Rating: 4 out of 5
It's hard to tell who Sage Francis distrusts more. The government? His friends? People who own guns? God?
No matter who ranks at the top of his list today, his rage gets aired for all to hear on his brilliant new album "A Healthy Distrust."
Not to suggest that Eminem isn't pissed off anymore, but I'm not sure there's an angrier man in hip-hop than Francis. The way he spits his words from his mouth like he's spewing poison, or the way he strings as many words together as possible in an angry rant, or the way he takes the harshest shots possible at his targets makes his anger as legitimate and genuine as anyone. Anywhere.
Making his debut on Epitaph, a punk label that also was home to Atmosphere, clearly he's right at home. After years spent toiling as a beat poet and hosting his own radio show on Rhode Island independent station WRIU, Francis has taken the rage, sadness and lack of trust born of the nation's reaction to the age of terrorism and has brought his laundry list of complaints to "A Healthy Distrust."
Right off the bat on the opening track "The Buzz Kill," produced by Reanimator, Francis challenges what he sees as a warmongering president, a nation hellbent on revenge, and offers encouragement to countries willing to disagree with the States.
"I freedom kiss the French for their political dissent / Like moi / I do it with tongue this time / and take this bovine blood out of your wine / and take that statue back to the lab it was created at."
Francis also takes on the right to bear arms in "Gunz Yo." Comparing weaponry to a man's paranoia over his manhood, he mocks the idea of the bigger the gun, the better. "I hold my crotch like a 9mm / Gunz yo!"
"Dance Monkey" takes Daddy Kev's touch and becomes a dance club hit for the Apocalypse. In it, he takes one of several shots at the Higher Power with "I don't have a God complex / You have a simple God."
"Sea Lion" is the disc's highlight. With soft guitar picking and piano, it's driven by a strong drumbeat and Francis' unsteady rap. Indie rock legend Will Oldham teams up with Francis on a song that wouldn't sound out of place on a Slim Shady album.
"Agony in Her Body" is a bloody love scene, "Ground Control" is a soapbox, and "Jah Didn't Kill Johnny" pays tribute to Johnny Cash.
Francis certainly will ruffle some feathers, but there's no denying his power and prowess. And in a genre where amassing bling bling often seems more important than paying attention to one's surroundings, it's nice someone like Francis is there willing to hit us with a pail of ice cold water.
RIYL: Atmosphere, Eminem, Aesop Rock
By Brian Krasman