This looks like it's going to be a great year for Sage Francis. Not only has this controversial and thought-provoking MC inked a three record deal with Epitaph Records, but his side project The Non-Prophets have a new album on the way as well. Epitaph has been receiving criticism for signing Sage because he doesn't fit the "punk rock" mold. After learning more about the man, I question the validity of these critic's complaints. When I listen to Sage Francis' Personal Journals or when I download some of his many freestyle battles and other personal, and anti-establishment songs, it's hard for me to not categorize him within the same ranks as Bad Religion, Pennywise, and Rancid. When I think of hip-hop, I never think of groups like Eminem or Jay-Z. Instead, I think of Sage Francis and his predecessors, EPMD, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Eric B and Rakim, and Run DMC just to name a few. Below is my interview with Epitaph Recording Artist Sage Francis.
SUJ: How does it feel to be the first legitimate hip-hop act to be signed to Epitaph Records?
Sage: It feels normal. It's slightly exciting and it makes me eager to follow through with the plans.
SUJ: Since most of the Epitaph fans may not know much about you, explain who you are in a nutshell.
Sage: I just don't know what to say to people who have no idea who I am. Years and years and years of introducing myself has left me numb to that whole game. Hi...my name is Frank...I do the grind. Words and music help me through life. A reclusive extrovert. I can be passionate and indifferent at the same time. So come play with me until you fall in love or out of the loop.
SUJ: Where do you see the underground hip-hop scene going within the next year or so?
Sage: I'd rather not say. I'd rather not think about it.
SUJ: Do you think your signing will prompt other traditionally punk labels to scoop up the best of the rest?
SUJ: Who do you think some essential hip-hop acts are for us to know about?
Sage: Well...besides the obvious (Public Enemy, BDP, Rakim, etc.) I would suggest that you check out some stuff from the Rhymesayers, anticon and Def Jux camp.
SUJ: What bands are you looking forward to work with from the Epitaph roster?
Sage: I would love to work with Bad Religion, Rancid, Tom Waits, NOFX. I mean, all of them have put out albums that I thoroughly enjoy so to work with them would be interesting. Who the hell knows if that would happen though. I don't intend on working with anybody.
SUJ: Explain who The Non-Prophets are.
Sage: The Non-Prophets is an older group of mine. It has been narrowed down to me on vocals and Joe Beats on production. The Non-Prophets style is more traditional hiphop, and we try to have a lot of fun with the music. It's a task to operate inside of the box and still try to make it your own, but I think we do well with it.
SUJ: What can fans expect from your first Epitaph release?
Sage: I am looking for people to work on music with me but there will be no cameos. I have a lot of things that I want people to hear, so I will say them the best way I know how. That's all I can do. There will be a personal and political edge, that's all I know at this point. Because that's all I've been writing. I don't wish to alienate the non hip-hop audience, which I sometimes do with my music. I intend on communicating the human experience in a way that people of all backgrounds will hopefully relate to. Whether they agree or not.
SUJ: Do you think people will view you much like they did Ice-T back when he formed Body Count?
Sage: No. Although Ice T is a HUGE influence of mine, we operate in different music eras. Also, I am not a black, 45 year old, OG gangster, pimp hustler motherfucker. It seemed with Body Count that Ice T was trying very hard to sound "punk." To the rest of us it just sounded horrible. The tension mounts. Ice T just had this half-assed yell...it is fun to listen to for that one song. I mean, what's most important is he got police in an uproar, so my hat goes off to him. Body Count did some across as a half-assed effort though. If people ever view me like that I might have to call Evil E and work on some better sex raps.
SUJ: How has the punk crowd treated you so far?
Sage: Well, before this Epitaph thing happened there was a very obvious punk contingent at my shows. I don't know if it is going to grow larger due to the recent signing or not, but the punk crowd always treats me with respect. It makes me feel good.
SUJ: How did Brett Gurewitz hear about you?
Sage: Through Andy Kaulkin (president of Epitaph.) Andy was checking out the hip-hop scene and he came across my music. He presented it to Brett and then they started checking out my shows I guess. What they all seemed to be enjoying about me was the message I promoted in my music and the manner in which I presented it all. That's probably obvious to a lot of people though.
SUJ: "Makeshift Patriot" gave most of us a taste of your sound. What other records do you recommend us check out of yours?
Sage: My only OFFICIAL, commercially released album is one called Personal Journals. It came out a little over a year ago on Anticon Records. In a time when a lot of people were rapping about bullshit topics, I decided to make a fashion show of my personal life. Hence, Personal Journals. Other than that, I suggest people check out my Known Unsoldier Sick of Waging War CD, which is what "Makeshift Patriot" is off of.
SUJ: If you could have dinner with one person from the past or present, who would it be?
Sage: Jesus Christ. I have a few bones to pick with him about his people.
SUJ: What would the dinner conversation be like?
Sage: Well...it might be filled with a lot of apologies. But in the end, I would demand an autographed copy of the Bible after I made him write the whole thing out for me. In English, buddy. In English.
SUJ: Do you have any last words for your fans?
Sage: I have some of the greatest fans in the world. Some have even stuck it out with me since 1996. They have given me books, notebooks, poems, music, food, drinks, pictures, kisses, hugs and love. They are balanced out by some of the worst fans to ever exist. Since I tend to dwell on the negative, I would like to tell my nice fans thank you for all your support (blah blah blah) and fuck the rest of you in the face with cum icicles.
SUJ: What about to the critics?
Sage: I love you, mom