SICK TO D(EAT)H is a 75 minute mixtape that drops on Dec 12th, 2013 exclusively through Strange Famous Records. It will not be available in any other store. MP3, CD, Cassette Tape, Shirt + Hoodie package deals are AVAILABLE HERE.
Before I give a the full breakdown of what’s on this mixtape and why, I’d like to announce that there will be new Sage Francis album (title withheld for now) in June of 2014. A world tour is currently being booked for that time period as well, which will officially end what became a 4 year hiatus for me. I have some explaining to do on that front, and I will soon enough, but as I’ve basically lived a hermit lifestyle since 2010 I’d like to express how excited I am to get these wheels spinning again. This “on the road again” lifestyle will begin with my Australian tour the day this mixtape drops.
“BLUE” is produced by Reanimator.
As we approach the end of 2013, close to 15 years after I first started the “Sick of” mixtape series, it appears that everything has come full circle with me. When I released my first mixtape in 1999, it was done out of financial necessity. I was without a label, without funding, and I was sitting on a bunch of recorded material that no one could hear except for the small number of people who lived within the broadcast range of RI college radio. The MP3/download “revolution” hadn’t kicked off just yet and, quite frankly, I needed to subsidize my career somehow. As far as I know, no other emcees released their own mixtapes before this point. I make that (somewhat lofty) claim reluctantly as it’s entirely possible that other rappers were releasing mixtapes at the time, but none that I am aware of. It was essentially a medium for DJ’s who would put together mixes of interesting, exclusive, new and/or obscure songs from various artists. This made me wonder why I wasn’t doing the same for myself. The recordings I was sitting on couldn’t constitute an official album, but I saw value in the material as a whole. I was sitting on a collection of home recordings, live recordings, radio freestyles, 12″ singles, etc…The sound quality varied greatly from track to track, but the content was there. I decided to group all of these straggler tracks together and give them a home on “Sick of Waiting.” This, in essence, is the “bootleg” origin of Strange Famous Records. Which brings us to the present…
Here I am sitting on a pile of recorded material that I can’t really call an album, but the archivist in me is really happy to give it an official home with SICK TO D(EAT)H. The sound quality varies from song to song due to the different equipment and formats used from 1994 to 2013. From the remixes to the demos to the live recordings and the soundbites, I packed as much as I could into 75 minutes while tying it all together with a turntable ribbon. If you’ve followed every commercial release of mine, then you’ll notice that some of these songs are alternate versions of official album cuts. You’ll also notice that the demos contain additional lyrics or bonus verses while the music is entirely different from the official album versions. If you follow every update I make on social networks, which is nearly impossible, then you’ve heard some of the other material such as the “Ubuntu (Water into Wine)” song –that is the first song I recorded since the release of Li(f)e in 2010 and it set me back into motion as far as writing and recording goes. Every track on this compilation mix comes with an interesting bit of history, including the brand new ones, and this is all explained below.
Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this mixtape in one form or another. Big salute to Pat Jensen for the artwork, design and layout. Another salute to Storm Davis for helping keep SFR afloat despite how rough the waters have gotten for indies lately. All the emcees, musicians and producers who are mentioned in the track listing deserve shouts as well because they rule, so check out their music and buy their albums if you can. Lastly, thank you all for sticking with the kid all these years. Now let the Epic Beard Men usher you into the new mixtape with this free download: “You Can’t Win” (feat. B. Dolan, prod. by Buddy Peace)
Sage Francis – SICK TO D(EAT)H, 2013
01 - STD INTRO - (2005, beat & cuts by Kool DJ E.Q.)
Back when I had a radio show on WRIU 90.3, the opening theme to my show was “Death of Hip Hop” by Kool DJ E.Q. off of the “Return of the DJ” album. Still one of my favorite DJ pieces. I can’t remember how we got in touch with one another, or when he sent me this beat with scratches on it, but I’m guessing it was around 2005. I stumbled across it recently and realized it had never been used so I added a few relevant vocal samples to it for the sake of the mixtape intro.
02 - GIMME DAT - (2008, beat by Buck 65)
I believe we released this as a “Clip of the Week” at SFR in 2008 and then it disappeared from the internet. The beat Buck did for this is insane. It’s a barrage of percussion that, for whatever reason, made me want to list off a bunch of “stuff” that I want. I tied it together with a chorus I jacked from The Dead Milkmen: “Everybody’s got nice stuff but me.” With their blessing I might add, which is awesome because they’ve always been my favorite punk rock group. Thanks, Dead Milkmen!
03 - ZERO Demo - (2009 “I was Zero” demo, beat by Buck 65)
The backing music on “I Was Zero” from my Li(f)e album is almost entirely different from this demo version except for the bass line. There are also additional lyrics on this version. The demo has a more playful feel than the album version, which I think is necessary for the chorus to really work the way I intended. I go back and forth between the two though depending on my mood. The outro of this song is a recording of Jackson from Grand Buffet from our Fuck Clear Channel Tour in 2004. I didn’t credit him on the track list because he has red hair.
04 - BLUE - (2013, beat by Reanimator, cuts by Buddy Peace)
I strongly debated whether I should save this for the official LP, but in the end I decided its tone probably wouldn’t match the overall feel of what I’m going for on it. Alas, I’m really proud of this track and I’m always excited to work with Reanimator. A bulk of these lyrics were inspired by a vet who I sat next to on a plane many years ago. His story about transitioning back into civilian life after all the war he had seen really got me thinking about…well…our culture of violence. I’ll leave it at that for now.
05 - SLOW D(EAT)H Demo - (2009 “Slow Man” demo, beat by Buck 65)
This is entirely different music than the version of “Slow Man” from the Li(f)e album and it includes an additional verse. This one provides more punch where as the Li(f)e version takes a more laid back approach. My falsetto is nothing short of exceptional on the chorus. I can only hit those notes when there’s a full moon.
06 - THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD TO ME - (2013, beat by Prolyphic)
Prolyphic (who just released an album with Buddy Peace called Working Man) is mainly known for his emcee skills. He makes some monster beats though and this is one of them. It’s very uptempo and full of movement. Every single line in this song rhymes with “dead to me.” Because…these are things to do in Denver when you’re dead to me. It’s a good list of suggestions.
07 - VIVA LA VINYL - (2013, beat by Reanimator, violin by Jolie Holland, cuts by Buddy Peace)
I had been sitting on this Reanimator beat since 2004 or so. I’ve always loved it but I could never think of the perfect way to use it. In fact, while I was recording some songs with Jolie Holland Human the Death Dance, I asked her to play violin over the music. I loved it, but I still couldn’t find my place in it. While I was rapping up this mixtape I decided to give it a shot and it has turned into one of my favorite tracks as of late. It’s incredibly chilled out and I basically get to tell the tale of a guy who’s not making the smoothest of transitions into the MP3 world. Buddy Peace was able to put together some scratch magic on the fly. The vocal sample on the end was suggested by Kathleen from Circle Takes the Square. As you’ll notice, it provides the perfect segue to the next song.
08 - YOU CAN’T WIN - (2013, feat. B. Dolan, beat by Buddy Peace. EPIC BEARD MEN!)
When B. Dolan and I formed the Epic Beard Men, we wanted it to be the kind of thing where we could make fun hip-hop songs and just wild out. A lot of our solo material tends to be about depressing shit, so it’s good to have the option to do stuff that’s more traditional and reminiscent of the kind of hip-hop we grew up on. I’d say it’s a mix between the Beasties, Run DMC, NWA and the Native Tongues. If that makes any sense. This is only the second official song we’ve done as EBM, both tracks produced by Buddy Peace, and it ended up being 10 minutes long. We actually got into a serious argument about how to end the song which could have ended our bearded union if Buddy Peace didn’t step in and demand that we not shout out every single city we’ve ever played at the end of the song. “Just some of the places…just some,” he said. Many thanks to Dan Sawyer for letting us record in his studio.
09 - BREAKING 2BAD - (2013, feat. B. Dolan, beat by Buddy Peace. EPIC BEARD MEN!)
This is a remix Buddy Peace did of the first official EBM song, 2Bad. Every sample except for the drums comes from the “Breaking Bad” TV show. B. Dolan’s not even a fan of that show (he thinks the final season of Dexter was awesome…pffff) so if you have any criticism about how we sampled a bit of television magic then direct it my way.
10 - LET EM COME REDUX - (2012, Scroobius Pip, Metermaids, Cecil Otter. Beat by Cecil Otter)
The original version of this song is on Scroobius Pip’s solo album, “Distraction Pieces.” This redux is a complete overhaul of the OG, from music to lyrics to guest spots. Cecil Otter put the beat together, I recorded a new verse, the Metermaids hopped on the track and Cecil Otter capped everything off with an additional verse.
11 - DARK ARTS ABRIDGED - (2011, “Art of Darkness” demo edit. Beat by MC Lars.)
People who are familiar with MC Lars probably heard the full version of this song on his Indie Rocket Science album. His version clocks in at 5:30 where as mine is 3 minutes long. Because he’s not on it. I KNOCKED HIM OUT THE BOX! Wait…haha..no disrespeck. Let me explain. This demo version is what I originally recorded before anything else was added or switched and I fell in love with it. On the album version, the string samples had to be removed, the sing-sung chorus was replaced with chopped vocals, and the verses were broken up with Lars’ sections intertwining with my sections. You’re more than welcome to enjoy and/or prefer the official album version, but I’m glad I get to share the demo version too. I found it to be a good pairing with the song that comes next, especially with the Bill Hicks snippet used at the end.
12 - REHAB Demo - (2006, beat by Paul Fava)
“Going Back to Rehab” is the last song on my Human the Death Dance album. It is brooding with a very slow built. The demo version, however, is uptempo and hits hard straight out the gate. Paul Fava gave me this beat in 2004 or so and I believe we released this as SFR “Clip of the Week” in 2005. That was the last people heard of it though until now.
13 - HIGH STEP Demo - (2006, beat by Eaters)
It’s interesting how the tone of music can give a whole new feel, and maybe even understanding, to lyrics. This beat by Eaters (UK) is creepy and dark. The album version, which was produced by Ant, is more energetic and in your face. It was strange hearing this version after so many years and realizing that, “hey…I like this song a lot. Fuck everyone who thought it was just about football.” Haha. The second half of this song is the recording of a sexist pastor who doesn’t apologize for standing where God stands. Take a number, slob.
14 - THE PASTOR SLEEPS FINE (interlude)
Reanimator gave me these horns ages ago and I wasn’t able to make proper use of them until now. The pastor sleeps fine, guys.
15 - ORIGIN TO DESCENT - (2013, beat by Buddy Peace)
You may possibly hear the second verse from this song pop up elsewhere at some point. In 2011 someone approached me about doing a song with Kool G Rap. He’s a childhood idol of mine so I jumped a the opportunity. I recorded my verse and then I heard his verse. And then the person who approached me hopped on the song as well and then it turned into a whole other thing. Well, Buddy Peace remixed the version with just me and KGR which I preferred over the beat they were using. Since I haven’t heard back from them in a couple years, and since I don’t want to use KGR’s vocals without his permission, I decided to just record an additional verse release this as an entirely new song. I think Buddy was getting a bit restless about this beat not being used, so I’m glad I have an excuse to release it now.
16 - TREE OF KNOWLEDGE (spoken word, 1999)
This is a live recording of me performing a piece called “Tree of Knowledge” at the Century Lounge (Providence, RI) during the beginning of an AOI show. A version of this piece exists with a beat but I think the spoken word version has a great touch. The music I placed behind it was kind of a happy accident and I was surprised by how well it fit with just a bit of editing. The outro of this track has a snippet from a Bill MacMillan poem. He’s great.
17 - THERE IS A BETTER WAY - (Lord Grunge on vocals & guitar)
Lord Grunge (Grand Buffet) sent me a preview of his rock and roll album which comes out next year. This is the intro to his album. I snatched it and sang over it in an attempt to recreate the harmony sessions we’d often have in the tour van. That’s that. It’s mine now. Eh. It’s actually his…it’s a short catchy tune and he was nice enough to let me use it.
18 - UBUNTU (WATER INTO WINE) - (2012, beat by Adam248 & Sage)
For information about this song and the kids who are featured on it, please visit www.tinyurl.com/SageFrancisUBUNTU
19 - DON’T THINK Vs. REBEL YELLOW - (2013, No Bird Sing / Cecil Otter. Mash up by Bearpuncher Prime)
SFR recently released No Bird Sing’s “Definition Sickness” album. “Don’t Think” (feat. yours truly) was the first single and we held a remix contest. Bearpuncher Prime came through with this mash-up where he placed our vocals over Cecil Otter’s instrumental for “Rebel Yellow” and I love it. Works perfectly. It’s a Minneapolis love-fest in here.
20 - BABY STAYS (LIVE ON BBC) - (2010, guitars by Worgie and Yila)
When I was visiting the UK in 2010 I was asked to be a guest on Lauren Laverne’s show BBC Radio 6. She asked if I could perform some songs live and recommended that I play with live instruments. Well…I didn’t have a band with me. I scrambled around to see if I could find someone to play guitar for me and that’s when Dan le Sac and Scroobius Pip put me in touch with Worgie and Yila. Without more than an hour to prepare, we stepped into the studio and this is the result. I’m really happy with it. Apparently the UK was into it as well because this was the only time my name trended on Twitter. I did it, mom! I’ve arrived!
21 - I DON’T KNOW (feat. Atmosphere, 2003 demo)
This song somehow fell through the cracks when I recorded “Stuck” and “Cigarette Breaks” with Atmosphere back in 2003. It was never recorded in a professional studio and the demo recording only existed on 4 track tape. I had to convert it to CD so it’s definitely got some sound issues. It’s a fun track though and it’s about time this saw same daylight.
22 - KID PROFIT FREESTYLE OUTTAKES (1994 bedroom cypher)
I don’t want to say this guy’s real name because he’ll kill me for including these snippets. I miss those old days though. Freestyling in the bedroom about absolutely nothing at all and recording it…why? Because one day I’d have a mixtape called Sick to D(eat)h.
23 - LIFE IS AN STD - (1996 demo)
This song appeared on my very first demo tape in 1996. I didn’t have anyone making beats for me at the time, so I rapped over this Killarmy instrumental which samples the theme song from The Incredible Hulk TV show. I went on to record a studio version of this song with AOI a couple years later, but I prefer the rawness of this one. My ideology has changed a lot over the years, so it’s funny to hear myself dropping pseudo-religious references in a serious way. That’s kind of why I like including older material on mixtapes though. Shows evolution. Or devolution. Depends on your perspective.
24 - YEARS Demo - (2009, “16 Years” demo, beat by Kurtis SP)
The album version of 16 Years did not follow the demo version at all. The music is entirely different. I don’t even think there’s any percussion on the album version. As Kurtis SP’s name suggests, he uses an SP 1200 to make beats which makes drums crunchy and awesome. I love both versions of this song, but this one is a great alternative. There’s even a bit of a chorus happening there. I figured that the theme, feel and content of this demo would be a perfect ending to the 75 minute journey.