Rating: 3 out of 4 Playboy Bunnies
On A Healthy Distrust Sage Francis comes off as a bookish Eminem. Though his rhymes can be angry and his lyrics witty, Sage readily admits to possessing a paunch and unabashedly loving his girlfriend...not exactly Slim Shady material. But that honesty is only a small part of the Rhode Island rapper's charm. Along with his tendency toward self-examination and self-depreciation comes plenty of progressive preaching. He ably disses "detachable penis" gun culture, tired Kid 'N Play poses and America's one-party political reactionaries ("I freedom-kiss the French for their political dissent"). This witty verbosity is clearly his strong suit; throughout A Healthy Distrust he dishes out polysyllabic verbal jabs that recall equal parts Suicidal Tendencies, the Notorious B.I.G., Sex Pistols and Jack Kerouac. He also occasionally lays down danceable choruses, like the hyper, Limp Bizkit-meets-Quasimodo "Dance Monkey." And on "Lie Detector Test" he even manages to approximate the singsong sounds of a band like the Barenaked Ladies. But "Sea Lion," a country-rap mash-up co-written with Will Oldham, offers the most disarming curveball. Oldham's chilly back-porch vocals and melancholy guitar notes rattle atop a scrubby backbeat, allowing Francis space to replace his sometimes claustrophobic, wordy sentences with a spat of dusty Southern beauty.
By Brandon Stosuy