So I used to like hip-hop, loved it actually. About six-seven years ago something happened and it just shut off. The stuff I normally liked went under my bed out of site and out of ear and I went on my way letting music that felt more mature and worth my while run its course. If you think I'm kidding, I bought the The GZA's 'Liquid Swords' about two weeks ago, the first legit hip-hop album I've picked up since my abstinence began...that album's ten years old this year, I've gotta go back that far to be impressed and pleased these days.
Despite my bitching, the indie scene is strong and getting stronger, but it just doesn't grab my attention like it used to. Today mainstream hip-hop is fucked and I'll never go back to any of it. Songs about women (and the lovely light that's shone on them), money, cars, record labels, clothes, dance moves, cell phones, illegitimate children, and the rest of it have taken over and annoy the piss out of me and if you're reading this, being the sharp record seeker you are, you're annoyed too. What happened? Where did it happen? As most of us b-boy burnouts look and beg for answers, some decent MCs and DJs flash up here and then that keep the pulse that once kept us alive beating.
Have you heard Sage Francis before? If you tried hard enough, you've heard him on mixtapes and a few DIY's he's done, most probably from his last album, 'Personal Journals' which fostered a reputation for Francis as a personal and inventive lyricist. This time around he's got the same introspection and ability to poke fun at himself (and a whole lot of others) and despite a few minor weaknesses, he's another perfect example that underground hip-hop is still the only way to go.
Sage brings back his strong flow and smart pen to this album, running through fourteen songs and one (thank you, God) skit, each well-fed with enough quotables to make you both smirk and think. Here's a small sample: "I'll play the scab at your hunger strike", "I've got more back issues than Guns & Ammo", "Grammatical mistakes in every sentence I speak/It doesn't matter, I make enough sense to seem deep". Francis' profound delivery is backed up by production by Danger Mouse, Sixtoo, Controller 7, Reanimator, Joe Beats, Alias, and Daddy Kev. The album's only guest spot belongs to Will Oldham who lends a bit of guitar and vocals on 'Sea Lion'.
The aforementioned weaknesses lie in Sage's few high-speed deliveries and the tiny handful of lyrical bends that nick the otherwise flawless flows he presents. When he goes on with his quick-tongued rhyming, he sounds a little too much like everyone else and leaves his worthwhile punch hanging until he gets back to it.
While I may not devote all of my attention to underground hip-hop after listening to this record, Sage Francis has perked my ears up a little more in its direction. This album holds enough clout to stay in my rotation for a while and keep my attention on where this guy's gonna go. If you don't listen to hip-hop and curse the greasy noise that's on the radio or blaring out of some asshole's Acura as you're minding your own business, give this guy a shot, he may just do it for you.
By Phil Del Costello