentless and consistent hard work and talent.
Sandman has both going for him.
Sandman revisits his Re-Up Gang days and talks about his latest mixtape “Mt. Crushmore.”
HeetRock.com recently caught up with Sandman of Re-Up Gang fame on the set of an upcoming music video. Sandman discussed the latest project he’s got lined up, a mixtape called Mt. Crushmore. He explained that in a departure from his previous efforts, the mixtape will be comprised entirely of freestyles over other artists’ beats.
“[Mt. Crushmore] is 100% freestyles,” he explained. “I’m known for putting original music on mixtapes and all that shit, but my man [DJ] Clark Kent told me to chill on all that. He said I’ve been giving [the fans] too much on my mixtapes [and to] dumb it down. The only ‘dumbed down’ I do is to get off of my beats and fuck up some other peoples’ [beats]…we grabbed a lot of beats that I’m a fan of…I don’t want to say which ones.”
Sandman also discussed his former super-group the Re-Up Gang, which featured the Clipse and fellow Philly emcee Ab-Liva. In the wake of the group’s break-up in 2008, Sandman explained that he learned a lot about the Hip Hop industry from his experience in the Gang, particularly with regards to working with the Internet and planning business deals.
“Shout out to all my Re-Up Gang fans,” he said. “[There were] two things [that I learned from Re-Up Gang]: number one, I learned the whole experience of the Internet…the whole Re-Up thing was birthed on the Internet. Three mixtapes made us legendary. No videos, we ain’t release or push no original records…I also learned that the money is on the road. You got to hit that road, not just for the bread, but to keep your name known, push your brand and fuck with the people that fuck with you…and I learned that when you’re doing business, business has got to be good from the get-go. It can’t be like we think we’re going to do this or we may do this; it’s got to be etched in stone. We’ve got to know our game plan and execute it.”
The full interview can be seen below.