Homeboy Sandman and Edan have kind of done things backwards. It’s not unusual for partnerships to go their separate ways and become successful solo efforts, but a slightly less common occurrence for two established names to combine talents and become a new force. In this instance, one of the duo had almost been reported as missing in action by the hip hop community.
“It’s been a minute,” reflects Edan, finishing off a Chinese take-out. Bonafide’s rudely interrupted him eating peacefully in his hotel room, having just rolled in with Sand and a clear carrier bag full of well-worn records (The Doors’ 1971 classic L.A. Woman laying on the top, in case you were wondering). “I did a US tour a couple of years back with Cut Chemist and Shadow, but since then I haven’t done an extensive tour. It’s good. Good for a person like me to have structure.”
In stark contrast, Homeboy Sandman has been nothing but prolific in his release schedule with Stones Throw over the last few years – eight EPs and four LPs since signing with the label in late 2011 ain’t nuthin’ to sniff at. How did Edan feel about the difference in published productivity? “I think there were some growing pains with that… he’s definitely hit the ground running kind of dude, and I’m like, ‘Hold on, before you start running, tie your lace, do the laces match on your shoes?’ I can slow things up for sure, being detail oriented.”
“But at the same time that was helpful,” counters Sand. “There was some growin pains but I really feel like the final product benefitted from my frantic energy, as well as from Edan’s meticulousness.”
“I feel with every show that we do it becomes more natural, and more comfortable up there. For me, I’ve never done sets this long with anybody else.” Homeboy Sandman
Edan nods, his trademark cap and big hair giving way to reveal his eyes a little more as he clicks the lid onto his food. “I enjoy outside influence in that regard and being reminded there’s a different pace that you could do stuff. We met in the middle. I like how it all worked out for sure.”
Spending two years making tracks doesn’t instantly translate into a top drawer live show. Watching the two bounce off each other tonight, though (in Manchester’s Joshua Brooks courtesy of promoters More Bounce, who have a longstanding relationship with Sand), you’d be forgiven for thinking they were years deep. Turn-taking one word each in verses yet maintaining the flow, throwing the spotlight onto each other for musicless verses or gargantuan feats of one-handed turntablism whilst rapping/xylophonic interludes/yielding a guitar and feedback pedal, the Humble Pi show comes across as a well-oiled machine.
“Even though I’m doing a lot, it’s still nice to know that there’s an elite MC holding me down, know what I mean?” Edan
“I feel with every show that we do it becomes more natural, and more comfortable up there. For me, I’ve never done sets this long with anybody else. Edan has had some fantastic performance partners. If anything, I can say that it’s even a bit relieving, ‘cos if at any time if just wanna step off, everything is in fantastic hands, you know? I don’t have to be 90 minutes of constant whatever, I can cool out.”
“Same,” Edan concurs. “There’s a relief regarding the workload on stage. Even though I’m doing a lot, it’s still nice to know that there’s an elite MC holding me down, know what I mean?”
Part of the success of the two’s pairing has come in the freshness and variety they’ve supplied in their video work. Their first from Humble Pi was for Grim Seasons, a track in which Sand raps over a year and Edan’s production spans all four seasons. “We did three videos, and actually, that was another interesting thing, because it was really Edan’s vision, as far as Grim Seasons. He produced it with so much of the layering, and the grandiose maestro style that he did with it, so he had an idea for the visual presentation, some illustration, he brought Kagan McLeod into it, so he really kinda spearheaded that and I love it. We obviously both run over everything but that was very much his brainchild. ”
“Then for Never Use The Internet Again, Steven Tapia and I had wanted to work together on something, so Steven and I started to brainstorm. I feel like the artisticness of Grim Seasons is very Edan. And the kinda fun, ridiculousness of Internet is more like some videos I’ve put out. But The Gut, you got the psychedelic stuff all coming from his mind, and so much of the green screen stuff, I’m glad that was the third one to come out ‘cos that was a nice culmination.”
“I was up for the challenge… it was a bit harrowing by the end of the day. We were underwater for hours,” Edan rubs his eyes in recollection as Sand confirms filming the video was ten hours work. “The chlorine fucked up our vision for the evening. We were looking at streetlights and everything that was luminescent was mad blurry. I was like, ‘I hope when I wake up tomorrow it’s not still like this,’ and lo and behold, it was aight. From time to time, I still see that shit…”
“Permanently disfigured from that?”
“Maybe, but right now, things are good.”
The chemistry between the two is palpable. Sand’s recently remembered they met earlier than he first thought. “I remember I was DJing somewhere and I played Joe Bataan and he was grooving to that,” recalls Edan.
“But even before that… I remember now. I didn’t even remember this when we first started doing interviews, but (Stones Throw boss) Peanut Butter Wolf introduced me to Edan, one of the first times I was hanging out with Wolf after getting down with Stones.”
“It’s real healthy for me, man. I can derail into some real hermit shit, if I’m not careful. It’s great. It’s a positive influence.” Edan
“I think it was at All Tomorrow’s Parties festival or something. Did you perform or did you just come to kick it?”
“I just came to kick it, just chilled out. It was kinda cool because I remembered the other day that that’s when I met Edan, and working with Edan has been one of the most enjoyable… I mean, I love all the stuff I’ve put out, but it’s just been a great opportunity and been one of the most rewarding. This tour is so much fun and I love sharing a stage with him. For me it’s all new and even though I’ve done so much collaboration, I feel like…”
Sand pauses, searching for the right way to contextualise what sounds like a contradiction.
“I’ve just done everything by myself, a lot… which sounds weird for me to say ‘cos I do so much collaboration, but maybe it’s ‘cos I do some much stuff by myself that the collaboration barely puts a dent into my psyche. But it’s cool getting to sit down and focus, with Edan. It’s almost like, this was the first cat that Wolf introduced me to – and Wolf has introduced me to a lot, he’s got a lot of musical people that he knows – and now, boom. From there to here.”
Edan must feel quite strongly about the work he’s done, to commit to a tour as well as the record?
“It’s real healthy for me, man. I can derail into some real hermit shit, if I’m not careful. It’s great. It’s a positive influence, it’s just good. It’s good to be active, good to share the experience with other people that are like minded. That’s always my favourite thing, more so than being alone and really trying to summon some sort of inspiration from the depths of your own soul or some shit like that. I’m kinda more interested these days in collaboration and the enthusiasm that builds when you bounce ideas off others.”
Bonafide gestures at the carrier bag of records (to be used later in the show in a performance piece where Sand holds up the sleeves, and Edan spits bars name-checking each LP) – despite the proliferation of producers Sand’s worked with, does working with Edan in particular make him hear records or songs in a different way? “That’s a good question, and one that hasn’t been asked. I just tweeted some stuff about Bruce Hack, I wasn’t familiar.”
“I feel like I’ve been blessed to work with a number of really, really gifted producers and it isn’t the first time I’ve got an inside look into the process – which I’m completely unfamiliar with – and been taken aback by it, just that type of synthesis. But I will say that this prolonged process, it isn’t even something like looking for samples or anything like that, but even if I hear music in a movie or something, after working with Edan for a little while… I was watching Boy In A Plastic Bubble with John Travolta…” Edan starts sniggering knowingly. “I find a little part where he’s running with the girl on the beach with a little ballon and I brought it in and he made a hot beat out of it. It’s not on the record, but that beat is hot! You added some beatbox to it, you remember?”
“Did we whistle?”
“We whistled as well, it was really fly, really fly, but I’m saying that type of thing goes on in my head and I attribute that to probably getting to watch Edan work, and getting to watch other people work as well.” Their organic relationship has obviously been good for each other, with Edan itching to reignite his work with Lewis Recordings and get some new music out in the next year. Even as Bonafide exits the building, Sand remarks he’s got some show notes to go over before they hit the stage in fifteen – and suddenly they’re in deep again, driving forwards relentlessly.
Humble Pi is out now on Stones Throw Records. The duo continue their European journey in the following cities:
Feb 23 Halle
Feb 24 Berlin
Feb 27 Toulouse
Mar 01 Nantes
Mar 02 Marseille