The underground has brought us some exceptional MCs in the last few years. One of which, is Sage Francis. Francis has earned himself a cult following over the past few years, winning a couple of freestyle battles, and a few poetry slams. His spoken word performances have been featured on ESPN and ABC X-Games commercials. He's toured with Atmosphere and Anticon, and has booked several shows independently. In the beginning, he started off selling bootleg CD-Rs and cassettes of his material, selling thousands of copies with minimal distribution and self-promotion. Sage's fans love him so much because he raps with such conviction, bringing him a following that cannot be bought. His songs hold a fundamental value of honesty buried within his deep metaphors. To understand his music, you must understand Sage Francis, which is difficult to grasp, if not nearly impossible. It's refreshing to hear an MC spit out rhymes in unique mind-bending metaphors though. It makes you ponder upon his thoughts, forcing you to re-experience the album several times. Not only does Sage rhyme; he rhymes fast, often times with superior speed and clarity. His analogies will make you think twice if not three times. The album is filled with a refreshing production, untouched by many underground MCs. The album pulls out hard crunching guitar riffs, and soft melodic guitar rhythms; Sage is even found singing in several instances. The beats and production have never been highlighted in Sages previous works. Francis gets some of the most renowned producers in the underground hip-hop scene to help him out, including Sixtoo (also producer on Sage's "Personal Journals"), Danger Mouse (DM & Jemini), Alias (Anticon), and Reanimator among others. The base of many of his lyrics are politically based (thanks to the 2004 election), but since they are in the form of metaphors, it's a bit harder to pick up. It's no wonder that the ever-growing and respected Epitaph label picked him up. It's time for hip-hop enthusiasts to drop the Clear Channel playlist and make one of their own, derived of quality material.
"The Buzz Kill" opens up the album with a bang. It sets the stride for the album, spewing out poetic rhymes, and intellectual social commentary. "Gunz Yo" investigates the symbolism of weapons, from the gun to the phallus to the tongue. "Escape Artist", one of my current favorites, contains some of the fastest rapping on the album, along with some sweet send-ups and break-downs. "Sun Vs Moon" is about a DJ battle between the Moon and the Sun. "Agony in Her Body" and "Crumble" explore the dichotomy of sex and violence. Another one of my favorites is "Slow Down Gandhi", produced by Reanimator. The biggest surprise on the album is the last track, "Jah Didn't Kill Johnny". The song contains the most diverse music, as well as Sage's tribute to Johnny Cash.
If you enjoy any underground hip-hop at all, you would be a fool to pass up this album. You owe it to yourself to see how far hip-hop as come. Successful underground artists like Sage Francis, Eyedea & Abilities, Atmosphere, Immortal Technique and Brother Ali are revered as the savior of hip-hop because they realize the the top is the bottom. In the words of Immortal Technique "If you go platinum, it's got nothing to do with luck / It just means that a million people are stupid as fu*k". People need to turn on the radio and hear intelligent and influential rap music like Sage Francis; not your top 40 bling-blingin' crap like Juvenile. If you haven't already, stop swimming in Clear Channel's sea of waste and corporate greed. Do yourself a favor and explore the underground.