Sage Francis – A Healthy Distrust – 4/5
Sage Francis is a dick and he knows it. He's that annoying kid who sat behind you in class correcting the teacher, raising his hand because he clearly knows better, snorting in laughter at your pathetic opinions, using long words and complex speech more to annoy and confuse you than to make any real argument. He's that guy on the internet who can't stand that someone might be 'wrong,' even if it might on a subjective manner, and will argue the topic until you bow before his intelligence or give up trying to respond. His sense of wit and sarcasm is so unapologetic, bombarding you with line after line, using his intelligence to make his points strongly enough that rather than try to argue back you're more likely to just want to punch him squarely in the jaw. He doesn't care what you think and he's not interested in presenting questions for the listener to find the answer, or even gently leading you to draw the same conclusions that he's come to, he's firing his opinions out of a cannon and it's mighty difficult not to get blown away by them.
I've mentioned before that intelligence in rap is still prevalent as soon as you stop looking at what's being paraded around and Sage Francis seems to epitomise that; between his social and political commentaries, ranging from his distaste for those supporting foreign war but unwilling to do go there and directly contribute (“Slow Down Ghandi”) to crudely describing the mainstream hip-hop scene; calling them all Sea Lions clapping their hands for a crowd; “Dance Monkeys” who create repetitive cyclical beats; sarcastically mocking the promotion of the gun culture and the fact that many in the industry can't even hold a microphone without pretending it's a firearm; telling the underground that maybe the reason they aren't making it big is because they aren't very good. The grumpy old man before his time; there doesn't seem to be anything he's really happy with; he hates the industry, he hates the direction his country is going in, hates both political parties and he even hates those that join him in his hatred but don't do anything about it. I'm not even sure he considers this work really 'doing anything to change things,' making the whole album something of a lesson in nihilism.
Now hatred on it's own hardly seems like an unusual thing for hip-hop, everyone sounds like they're pissed off about something, even Eminem, an artist who spent his entire life rapping about things that annoyed him growing up, striving for mainstream success then start rapping his hatred for people who want to talk to him once he achieved it. A happy hip-hop artist seems to be pretty damn rare but rarer still are those like Francis; he's pissed off but he always has a point, his attitude so inherently offensive that it makes you want to frustratedly and furiously argue back how narrow minded he's being before you really think about the subject at hand, being talked down before you've begun, that is assuming you've figured out what he's talking about. Half the tracks still remain a mystery to me but I've no doubt they'll click eventually. The beats always manage to strike a complementary atmosphere and are nothing if not creative and varied, his technical proficiency leaving little to be desired but that's just the icing on the cake. Sage Francis is sometimes a little too smart for his own good, but no matter how frustrating it might be, he is smart, and that means he's always interesting.
Over the years this has grown into my own personal project, reviewing the artists that I discover and interest me. If you wish to see more of my work, particularly my more metal-orientated material, you can find me as a regular contributor for the online magazine
Posted by T. Bawden Tuesday, 8 May 2012