Fri Feb 25
8 NW 6th
"I'm the motherfuckin' Bill O'Reilly of this hiphop shit," cracks Sage Francis on "Ground Control" off his new album, A Healthy Distrust. It's a rare moment of facetiousness on a disc whose title sentiment applies to all political persuasions, belief systems, rappers, and even his own bad self. As he says on "Damage" (off of Non-Prophets' Hope), "I'm not left wing or right wing--I'm the middle finger. "
Sage Francis could make a living in standup if he ever got sick of "this hiphop shit. " This Providence, Rhode Island emcee plays with words like $500-an-hour call girls play with genitals. Nearly every line he pens is freighted with double entendres, puns, subverted clichés, and freshly minted catch phrases that should be emblazoned on bumper stickers, T-shirts, and your mind.
Sage's sharply critical, hilariously self-deprecating verses on his 2002 debut, Personal Journals (anticon), reflect the title's preoccupations with identity that have fueled dozens of emo albums. Fortunately, his mind rejects self-pity and melodrama. Instead, he waxes humorous and perceptive about his status as a skeptical outsider in both hiphop and "real life." "I talk with authority while I question it," Sage raps on "Different," a brilliantly acerbic dissection of his own uniqueness.
A Healthy Distrust, Sage's debut for punk label Epitaph, broadens his scope to socio-political issues without sacrificing his densely layered narratives, pathos, and dazzling wordplay. The production--handled by Alias, Reanimator, Daddy Kev, Sixtoo, Dangermouse, and others--adds more rock muscle than did Personal Journals, though tough, head-nodding beats abound.
"Slow Down Gandhi" satirizes liberal do-gooders' holier-than-thou attitudes and hypocrisy. "Sea Lion," a desolate folk-hop collab with Will Oldham, kind of drags, but it's an interesting if flawed experiment.
It's not surprising to learn that Sage ranks Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back as his biggest hiphop inspiration. In 2004, the music industry organized and agitated for political change with unprecedented energy and passion. And yet, look what happened with our presidency. But, like P.E.'s Chuck D, Sage doesn't plan to mope in his bedroom the next four years.
Of the thousands of lines Sage has written, he says his favorite is "'Don't waive your rights with your flags.' It was written directly after 9/11 and used as the anchor line in my 'Makeshift Patriot' song. That one line sums up the whole reason I made the song. It was an alert to the public who were so crazy and willing to submit all of their freedom in order to be… free."