Rating: 5 Stars
I've always thought that the popular rap artists, you know, fifty, jay-z, p. diddy/daddy/whatever he calls himself today, was a pathetic example of what hip hop is really about. It's because of people like that who parade around in ritzy night clubs and make hit songs out of a good blowjob that I was never a hip hop fan. It wasn't until Sage Francis was signed to Epitaph that I really began to appreciate and understand the genre. Yes, it's a punk label, but it's always been said that punk can't really be defined, so doesn't that mean that Sage too, can be a punk?
Rap is all about the lyrics; that fact is undeniable. Sage Francis does something with his words on this album that address everything from the war in Iraq to homophobia and suicide, to popular hip-hop and the importance of intelligence, to his own intentions in music and life. He has such a huge talent with lyricism that is simply indescribable. His poetry is a remarkable plea for social reform; a relentless act of dissent and an artistic means of political commentary. It is limitless in aggression; a blatant attack on every conservative oppressor, bleeding heart liberal who sits back and whines instead of acting, and every bad decision in recent history. His words don't always go along with the music, which only goes to say that keeping with the beat is overruled by the need to prove a point.
"Gunz Yo," is in my mind, a huge risk and an act of bravery. It's Sage's take on the hip-hop community's fascination with artillery. "Now I'm starting to hate the quiet moments/It might remind you of a mic by the way I hold it/Straight to the grill like a homophobic rapper" and "An extension of my manhood/positioned like a fetus/An intravenous hook up feeds bullets to my magazine/Never mine the Bullocks, my pistol is a sex Machine!" are just a few excerpts from the profound ballad that never once loses touch with its realism and cynical humor.
What Sage Francis seems to be looking for with this album is not just respect, but for people to comprehend his passion to drive his message into the audience far surpasses the importance of self-dignity. In "Escape Artist," he spits out the deafening words "When I say HIP, you say Shut the fuck up, we ain't saying shit/And I'll respect it. I've got a flare for the dramatic exit/A fashionable entrance. Late to my own arrangement/ Oh, the self destructive things I do for entertainment."
Perhaps the most risky and controversial track on this release is "Slow Down Ghandi." I'll just let the lyrics describe the song for me: "It's the same who complain about the global war/But can't overthrow the local joker who they voted for/They call the shots but they're not in the line of fire/I 'd call the cops but they break in the line of duty/Call a stop to the abuse of authority/The truth keeps calling me, I'm a live to tell the story/You need to cut the noose, but you don't believe in scissors/You support the troops by wearing yellow ribbons/Just bring home my mother fucking brothersand sisters."
Maybe Sage is a self-absorbed ghetto hippie who preaches to a deaf choir, but at least he has the balls to be that person. If you still doubt the musicianship of hip-hop, go listen to one of these songs and then tell me that it's not music. Eminem, eat your heart out.