Most of the Sage US tour is finished now with just two shows, Thursday and Friday in Providence, left. As for Europe, the shows have been postponed until June due to much needed rest of his damaged vocal chords. Sage plans to tour with Grand Buffet and will have a small backing band. For more info and news from Sage check out the brand new site href='http://sagefrancis.net/' target='_blank'>sagefrancis.net!
All the news that's fit to rap
There is nothing predictable about Sage Francis, a fire-breathing hip-hop emcee from the wilds of Providence, R.I.
Francis' excellent new album, "A Healthy Distrust" (Epitaph Records), crackles with politicized invective against everything from the war in Iraq to hip-hop's fixation on gun imagery, delivered in an avalanche of rapid-fire verse. But Francis also drops in references to nursery rhymes, phone pranks, the Sex Pistols and Johnny Cash (plus killer beats by Reanimator, Danger Mouse, Alias and other dee-jays).
Now 27, Francis has been rapping since he started making homemade tapes at age 8. He saw Public Enemy for the first time at age 12, and the die was cast. Francis became a leading light on the hip-hop spoken-word and battle circuit, while finding time to earn a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island. His breakthrough song, 2001's "Makeshift Patriot," was reported as much as it was recorded -- it included a field recording Francis made at the ruins of the World Trade Center five days after 9-11.
Not that you'll be hearing Francis on Fox News or your local corporate-owned radio station anytime soon. "The Buzz Kill," the very first song on the new album, sneers at those who live in fear of being dropped from "Clear Channel playlists."
Francis plays the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro on Saturday, and he agreed to be interviewed by e-mail only. That's because he needs to save his voice, and he's got a lot to say.
Q You're far more political than the vast majority of rappers. Do you worry about preaching to the converted?
AIf a vast majority isn't politically inclined, then how is it I am preaching to the converted? I'd like to think that means I have something of worth to say in my music. More than that, I am not trying to convert people. I am trying to share ideas and get some thoughts out there. I would be surprised if someone could sit down and explain to me what my politics are. I don't speak that plainly.
Q If you got a five-minute audience with President Bush, what would you say?
A Most of my time would be used to show him how unfair his policies are to the common people of this country and the world. I would have to be strategic because a part of me thinks he really believes he is doing good for his country and God. Another part of me believes he is an atheist with a complete disregard for the common man. I would just have to make as much sense as possible with both of those things in mind. Man, I don't even know where I'd start. I would probably say, "I can't wait until you and your clan are as far away from the White House as possible. People are dumber because of you."
Q Do you have any sort of "idealized listener" in mind when you write?
AI have a fair understanding of who will be happy or mad at the things I write, but I don't factor that in too much. The audience is a vast array of personalities. All different ages, colors and religions. It's really interesting to see. I love that my fan base isn't homogenous. I love that some sections of my fan base don't get along with other sections. It's the best.
QWhen it comes to recording, how much input do you have on the beats and music the different producers put behind your words?
AI have complete input on the beats. I only work with the beats that fit what I am trying to do. Reanimator has been most helpful in making changes that I need when writing songs, and you can tell they are better developed than a lot of the other songs I have made. It's a good mix I have going with all these folks. If someone is not cool with my input, then that makes our collaborating very difficult. Mostly everyone is happy to accommodate, though. When Alias gives me beats, they are usually so well-developed that I just write around the sequence and the songs come out great that way.
QYou've obviously got a lot of respect for Johnny Cash, subject of the song "Jah Didn't Kill Johnny." If he had come along today instead of 50 years ago, what sort of music do you think he'd be playing?
AThat's impossible to say. I don't think most of my favorite artists would survive in today's musical climate. I envy the artists of the '50s, '60s and '70s, who were able to do whatever the hell they wanted and big labels took chances with them. Bob Dylan and Neil Young were given talent development and career development by their labels, and that was a huge risk. Of course, it paid off. But labels have learned that it is easier to put their money behind disposable artists because they can be replaced. No talent or career development, just fast-food music. It takes a certain personality type to fight this tide, and most great artists just don't have the ambition to do it. They just want to make music. So a lot of the greatest artists of our era are being ignored due to circumstances brought about by big business. Surprise, surprise. What does that make me? A hard-headed [expletive] who hopes his constant fight against the tide hasn't hurt his creative development.
QWhat are the best and worst day jobs you've ever had?
AI think delivering newspapers was the worst. I was a butcher at a deli, and I didn't mind that too much, even though I got fired. One job I didn't really like was watching over a house full of mentally disabled adults. The way the state system works is really what got to me. I had to just leave one day. They do things all wrong at those spots. Twisted bureaucracies. My favorite day job was scooping ice cream. It was easy, and we goofed off. I worked there with two roommates, and we just had fun, until some lady told me I couldn't wear my headphones while I was sweeping the floor. I bounced after that.
By DAVID MENCONI