Sage discusses New England, William Oldham and radio.

Rhode Island raps

Indie MC Sage Francis disses Spin, gives props to New England

As the first hip-hop act signed to the venerable punk indie label Epitaph, Sage Francis has a lot to live up to. But the Rhode Island--yes, Rhode Island--MC bristles with confidence on his new "A Healthy Distrust," a disc of rock meets rap beats and paranoid, angry and often introspective lyrics.

Francis responded to a few questions via email, touching on such topics as New England's elusive hip-hop scene, his outspoken political beliefs and his status as a "board certified microphone doctor."

New England doesn't have the most visible hip-hop scene. What are we missing?

Sage Francis: Joe Beats. There is a Joe Beats conspiracy and it needs to end. His instrumental album, "Reverse Discourse," was one of the most slept-on albums of 2004. There are some people doing great production, but my man Beats needs his proper due. [Also] Jared Paul and Tom Inhaler are both Rhode Islanders who I have taken on tour with me because I like to share their material with the world.

Will Oldham appears on your new album, but he doesn't seem the most obvious collaborator.

Sage Francis: I was introduced to his music by Tom [Brown] at Lex Records while Will and I were in the UK at the same time. People got to talking about us doing some music together and then we began talking to each other about it. I had no expectations, but when it was all said and done I was extremely happy that this collaboration took place. He is a favorite singer-songwriter of mine and the song that resulted from our collaboration ["Sea Lion"] is one of the best songs on my new album.

Often when a hip-hop artist works with a non-hip-hop artist, they get accused of selling-out or at least actively courting a more mainstream audience.

Sage Francis: I think if Will or I allowed people's opinion of our music to dictate what we can or cannot do with our art, we wouldn't be here right now. It came together well. We agreed that it was a great song and that's all that matters. Most of the hip-hop crowd has no idea who Will Oldham is and his audience probably doesn't know who I am either.

You take a lot of shots at radio. But Eminem's "Mosh" was as pissed off a song I've heard in years, and Green Day's had a bunch of radio hits with relatively political stuff. Do you think, corporate or not, that radio is growing more responsive to the tastes of their listeners?

Sage Francis: That Eminem song and those Green Day songs were bubble gum. That's all I have to say about that. We aren't on the same page on this topic at all. Radio isn't responsive to the tastes of its listeners as much as it dictates those tastes. Bland, cardboard music.

The sticker they stuck on the cover of your new CD quotes Spin magazine, claiming you're a "board-certified microphone doctor." Where does one get that degree and how much work did you have to do to get one?

Sage Francis: That is one quote that really makes me wince. What the hell does that even MEAN? Do I fix microphones? The board certified me? It's such a confusing way to say absolutely nothing. Spin is good at that.

By Joshua Klein
href=',0,1054446.story?coll=mmx-home_bottom_hedsh2o' target= 'blank'>