Sage Francis: Call and response. Press from his current US tour.

Sage Francis is continuing his US dates, heading through the South this week and finishing up in Providence on the 25th. The beginning of Arpil brings a European tour for almost a month. The new album 'A Healthy Distrust' is recieving great reviews and his live show is not to be missed. Here is some recent tour press from the Las Vegas Mercury.

Sage Francis: Call and response

Sage Francis is a welcome hip hop rabblerouser

It's discomforting to see so many would-be cultural provocateurs go quiet or become silenced in these post-9/11 times. However, this is not the case with Sage Francis, a Rhode Island-based rapper and producer who speaks his mind with such brutal honesty he's just as likely to offend fans as he is to move them.

This is especially true of his live performances, which often inspire tense exchanges with audience members after shows. "I say so much on stage, not all of it is supposed to be taken literally," says Francis in an e-mail interview. "And I don't feel like having to defend any one particular stance every time I get done with a performance. Either accept what I say or reject it--I don't want to hear you bitch and moan about how you think my anger is counterproductive."

And even when fans share their heartfelt praise and stories with Francis--which happens more often than criticism--the 27-year-old MC remains somewhat detached, and certainly more modest than he is behind the mic. "If someone has some deep, personal shit to say to me...I give them a hug and that's that," he says. "It should be quick and respectful. As much as I can't take insults to heart, I can't take flattery to heart either. You reject the good with the bad."

Flattery is exactly what Francis has been flooded with since the release last month of his second studio album and Epitaph debut, A Healthy Distrust. Bristling, immediate and uncompromised, Distrust is the sort of record that captures the attention of its listeners by simultaneously enlightening and unnerving them. It's loaded with rants and observations that reflect Francis' perspective on social, political and even romantic matters, structured by forceful beats, and hued with synthesized riffs and various samples that share the lyrics' urban edge and the MC's underground mentality.

"2004 was a year of fire, rage and disappointment for me, so I wanted to capture that with aggressive music," says Francis. "At that point I decided I would just address all the things in society that I wanted to bring people's attention to, with a pinch of some personal material to remind people of the kind of person it's all coming from--a real person, not a superman with a bulletproof cock like all the other cool rappers. Those cool rappers and their bulletproof lucky."

Though Francis writes all his songs, the beats--and most of the instrumentation--are provided by outside musicians such as Dangermouse (the producer who mashed up the Beatles and Jay-Z on last year's The Grey Album), country/folk indie musician Will Oldham and various other relatively unknown producers, whom Francis respected and was only too glad to offer further exposure.

"What I've done is I have kept a catalogue of all this music and I then, depending on what project I want to make, I dig through these beats to find the ones that match the mood that is required," says Francis. "The reason the album has a cohesive feel is because I am conscious of what beats work with other beats as far as mood and sound sonics go, and also because we mix them all in the same studio. It's a different process than most people are used to--or even comfortable with--but it works best for me."

However, Francis' fiery rapping is always central to any of his songs--especially live, when his passionate delivery threatens to do him in.

"I get totally carried away on stage," he says. "So much in fact that I frequently blow out my vocal cords and end up with scratches and bruises all over my head and body. There are things that I feel on stage that I don't feel anywhere else. It is a complete release and it keeps my fire burning. I have severe health issues because of how I perform, actually, and I'll deal with those things accordingly."

By Mike Prevatt
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