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HTDD Review - Audiversity: New Music
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HTDD Review - Audiversity: New Music  Reply with quote  

"If you've missed this guy and you're remotely interested in hip-hop that extends beyond the realm of Mims or T.I., you're not remotely interested in hip-hop."


Sage Francis - Human the Death Dance / Epitaph

Brother Ali may be the great white ghost of underground hip-hop, Slug may be the masterful Lucy-chasing mohawker, and Saul Williams may be its slam poet du jour, but only Sage Francis is the jack of all trades when it comes to the "underground." Francis is the biggest name in the underground partly because he has been the most influential crossover poet, a maestro raised on Dean College communications and Rhode Island U. journalism, a killer wordsmith bred on freestyle battles and a Scribble Jam title for cred. The Anticon collective may have the final say in experimentation, but Sage is the only one born for the people with a conscience that doesn't revolve around bling n' bullets.

If you've missed this guy and you're remotely interested in hip-hop that extends beyond the realm of Mims or T.I., you're not remotely interested in hip-hop. Whether or not you like the guy, there's little doubt he's made an impact even if it's only ripples in the great pond of popular music: Thanks in large part to 2001's too-soon(?) "Makeshift Patriot," Francis gained a legion of supporters and won respect from an audience that had largely been built through Internet file-trading, word-of-mouth hype and self-released solo albums. When it hit the shelves on Punk-O-Rama 8, 15-year-old antiestablishmentarianists everywhere had their eyes opened. Francis became the new Pennywise.

Enough has happened in the interim to merit a further discourse, but the moral of the story is that, through the last appearance of the nine-member Wu-Tang Clan and A Healthy Distrust and the first hip-hop artist signed to Epitaph, Francis is a hit. He's got a universal appeal with lyrical prowess that is rarely equalled as consistently. Human the Death Dance is no different: Two albums in to his three-album deal with the Epitaph crew, there remains some debate as to whether Francis is still on the ascent. The verdict from this guy? Best yet.

Frankly, I'm not much a fan of the album title right off the bat. That's just me though, and there at least is an explanation for it: Sage has his own label, Strange Famous, and Buddy Wakefield is a spoken-word poet on it. Excerpts from a work entitled "Human the Death Dance" are included here at the end of "Keep Moving" and "Hell of a Year" with Wakefield doing the legwork. Those aren't necessarily the strongest points of this album, but they certainly are fine examples of how Sage has stepped up his game for this one. The production is sublime and, together with another strong set of words strung together as only Sage can, it's one of hip-hop's better albums this year.

Production is good partly because the people behind it are good. No coincidence that standouts like "Underground for Dummies" or "Midgets and Giants" or "Going Back to Rehab" are produced by knob-twiddling fiends like Odd Nosdam, Alias and Tom Inhaler. Yeah, there's even a Buck 65 track in "Got Up This Morning" that has Jolie Holland fiddling around on it. Lucky that backing vocals are about as far as anyone ever goes on Sage's albums, because the man can do all the work himself. He needs no support. He's a one-man army. He should probably stick to keeping the collaborations on other people's albums. People who are weaker than him, in other words.

After all that praise, it must then come as some irony that my only complaint with Human the Death Dance is that at 54 minutes it still feels a little long. Maybe it's because Francis packs in so much so quickly, or maybe it's because by "Call Me Francois" I'm rolling my eyes at Godspeed! You Black Emperor namedrops instead of smirking at them; whatever the case, it's a minor drawback. I mean, hell, this is the best one he's yet had. Who the fuck am I to complain? Take it in small doses. Take it in large doses. Just take it. You'll be glad you did.
Post Mon May 28, 2007 8:50 am
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Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 107
Location: dayton, ohio
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thats a great review
Post Mon May 28, 2007 12:06 pm
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