SAGE FRANCIS Flipping the rap script.
Sage Francis

Mon March 1

Roseland

8 NW 6th Avenue

Representin' the angry avenues of Providence, Rhode Island, Sage Francis earned the "emo hiphop" tag after dropping his 2002 debut album, Personal Journals, on the controversial anticon imprint. With a frank vulnerability rare in hiphop (he even refers to himself as "small-dicked" on his website), Sage upturns rap's machismo with humor, sarcasm, intricate puns, and cliché-twisting. Signing to thriving punk label Epitaph won't quell the emo pigeonholing, but Sage isn't really sweating it. "The more emotion I show, the harder I get dissed," Sage raps in "Mainstream 307."

So, is "emo hiphop" an albatross or a savvy marketing term that's helped Sage beyond his wildest imagination? "Hahaha," Sage writes via email. "I was thinking about this yesterday while riding in the van. I don't like emotional people unless they are very intelligent to balance out the stupid shit that comes from emotions. So, wait, I dunno, yo. Fred Durst is emo on some 'Gimme something to break' shit. It's a misnomer."

Whatever you want to call him, Sage has surged to the upper echelon of lyricists, no matter what the genre. Personal Journals featured 10 different producers, forcing the versatile MC to adapt to many styles, most of them justly worshiped by the backpacker cognoscenti (including Sixtoo, Jel, Alias, and Mr. Dibbs). But Sage's Non-Prophets project found him working strictly with knob-twiddler extraordinaire Joe Beats on their phenomenal 2003 album Hope (Lex). The duo strove to make an album that harked back to 1993-94, when Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Prince Paul, and Large Professor ruled the faders and knobs. In this they succeeded, with Sage dropping chuckle-worthy wordplay in nearly every line. (E.g., "I am womanizer, hear me whore.")

Non-Prophets have dubbed this the Fuck Clear Channel tour. Sage explains, "I like doing 41 shows all across America, selling out shows being thrown by local promoters, and telling Clear Channel to fuck themselves in the process," he says. "I live for shit like that."