Rising lyricist Sage Francis takes on Clear Channel with extensive tour
It seems that the underground emcee/slam poet Sage Francis hasn't had the easiest time coping with his recent surge in popularity. Between the legal advice of his attorney and the diligence of one pushy record label, the very vocal Sage has been somewhat silenced with little more than his music to back him up.
After making a name for himself as a nationally ranked battle champion, holding titles like 1999's "Superbowl Battle" and 2000's "Scribble Jam" champion, Sage Francis teamed up with hip hop producer extraordinaire Joe Beats and formed Non-Prophets, releasing many a vinyl hit in the independent scene. As self-described "straight-edge disaholics who have nothing better to do than create amazing hip hop," Non-Prophets were heard loud and clear by fans sick of listening to your typical run-of-the-mill rapper. As word spread of Sage's amazingly poetic rhymes, he proceeded to drop the Sick of Waiting Tables series of self-released compilation CDs.
Whether he was a waiter at the time or not, these documents of previously unreleased songs, spoken word and live freestyles shot Sage Francis into a full-blown solo career. 2002 saw the release of Sage's official debut, Personal Journals, on acclaimed underground label Anticon. The album, described by allmusic.com as "vigorously pushing back battlements and erasing musical dividing lines while unexpectedly jumping from gritty street hip hop to spoken word and emotionally intense autobiographical raps," was a shining testament to the frustrations of an artist with a "hateful animosity towards a mainstream culture that would never accept him."
In a way, Sage's young career came full-circle as London's Lex Records approached Non-Prophets about releasing an official debut album. Back with Joe Beats for a spell, Sage was able to put out the album he always wanted to, calling it Hope. "I can definitely see us doing more in the future too," Sage tells Chicago Innerview, "but I would like to see Joe get the recognition he deserves as a solo artist."
Along with the classic Non-Prophets sound back on the scene, Sage Francis has also inked a solo deal with the huge underground punk label Epitaph. He's now officially a part of a kind of hip hop bum-rush of the label along with fellow independents Atmosphere and Eyedea & Abilities. "They want me to lose weight," he says, "It's always Atkins this, Atkins that. Next, I'll be dancing on stage in a furry costume!"
Though Epitaph may be trying to sell his style and image to the greater public, Sage Francis seems unaffected. He has already completed a guest spot on an album by DJ Signify for the Lex label with Canadian rapper and fellow guest emcee Buck 65. "His name is Buck and he likes to fuck, that's all I know," Sage says, "But, I can't stop listening to this album. It makes me feel like a little kid."
Sage has also planned an extensive tour he's calling the "Fuck Clear Channel Tour 2004." Clear Channel, the massive radio and entertainment conglomerate with its hand in practically every major concert venue in the country, has gotten wind of the tour and a bit of controversy already seems to be brewing.
"Unfortunately, I've been advised by my lawyer to not speak on the issue," says Sage. The legal advice doesn't end there, either. Sage has also been asked to refrain from talking about his straight-edge lifestyle. "I've been advised not to talk down about alcohol 'cause we'll be playing many venues where it will be served."
We can only assume that Sage Francis will have plenty to say about these issues and many more with a mic, a stage and a crowd full of loyal fans. Besides matters that may or may not be discussed, "Fuck Clear Channel" will not be a tour to miss. It will truly be a night of blazing hip hop to remember.
Sage Francis will headline the "Fuck Clear Channel Tour 2004" with Joe Beats and Grand Buffet at the Logan Square Auditorium March 13.
By Mike Scales