The Indie Equation

The Unholy Marriage of Music and Math.


Equation #27: Sage Francis

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Sage Francis

Hi, My name's Puffmagic, and I'm a white guy. Because I was born white and live in the suburbs I don't usually listen to rap. Many believe that rap is music that only black people, or "people born in America with either direct or ancestral African lineage who's skin produces higher levels of melanin", can appreciate. While much of the content of mainstream rap and hip-hop indeed carries a context that I can't relate to I feel that it's unfair to wholly discount rap and hip-hop as merely "black people music" as my elderly neighbor refers to it. I'm not saying that the countless MCs and DJs spreading out their rap demos are all beacons of musical prestige, I mean how many times _can_ you rap about how your rap skills are the mad freshest, having sex with hoes, getting lots of money, buying diamond encrusted items and drinking expensive champagne (pronounced "sham-pag'-nee")? Eventually you have to come to the conclusion that some or most rap artists must be lying about their skills as a rapper because they all claim to bring the fire and that all the other rappers are "Whack MCs", and that certainly can't be the case, some rappers must be as good as others, it's just math. But what do I know, I'm a white guy from the suburbs. The suburbs of Oregon.

So discovering fellow white guys that are also good at rap (or rap well? Is that how you say it?) makes me feel like I can appreciate at least some parts of the rap/hip-hop culture without actually pretending that I can relate to it. Because I've seen white guys who pretend to relate to it, I've seen them in my town, they wear FUBU and straight billed, over-sized "lids", big gold chains with fake diamonds and their pants are always around their knees. They look fucking ridiculous. I don't think I have to grab my genitals when talking to appreciate rap music. That's why I'm thankful for Sage Francis, his rap is genuine and masterful. He doesn't appear to buy into the typical themes of rap, i.e. the aforementioned bitches, hoes and bling; his lyrics are more about reality than a magical world where everyone drives a Bentley and throws fistfuls of cash at people. Racial Disclaimer for the Liberals: I know that not all rap is like this and that there are "African Americans" who's rap is poetic, thoughtful and deep, but I'm not talking about them right now. Right now I'm talking about a white guy. Relax. Anyway, where was I, oh yeah. white guys who are good at rap. Francis does spend some time assuring the listener that he is, in fact, that fresh while you are unfortunately "really not all that dope", but for the most part his lyrics read like beat poetry, which makes sense because it sounds like he's spend plenty of time reading up on it. He name drops a veritable college hipster's Lit. course worth of material; Bukowski, Ginsberg, references to Faust, the Bible, Bob Dylan, My Chemical Romance, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Jagged Little Pill. A few of the tracks tend to fade into each other stylistically, "Keep Moving", "Waterline", "Black Out on White Night" and "Hell of a Year" make up the album's slow middle but it's capped at both ends by some excellent, powerful tracks. The first standout track is "Got Up This Morning", a swampy reggae beat with dry, hillbilly acoustic guitar and guest singer/musician Jolie Holland wailing like a stray cat in heat. In the immortal and enlightened words of Paris Hilton, "That's Hot." Cause it is. The next stand-out is "Clickety Clack", a dark and calculating track about captivity, violence and revenge. Imagine Gnarls Barkley's "Necromancing" without the creepy and twice the sinister. Beyond that Francis returns to trashing on his over-eager competition on "Midgets and Giants" where he takes the young, false DIY DJs to task on demo tapes, drugs and nipple grabs. The last part of the album is bookended with three very good tracks, the smarmy and broad-chested "Call Me Francois", the raging, anarchist "Hoofprints in the Sand" and the thugged up prison story of "Going Back to Rehab". It's rap, nay poetry, about anger, violence, divorce, sex, ego, and the struggle of man against his odds, whether they be government, relationships, family or his own demons. There's no catchy dance to accompany any of the tracks, there's no product placement, there's not a guest rap by a guy he owed a favor to, there's just Francis, his notebook and some beats and that's more than enough.


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