Introducing ‘Notes from Mr. Sandman‘ – a column slapping a spotlight on lyricists overlooked, under appreciated, or just plain criminally slept on. Or like a man named Nas once said, “I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” Enter Mr. Sandman with what y’all missed while chasing the REM dragon.
Rockville, Maryland isn’t exactly a hip-hop mecca, but it is home to a peculiar lyricist of a man in Edan Portnoy or simply Edan. He’s an oddball, scraggly, looking more like a Strokes roadie than a rapper. But don’t get it twisted, he’s a pure bred hip-hop artist. A savant who does it all: raps, produces, mixes and scratches. If you’ve ever seen him live then you’ve seen him rhyme and beat juggle at the same time. An insanely fresh routine that he recreated last year for the folks over at Daptone – in two bookending parts.
His first full length Primitve Plus stands as a pillar in rap, a cross between Paul’s Boutique and Three Feet High and Rising. It has this classic NY-style feel, but delivered by a guy who calls Boston home. On songs like “One Man Arsenal” he maintains a confident and steady flow with the type of breath control that allows him to juggle words like he were a graduate of Barnum & Bailey: [LISTEN]
It’s more than just random wordplay for Edan. He can take a theme and run with it from beginning to end without losing steam. He made a guest spot on Count Bass D’s Dwight Spitz for the scintillating sci-fi tale “How We Met,” and he arguably stole the show. It’s a twister full of brawny wordplay and dazzling imagery. A short but sweet tale of morality unfolding like a Vonnegut short: [LISTEN]
His sophomore album, Beauty and the Beat (the only rap album he’s released since 2005) was one of those projects that fall into the bugged-out, nerd category. The production weaves in and out of sound collages and is laced with psychedelia. Yet still, even within these obscure samples you can clearly hear Edan, ready to tell his story at any time just like he does on “I See Colours:” [LISTEN]
Since then Edan has been noticeably absent. His last major release was a psychedelic mix under the Stones Throw imprint entitled Echo Party. It’s not a surprise really, depending on when you got hip to Edan you might know him as a DJ or a lyricist or a producer. In fact that’s what makes Edan such a rare earth gem, the type of guy that has put in so much work that he can merely exist within rap’s borders and produce quality work.
But it’s unusual in that the more time he takes the better the end product may be. He tells you straight up in “Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme,” and if that’s the case we should all be waiting patiently: [LISTEN]