Sage Francis article plus new MP3 for "Dance Monkey".

We have just posted the new downloadable MP3 from Sage Francis, "Dance Monkey", of his upcoming Epitaph release 'A Healthy Distrust' out February 7th!

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"We'll stay together as long as I'm honest in my songs. Radioooooooo. Suckas never play this Scared shitless of dismissing Clear Channel playlists. Poorly developed, yet highly advanced, Black music intertwined with a white man's line dance."
-Sage Francis "Buzz Kill"

If you listen to the sounds on records with fifty years of perspective, it's still really tough to determine what moment marks the real beginning of the rock-n-roll era. For every "Rocket 88" there was no way that the music was going to make it to the whole country until those songs and moves were copied by Elvis and Bill Haley and Buddy Holly. Hip-hop was allowed entry into American culture thanks to integration and gained hold of the media spotlight without white icons.

Nowadays even Eminem's greatest critics can't deny the power of his influence. Whereas the Vanilla Ice's all became mere jokes, the artists that have emerged have risen to the spotlight the old fashioned way: by working hard and learning along the way and being ready when that light came their way. Sage Francis has risen through the ranks working open mics and a dedication to the road, and done so from Providence, a place not well known for its impact on hip-hop. "Providence is a quaint city. Rhode Island is a quaint state. It's a unique place and I assume it offers me a unique perspective on a lot of things. My state is often used to test products because we have such a diverse community and it is basically a microcosm of the entire country," Sage Francis says. "I have no idea how a place like this shapes my perspectives, but I was able to form my own opinions and my own style without a bunch of people telling me what to think or what to do."

Infused with vitriol, Sage Francis has a flow that is informed by the history of hip-hop as cites direct references to what's gone before within his rhymes. "I have been doing this so long to such a serious degree that I can leap from style to style without much effort or thought," Sage Francis claims. "Beyond that, there is a voice of my own I have developed, and rightfully so. There are voice restrictions which dictate how I deliver my ideas, but there are no restrictions on content, motivation or intent."

His brusque vocals seem so insistent because he's usually got something to say, and when you listen in, he tells things as he sees them in a perspective that slays both "Republicrats and Democrans". There's no one way that words come to be, both a flash of freestyle inspiration or a year of careful crafting can make the cut and find their way record. "I hate when people make the same kind of song over and over. Same style over and over. When you step in the studio you have to allow the material to come out of you naturally, and sometimes that has nothing to do with what is written on page. I am more of a writer than I am a freestyler, but I definitely stay open to the possibility of improv in everything I do. Lots of writing evolves out of spontaneous thought. Unfiltered. Then I build upon it. But all in all, I am mainly an editor. Because if I weren't, you would have a thousand Sage Francis albums on your hands and none of them would be decipherable."

His latest album, a self-titled release, is set to be released on Epitaph Records in February and contains a little bit of everything (including an album closing ode to Johnny Cash). It marks Sage Francis's first album with major backing, and provides serious hope for what's to come. "I expect big things," Sage Francis said. "I know how large my fan base is because I have performed for them for the past 5 years. I am finally part of a label that has the resources to service this fan base and heighten awareness of me and music. I have never had proper promotion or publicity and now I finally do. I think that will have a huge impact on the success of this album and the amount of people it is going to reach. I certainly can't complain about my music being made available to a larger audience, because I have not made a single compromise in the process. No company has ever supported me to the degree that Epitaph is."

Epitaph has the benefit of releasing a great album one that reveals a real maturation as an artist. "This album is a new face for me. Just like each previous album was a face of its own," Sage Francis says. "This one is a monster in terms of sound. It has a Personal Journals quality to it, but it is pointed more outward than it is pointed inward." Part of that openness is likely due to the wealth of great collaborators on the record which inherently reveals more interaction. Alias and Dangermouse provide tracks for Sage Francis to rhyme on and Will Oldham sings the hook on the album's highlight "Sea Lion." "I am open to work with anyone who can meet me within the book I need them to be inside of," Sage Fransic says, "and then we can compromise what page we will meet on. The possibilities are endless. I would love to work with more interesting musicians and versatile producers, but I never expect it. I am fine where I am at, knowing who I know, working with who I work with. I don't need collaborations in order to push limits or expectations. They help though." The album is indeed a sonic tour de force which should do nothing to quell any promotional efforts, but sometimes the words could keep things from the radio. "I guess I am limiting my audience, but I am speaking the way people around me speak. I am speaking to a community who is familiar with this kind of language and if they aren't then I don't know who they are or what they do in life. So I can't address them anyway," Sage Francis admits. "I use everyday language in my music to get my points across. Perhaps it is a way of pissing on my territory, I don't know. I used to not swear in my music in fear that my family would get all worked up about it. I was doing a disservice to my music and my general community by limiting my language and subject matter."

Sage Francis still posts regularly to the message board on the Non Prophets website, but thanks to the new label, he isn't the one who needs to be actively hunting channels to get his music out to new ears, and plus now people know where to find him. "From 1997-2001 I was just fighting tooth and nail to get anyone to check my music out and now I am in a position where I have to step back and filter through the enormous amounts of feedback that I receive. I can't complain, but I do have to admit that thangs done changed." Sage Francis has learned the ins and outs of hip-hop over the years and now that the means are at hand, he's got a potent disc to deliver. Learning those lessons, is part of the acquisition knowledge that any sage must learn before he can help provide foresight.

"In 1995 or 1996 I started using the name Sage just because it was a short, 4-letter word that I thought sounded cool. I didn't even know what it meant really. I just liked the sound of it. Eventually I tagged 'Francis' on the end of it in order to show some humility rather than being called Sage da Wizdum Seeka, or something equally silly to expound upon the pretentiousness of calling oneself 'Sage.' Sage Francis concludes, "Do I seek wisdom? Sure. Do I try to communicate my understanding of the word around me to the people who will listen? Sure I do. I don't know if spreading wisdom is an ultimate goal of mine though. I want people to find solace in the humanity I express. I fight for fairness and integrity. It is my duty to fill the truth gaps of our system because it has failed the general public."

By Jeff Breeze
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