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good interview with Ballerstatus.com
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Sage Francis
Self Fighteous


Joined: 30 Jun 2002
Posts: 21492
good interview with Ballerstatus.com  Reply with quote  

Some misquotes in here. And somehow Knowmore.org became "normal.org"

I've asked them to switch that.

But overall I think it's a good one

http://www.ballerstatus.com/article/features/2007/05/2592/

Ballerstatus.com: Start off by introducing yourself to those who may not have heard of you or know much about your sound.

Sage Francis: I'm Sage Francis, um, and these are the days of our lives (laughs). I don't know what to say.

Ballerstatus.com: (laughs) No doubt. That was a terrible entry point. In your music, you often reference your personal hip-hop history. You've played with Das Efx's style in a line, referenced big names (G-Unit, etc) in a couple songs. I wonder why that is important to you in your music?

Sage Francis: I guess that's just oral tradition, always reflecting back on the artists that kind of paved the way. It's just continuing tradition of concepts and names and styles. You know, it's just kind of natural to reflect on that kind of stuff from time to time.

Ballerstatus.com: Did you feel like reflecting back when you wrote "Underground For Dummies?"

Sage Francis: "Underground For Dummies" is a whole other thing. That was me giving a history lesson on my career, I guess, just how I got from point A to point B, all the way to point Z.

Ballerstatus.com: Is it a response to anything else that is going on right now? To help develop a new fan base or just remind some fans where you came from?

Sage Francis: I didn't want to do anything overly poetic. I was trying to make anything bigger than it was. I was just doing a point to point rundown, which I have never done as far as doing anything for myself. There's stuff in there that I actually never even talked about in any of my music, which is addressing the color issue. I've completely stayed away from that through the years and even though that has been a big part of, partly, the struggle of trying to break into the industry, but also the aftermath of this new white madness and how I think it can get misconstrued. And some people might only like me because I'm white, but at the same time, some people don't want to give me respect as an MC because I'm white.

Ballerstatus.com: I want to talk about how you broke into the industry and the pretty unique DIY approach to how you made a name for yourself.

Sage Francis: Well, it's been (laughs) a long strange trip, to quote another one of my songs. The hip-hop I grew up on and the hip-hop I think most people are familiar with is big money driven. It's financed and it's got big label names behind it. Being an MC from Providence, Rhode Island with little to no connections to the industry -- and this industry being so incestuous, and nepotistic -- it seemed impossible to make any headway, or become known outside my tiny area. But, I just went at it. I was just making music for myself, my friends, whoever would listen. I stumbled upon the hardcore scene in the mid-90s, and they showed me the way as far as f--- waiting for a label or anyone else to put you on. If you want to make music, and you believe in it strong enough, you really just need to take the bull by the horns and push it and do it yourself. It takes a lot of work, a lot of artists don't want to put in the extra work, because it takes a significant amount of elbow grease. Having some business savvy and just investing in yourself, it's financially scary for a lot of people, but it worked out. I made as many tapes as I could afford and sold them, I couldn't make enough. CD-R technology came and I used my radio station to burn that sh--, always trying to find ways to cut corners as far as expenses go, while still making profits on my investments in myself. It was a snowball effect; it got bigger and bigger and bigger. Thankfully, free file sharing came about via Napster online, and that's how without any big money marketing behind me, I was able to reach all corners of the world. All of a sudden people in Sweden and California and Canada, everywhere, people were able to access my music and share with their friends. Then my name became more and more popular. Then I was able to do shows in all these various areas.

Ballerstatus.com: You touched on something I wanted to follow up on: the hardcore scene. RISD (the Rhode Island School of Design) recently had an exhibition showcasing a range of posters from Providence's hardcore and punk scenes, how much did the artistic environment of Rhode Island inspire you?

Sage Francis: Um, a lot probably, but that's not where it all began. Eventually, I think, just being in this area, which is definitely a hotbed of talent and continues to be. But, I wasn't involved in any scenes, especially in the mid-90s. I was off to college at that point, which removed me a bit from this area, and I didn't grow up in Providence proper. Growing up here with limited mobility, I'd have older friends that could drive me into the city when there were battles and sh--, but it's not like I was tapped into any on goings as far as hardcore or hip-hop goes, up until the spoken word scene popped off. And, that along with the hardcore scene, and the punk scene and the hip-hop scene, the spoken word scene was where a lot of interesting cats, a lot of strong writers and just weird personalities all came together and did some real interesting sh--. So I involved myself in that and that gave me access to a new crowd, and broadened my range as far as my writing and content goes. Even now, we have the bands like Lightening Bolt and White Mice and even, lesser known acts doing underground shows and having house parties, just playing some incredible sh--. It's just exciting, Providence is an electric town.

Ballerstatus.com: Why do you think that hip-hop in New England is hidden, and in a way, a little underdeveloped?

Sage Francis: Well, I don't believe it is underdeveloped, and I actually don't think it is hidden. It's always been a pretty strong part of the underground scene. The only thing that is not developed about it is the money (laughs). You know, the push, the access to labels. It's strange, everyone's fighting now to eat, but when you're stuck in between New York and Boston (and even Boston is struggling for recognition) it kind of pushes you to be better than the next man to get any kind of recognition anywhere. That's why Rhode Island benefited; I think there were a lot of acts, when I was coming up, that were doing some of the most interesting and most involved and hungry, just ferocious sh--. Whether it's recognized by the media or got any props on MTV or The Source, it didn't matter, that was wholly ignored. A lot of those cats have kind of teetered off and faded away over the course of a decade, but it's a powerful scene. There are a lot of talented people here.

Ballerstatus.com: Anyone you want to shed some light on?

Sage Francis: Yeah. I was one of the lucky ones, you know? For multiple reasons a lot of stuff came together and I benefited from riding certain waves and getting in there and making sh-- work out for myself. But I used to work with this kid Vocab, who's not a kid anymore; he's a grown ass man. Incredibly talented, I mean I met him when he was fourteen; I had him on the first record/vinyl, which I put out. That came out on Emerge Music, actually. This guy Prolyfic, whose album I am helping put together for a Strange Famous release. It's going to be the first hip-hop album, outside of Sage Francis records. Again, I think he is a strong writer, he's been on tour, been doing this sh-- along time and he's about to get his dues. Of course, Clock Works, which is a group I was affiliated with in the late 90s, when they first started putting out records. They got some good international exposure through a single of theirs. I could go on for a long time, there's a lot of cats here that have done their thing. Time Machine, now based in California, they've done really well.

Ballerstatus.com: I don't want to disparage any of the names you mentioned, but someone I remember from your tapes is the Underground Kid. And that being one of the more amusing snippets I've heard.

Sage Francis: Along with the talent came the crap (laughs), but that is true of any scene.

Ballerstatus.com: I want to talk a little about freestyling, as you've made a name for yourself in that venue. You've mentioned the battle scene now, and how "8 Mile" seems to be pushing it into a sort of one dimensional punch line driven affair. Do you think it will come back to where it was?

Sage Francis: Battling?

Ballerstatus.com: Yeah. For example, when I hear you or someone like Juice or Supernatural or Eyedea, it is pretty exciting.

Sage Francis: Well, that's around, I guess. I don't really seek it out. I've seen various things. The new thing now is that people come at each other with pre-written, like full on to no beat, and it's all about how tough they are. It has its own charm actually. I've gotten into some of these battles I've seen. Overall, the talent level it took for people like me and Eyedea and Juice and Mac Lethal, the people who were around, the Scribble Jam thing circa 98-2002ish. That was some really interesting sh--, but also the beginning of the downfall because the bigger the battles got, the more convoluted everything became. People started adhering to standard ways of approaching a battle. I still think people are able to do it in a really good way and an interesting and fun way. I just think there is so much out there that it is tough to dig out the golden nuggets.

Ballerstatus.com: You seem to work well with a lot of different camps (Anticon, Rhyme Sayers, Def jux, etc.), and there are not a lot of rappers that do that. How did those relationships evolve and what have they meant to you in building reputation and career?

Sage Francis: I guess I'm in a unique position in that I'm not, and have never been, part of any real crew. My loyalty lies only to myself, and now my company, Strange Famous Records. You know, I've been completely free as to who I can work with, which styles I can delve into, without having to worry if I am going to offend my camp if I work with this cat or that cat. There's turmoil everywhere -- between various camps, between various MCs and producers and DJs. There's always reasons why people won't want to work with people. In fact, I never have features on my records; I only work with various producers on my official albums. I find that is pretty important as far as building my own reputation and not trying to ride the coattails of someone else's fame for some recognition. But, I am cool with a lot of cats out there, who are considered contemporaries of mine and the less beef in my life and the less drama the better. F---, it's a nasty world, a nasty industry, a nasty f---ing thing.

Ballerstatus.com: It seems the only real beef you have is with Clear Channel and the giants of industry.

Sage Francis: Those are the beefs that I'll make public. I think that is of public concern and that is the only thing that needs to be publicized.

Ballerstatus.com: My only question about that was, what do you think the danger of falling to the corporate giants is?

Sage Francis: Well, that's obvious. It's their affect on the scene, the music in general, the radio. Their tentacles reach out everywhere... booking agencies. Just homogenizing everything they touch and making it very predictable, watered down and that's the general idea of why stuff like that is bad. Huge conglomerates come in and streamline everything. They'll only allow certain things to get played and push certain sounds and mentalities. There are like a dark shadow over the city, the ghetto, suburbia. They just have their own agenda.

Ballerstatus.com: You take two different approaches to making albums. You have worked with single producers on records and with multiple producers. Is writing the same for both routes?

Sage Francis: It's exactly the same. It can happen either way. If I dedicate myself to one producer, that's a project we're working on. I just have to make sure I get the beats I work well with and if we come up with a theme for the album, we have to wait 'til both of us can adhere to whatever that aesthetic is to pull it off. Every time I do an album, whether it's with one producer or multiple producers, I wait around for the music that fits the mood I'm going for and then create the songs from there.

Ballerstatus.com: Do you always write to a beat, given that you also do spoken word? And, when you do spoken word is the writing process different?

Sage Francis: Quite often I don't write to a beat, because I do a lot of writing while I drive or while flying on a plane somewhere. It's rare. A lot of the time, it is just preliminary stuff. Verses will come out of me and go down on paper. Once I wed myself to a certain song topic or I know that a specific song is going somewhere big, then I'll look for a beat that fits it and then fix everything to go with that beat and develop with it. But it goes, there are all different patterns; there is never one way of doing a song. As far as spoken word goes, it's incredibly rare that I write something strictly for spoken word. I don't really. It just isn't something I make a conscious effort to write.

Ballerstatus.com: You mention Bukowski on one track from Human The Death Dance, and I wondered why you like to read?

Sage Francis: Well, I like Bukowski, I like raw sh--. He just has a really dirty, nasty personality that goes through a lot of pain. He makes me laugh, when the author can say some sh-- that I have been through, and say it in such a good way, it makes me jealous that I hadn't thought of that. Besides, sh-- like that, I get into things like Stephen King and Hunter S. Thompson. I'm not a huge book guy, I don't read too often. People send me various books and I have a bookshelf of stuff I haven't touched yet. When I have free time, I'll pull one down, or if I'm going on a car ride I'll go through it. I guess the big authors so far have been Bukowski, Hunter, King and a few classics here and there.

Ballerstatus.com: You're the only rapper I have ever seen tour solo, without even a DJ.

Sage Francis: What's good is, I do these big tours and I usually like to change the stage set up. Sometimes a full band, sometimes a DJ and sometimes it's just me and a CD player. If I'm able to bring everyone together and get them caught up with what I'm trying to do in the stage presentation, that's great. I do a lot of one offs when I'm not on tour, and the last couple years have actually been all about random one off performances. I just go out with a show disk and perform whatever I feel like performing. I don't have to bring anyone up to date, or losing someone in the mix of where I go on stage, because it's real, my stage show. I turn into a loose cannon and there is no way of telling what mood I'll be in or where I'll want to go, what kind of song fits that. Whatever's appropriate, I get to decide right at that moment, and that's good for me. We're about to tour for like two months straight and I'll have a full band behind me. We got to come up with a set list that, I don't know, works. The freedom in being involved in being able to perform just by myself, that scares the sh-- out of a lot of rappers and performers, who just, for some reason, can't get on stage and fill space energy wise. I've never had a problem with that, probably due to my spoken word past. Just being able to be on stage, without music, and still be able to rock the crowd, I've just built up that confidence to the point where I know I can carry a whole show just by myself, as well as doing it with a full band. It's a real good position to be in, and I'm happy it's worked out that way, because f--- if I get a show in Taiwan tomorrow I can just fly out.

Ballerstatus.com: What are you most memorable performances?

Sage Francis: One of the most memorable was toward the end of the normal.org tour. Actually, I don't know if it was that tour. Anyway, we were in North Carolina at a club called Cat's Cradle and my tour intersected with Atmosphere's tour. We shared the same club. All of his openers performed, all of my openers performed. We co-headlined the event, and it was the last show of our tours, so we were fully well rehearsed, but we had all this new energy, because of being around these other performers. We had a condensed set, and I didn't have to worry about loosing my voice because it was the last show and we just went crazy. It was one of my favorite performances. Other than that, I guess opening for Wu-Tang Clan, the last time they performed before Dirty died-- where I kind of declared war against the crowd and created havoc, which was pretty memorable.

Ballerstatus.com: I want to mention a hip-hop news item, the DJ Drama situation. Being that you came up utilizing mixtapes, what do you think about the recent raid?

Sage Francis: I don't know about that, what happened?

Ballerstatus.com: [Explains Drama situation]

Sage Francis: Holy sh-- (laughs). That's so funny. I don't really know what to say about that. That's like, 20 years late. That's like trying to piss on a forest fire. That is a really lame attempt to make it look they are doing something about bootleg material.

Ballerstatus.com: Which has essentially been so useful not only in the career of the major guys, like 50, but for you as well?

Sage Francis: Yeah, totally. But, I put out my own mixtapes. The fact that he got raided is a f---ing joke. The Government obviously has no idea what they are involving themselves in right there or what they are trying to stop. It has nothing to do with... it's weird, I don't really know why it happened. I can't make sense of how they would have figured that would actually help, as if it is a criminal activity. Who f---ing alerted the government that they should be shutting that down?

Ballerstatus.com: I find it especially strange when the other music corporate giant, in Apple, sells his mixtapes on iTUNES.

Sage Francis: Yeah, sue Apple. Sue apple for stealing from artists. They should shut down Apple from making computers (laughs), because someone already did that before and they stole the idea.

Ballerstatus.com: Hilarious. The album is out.

Sage Francis: Yes. Get it wherever it's held, don't go to Wal-Mart. If you have a good record store in your town, make sure you pick it up.
Post Tue May 22, 2007 12:31 pm
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Storm Davis



Joined: 01 Apr 2004
Posts: 425
Location: Providence
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I never would have expected something of that caliber from a site called ballerstatus.

But, the interviewer's name is Arnold T Pants, a pseudonym culled from the greatest film in the history of cinema, Fletch.

So it all makes sense now.

My favorite of the HTDD-era interviews.
Post Tue May 22, 2007 2:12 pm
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Nathan Shupe



Joined: 15 Aug 2006
Posts: 736
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haha. I agree with Storm. That was a pretty dope interview, and not expected from a site called ballerstatus.
Post Tue May 22, 2007 3:52 pm
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DM



Joined: 05 Jul 2002
Posts: 6371
Location: www.NERDTORIOUS.com
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Hahaa. Nice. I guess you can't judge a site/magazine by the name.
Post Tue May 22, 2007 4:14 pm
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One



Joined: 04 Jul 2002
Posts: 1706
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has the ominous judge and jury softened up on interviewers? laughter instead of sarcasm? break downs instead of heckle? i cant believe my eyes.

good read though. i enjoyed your "new" approach, homey.
Post Tue May 22, 2007 4:34 pm
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DM



Joined: 05 Jul 2002
Posts: 6371
Location: www.NERDTORIOUS.com
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One wrote:
has the ominous judge and jury softened up on interviewers? laughter instead of sarcasm? break downs instead of heckle? i cant believe my eyes.

good read though. i enjoyed your "new" approach, homey.


What?
Post Tue May 22, 2007 4:53 pm
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jakethesnake
guy who cried about wrestling being real


Joined: 03 Feb 2006
Posts: 6278
Location: airstrip one
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DM wrote:
One wrote:
has the ominous judge and jury softened up on interviewers? laughter instead of sarcasm? break downs instead of heckle? i cant believe my eyes.

good read though. i enjoyed your "new" approach, homey.


What?


I think he's referring to sage's past conduct during interviews.
Post Tue May 22, 2007 4:58 pm
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DM



Joined: 05 Jul 2002
Posts: 6371
Location: www.NERDTORIOUS.com
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jakethesnake wrote:
DM wrote:
One wrote:
has the ominous judge and jury softened up on interviewers? laughter instead of sarcasm? break downs instead of heckle? i cant believe my eyes.

good read though. i enjoyed your "new" approach, homey.


What?


I think he's referring to sage's past conduct during interviews.


I know. But Sage isn't normally a sarcastic prick during interviews. I mean, sometimes jokingly, and even then, I feel the writer knows it's supposed to be funny.
Post Tue May 22, 2007 5:00 pm
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Sage Francis
Self Fighteous


Joined: 30 Jun 2002
Posts: 21492
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yeah, out of the hundreds of interviews I've done, there's only a handful where I was a dick. And i'm usually never ever a dick for no reason. Except once i was. just once.
Post Tue May 22, 2007 5:04 pm
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One



Joined: 04 Jul 2002
Posts: 1706
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i caught the bad ones i guess. and i do not blame you. often you responded funny when the interviewer was acting stupid. asking cliché-ish.... or stupid-ish questions. i thought that was the general sage francis interview response mode. i only read a handful. oh well.
Post Tue May 22, 2007 5:10 pm
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Sage Francis
Self Fighteous


Joined: 30 Jun 2002
Posts: 21492
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well, yeah. When the questions are super boring or it seems like the interviewer did absolutely zero homework, I can get creative with the answers. Just trying to make it fun. Haven't had much time to be creative with answers these days. ha
Post Tue May 22, 2007 5:14 pm
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