Eugene Weekly : Music : 4.10.08

An Empire of Sand
Sandpeople are in it for the long haul

Like an all-star baseball team forged of the best players in the league, Sandpeople, a 10-person crew based in Portland, sports some of the best players in the Oregon hip hop scene. Four years ago, most of the Sandpeople — producers Sapient and Simple and MCs Mo-B, Ethic, Illmaculate, Only One, Iame, Al-one, Gold and DJ Spark — performed either individually or in small groups. Then MC Mo-B approached them all individually with a proposal: Assemble a supercrew of the most talented MCs and producers in Oregon to see if they could attract more attention collectively than they’d been getting by themselves.

Turns out Mo-B was on to something. After four years of building up an international fan base, a video on Australian MTV, a New Year’s Eve gig opening for the legendary Wu Tang Clan and a resoundingly positive response to their latest full-length, Honest Racket, the members of Sandpeople seem to have built the foundation for their own independent empire. But unlike crews with deliberate political or personal themes, the Sandpeople don’t collectively shill for anyone or anything. Even broaching the idea of a unified agenda earns a disapproving look from Illmaculate, a cocky rapper with two battle rap championship titles under his belt — one at Scribble Jam 2004, where his rhymes first caught the attention of Living Legends co-founder Luckyiam, and once at the first annual World Rap Championships in Las Vegas with Cali rapper The Saurus. His point? With 10 people in the crew, you can’t use labels because each MC adds something different to the mix: battle-style shit talk, politics, girls, cars and a healthy dose of money-related angst.

The only constant theme for Sandpeople involves their ultimate goal of living off the art by following in the footsteps of groups like the eight-person, all-independent crew Living Legends. “[The Living Legends] built their empire really on releasing stuff, constantly breaking off into little subsets, touring and just really developing their own fan base,” Ethic says, “and that’s kind of the approach we’ve been taking.” Except that these days, the Legends aren’t just setting an example for Sandpeople — they’re collaborators who sometimes share a stage. The Grouch appeared on Honest Racket, while Luckyiam appeared on a Debaser album (Ethic and Sapient’s other project). In fact, it was after hearing Honest Racket that Luckyiam approached Sandpeople and asked them to break out their minivan and accompany him on this spring Child Support tour to get them more exposure outside of Portland. Because in Stumptown itself, a big name headliner isn’t necessary to sell out a Sandpeople show. “Our CD release show [for Honest Racket] sold out at, like, 600 people by 10 pm,” Ethic says before Illmaculate interjects, “Actually, 670. But who’s counting, eh?”    

Luckyiam, Sandpeople, Animal Farm. 9 pm Saturday, April 12. WOW Hall • $10 adv., $12 door