The Quotable Reviews: Actual Factual Pterodactyl

"Now throw your hands in the sky. / Its Queens finest, fortified, so form a line." - "Food Glorious Food"

The first dope thing about Actual Factual Pterodactyl (AFP) is that the album title actually rhymes. Ironic, right? I mean, rap music rhymes. You'd think that more Hip Hop album titles would rhyme as well. At least I would.

But, like The Quotable has stated before, Homeboy Sandman is not the average Emcee. He does things his own way. A little to the left. A little bit different.

So, lets run through what we already know about Queens own 'Boy Sand. We know he rocks an Ivy League degree and discarded a potential law career to do this rap thing full time. We know his live show hits harder than Billy Bong Thorton. And we know Homeboy's Emcee skills are the exact opposite of Tiger Woods (miles above par).

But what remains to be proven is whether or not 'Boy Sand can put together a complete album. And really, thats what separates an Emcee from an Artist. Hip Hop is overcrowded with cats that can rap good but struggle to make an album worth buying (thats whats poppin' in a financial crisis, muttaskuttas!!!! Getting your money's worth). I mean, his live show is dope. His cypher skills are mean. Can Homeboy Sandman complete the tri-fecta and craft an ill LP?

Come along and ride with us as The Quotable reviews Actual Factual Pterodactyl.

"Welcome to the Actual Factual Pterodactyl. We in the NASDAQ. We international." - "Food Glorious Food"

Top to bottom, AFP is a fairly diverse album both lyrically and topically. Well, at least for the first half. The rumbling "Food Glorious Food" (title taken from the 60s Broadway play Oliver!, from Charles Dickens Oliver Twist) showcases Homeboy's aggressive, up tempo flow as he kicks ill cypher rhymes, just showing skills on the track. 'Boy Sand is arguably at his best on the infectious concept cut, "I-tunes Song." Over 2 Hungry Bros airy, snare-heavy soundscape, Homeboy drops some of the album's wittiest quotables while cleverly advertising his songs availability on iTunes:

"Download the software. / Click on the icon, hit me right there. / Its not too
pricey. / Its like breathing a breath of fresh air. / Find words that say 'Buy
Now' and press there. / You'll find my CD so manly you'll grow some chest hair.
/ You know how when movies are 'Must Sees'? / Well here's a 'Must Hear.'"
I gotta say this though - not only does this track squat Indian style in your dome for days (once you hear it, your stuck with it. Thats a good thing), but 'Boy Sand's flow lodges itself inside the beat, acting as an additional instrument. Let me explain. Some artists ride on top of the beat. Some ride behind the beat (as if they're continuously catching up to the snare). Some ride ahead of the beat (as if they beat the snare to the punch). Sandman is inside the beat on this one - meaning he's on the beat, but his flow is melodic without being sing-songy, simultaneously melding within the production. Its a lyrical instrument adding depth to the track. Think Eminem on "My First Single," minus the shock value. This is a difficult feat to pull off effectively without actually singing (like Nelly).

I know, I know...a lot of detail. But we do that here at The Quotable. For better or for better. Either way, 'Boy Sand does his thing on this track! It had to be pointed out. Back to the review.

"City Darker" sparks an immediate paradigm shift from the the jolly "I-tunes Song," delving into the shadowy side of New York City - the part "where Barack and Hillary speeches never could reach." Highwater Music's P.Casso teams up with Sandman on "Wise Up" as the two trade bars tackling conspiracies and societal ills. The plodding bass-line, piano keys, and sublime hook make this beat the album's second best.

"I ain't never gonna wear a tie again. / Hottest from the Shire passing fliers out in Ireland" - "Eyes on Vinyl"

Brooklyn MC Fresh Daily shines on "Eyes On Vinyl", as both he and Sandman go in over another rumbling banger. I'm not sure how to describe the production here - but 'Boy Sand says the "track sounds like a soundtrack to a funeral" so lets go with that. AFP's dopest beat. FACT. Sandman spreads his wings on the hilarious "Mambo Tail Tale" - kicking a spontaneous Mambo dance story so vivid that a video isn't necessary, which immediately makes you want to see a video for the song even more! I agree with Encore Status, if a video is made, it should be animated. Unfortunately, this is the only story track on the album. As dope as it is, its a shame that its riding solo

"You ain't never seen / since Adam & Eve / an organism that can manipulate a rhythm like me" - "God Fire Breathe"

Again, the first half of AFP is diverse lyrically and topically. Whether its a concept ("I-tunes Song"), social commentary ("City Darker", "Wise Up"), ill cypher cuts ("Food Glorious Food", "Eyes On Vinyl"), or story rhymes ("Mambo Tale Tail"), fast flows, slower flows, Homeboy Sandman delivers. And its appreciated.

On the album's back half, 'Boy Sand takes it back to basics, highlighting his Emcee skills on cypher cut after cypher cut. "God Fire Breathe" opens with minimalist keys and a light snare before switching to an energetic rock and roll beat. Homeboy's witty word play and tongue twister delivery is again on display - "As a young kid I aint never fit in. / I would get miffed when the class was dismissed. / Teacher tried to say I asked too many questions. / 'Bitch I'm the only muthafucka listenin'." The anthemic production and clever lyricism on "Lighting Bolt. Lightning Rod." overcomes its semi-corny hook. "Or" feels like "VerbalSoulClapMania's" first cousin (whistles and humming instead of hand claps. no beat on either) and Sandman kicks four-minutes-and-fifty-one-seconds of cypher rhymes rhyming with 'or.'

"Why the Knicks play 'D' like matadors? / Shit is so annoying.
/ Whole quarters cats don't even run down court. / Is this the same
team James Dolan paid for? / Is this the same team Pat Ewing played for? /
Oh my lord. / Does anyone besides Lee wanna crash boards? / Does anyone besides
me wanna fast forward? / Poor Jamal Crawford. / You must be dreamin' like Al B.
Sure if you think I take shorts."
'Boy Sand takes a jab at mainstream radio's lack of quality music on "Airwave Air Raid" providing a brief detour from the cypher. "Opium" is the lone dislikeable track on AFP. The crawling, monotonous beat combined with Sandman's slow flow feels drousy, damn near yawn-inducing. Its the type of track that you'd absolutely have to skip if you're late night driving or you just might wind up in a ditch (he even yawns right before the first verse drops!).

If "Or" is "VerbalSoulClapMania's" first cousin, then "The Big Band Theory" is its big brother (cypher rhymes over more hand claps backed by minimalist jazz bass strings). "Gggrrraa!!" is another aggressive freestyle cut showcasing Homeboy's dynamic delivery and wordplay. And "2 Hungry Bros Outro's" provides a solid ending to the album. 'Boy Sand's slow melodic flow is at its best here over 2 Hungry Bros heavy snare. "Me and Anakin are quite analogous. / We both look good in black and likely to attack where any planet is. / How could you blame the parents when you're the parasite writing narratives. / With parodies so apparent its so embarrassing." Another ill cypher cut.

"Thanks for coming ladies and gents. / Hope that you're enjoying my show. / If by chance you find that you're not, / I got bad news for you, you're slow." - "God Fire Breathe"

There it is. 15 tracks. 3 rhyming guest appearances. No interludes. Actual Factual Pterodactyl is loaded with personality, witty word play, and infectious rhyme schemes. The production is better than average, but Sandman's delivery overshadows the majority of the beats on the album. Two main shortcomings:

(1) Although his Emcee skills are apparent, he can come across as redundant (especially on the AFP's cypher cut loaded back half). I mean, regardless of how dope the rhymes may be, hearing how great someone is track after track gets boring quick (this would be a critical problem if his delivery was less dynamic).

And (2) Homeboy Sandman fails to let the listener into his world personally. Yeah, he covers most bases (stories, ill cypher cuts, social commentary, check, check, check), but theres nothing personal here. AFP is loaded with personality and perspective. But we don't learn about Homeboy Sandman the person, the human being. What was his family like? What made him realize Emcee-ing was his future? What does he love? What does he fear? Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. Maybe he provided more insight into himself on his first LP (Nourishment (Second Helpings)) and honestly I haven't heard that album yet (#6 on the To-Do list). But when an album lacks a personal connection to the artist, more often than not, it tends to lack long-term replay value. At least in my iPod.

With that aside, Actual Factual Pterodactyl is a stellar LP. Homeboy Sandman doesn't give an inch lyrically and every track deserves repeated listens. Which is ironically this albums gift and its curse - you have to listen to it. Hip Hop connoisseurs will immediately respect, but to the casual fan, he's more than likely "often overhead / part carry-on". Unless of course they've witnessed his live show.

Rating: QQQQ


Crafty Chick said...

Homeboy fits a lot of information in 3-4 minutes you need to be an active listener or you just might miss something.

I do agree with both points on redundancy and lacking the personal.

I don't need to know his favorite sandwich or color, BUT what brought him to this point, a leap of faith, left turn when he should have made a right seeing Black Thought in a cheese sandwich. Give the people a little insight.

I think the video for lightening bolt(which is catchy but ehh) and seeing a live performance KINDA helps with the lack of the personal. You get a dose of personality from each.

Unknown said...

I think this review is right on except for the idea that its not relateable. I really feel like Homeboy Sandman is a lyrical genius and and most of brilliance he brings in his music stems from a word to word basis and its so intricate it even goes from syllable to syllable. I feel like although he does give us just a small amount of his personal life in terms of things that may have happened to him, he more than makes up for it by giving us massive insight into his mindset and thinking process. I mean you can learn a lot about someone from how they decided to relate a song or a lyric to you and what they're talking about in general. I think maybe your taking the idea of making an album personal too literal. This album was made from his person so there for an embodiment of him. You just have to learn to interpret it the way he's given it.. So its your fault you dont relate, not Sandmans.