Sage gets 4 stars for his upcoming record 'A Healthy Distrust'.

Rating: 4 Stars

Usually when you're reading a review of a rapper's new CD, the critic will quote a lyric to illustrate the emcee's skills with wordplay, or maybe a particularly poignant sample to show a tough guy's more introspective side.

But it's impossible to capture these elements by typing a few lines from Sage Francis' first album on Epitaph Records, A Healthy Distrust. Francis spits more witty turns of phrase and vivid verbal snapshots of his life on a single track than most rappers could ever offer. And what's most impressive is the way Francis bends hip-hop to fit his own purposes; this may be the only time you'll ever hear a white rapper not trying to sound black.

Atop intoxicatingly ominous beats provided by the likes of Dangermouse, Sixtoo and Reanimator, among others, Francis' unique, growling cadence is at first hard to process. That's because it's different, and our radio-fucked, pop-rap ears have to adjust. Once acclimated, you'll hear stories of cartoonish patriotism, dysfunctional family life, political target practice, commercial and pharmaceutical enslavement and overall tough living. And he calls God a bitch.

"They've said it every year, but this time it seems like the end is near/ And I'm in the line to see the light. How far does this black tunnel go?" Francis says softly over sad pianos that open "Crumble." This tunnel digs deeper than most, far enough to get under the music and expose the dark, twisted roots of the artist.

By Brock Radke
Las Vegas Mercury