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A Copper Gone review from someone who goes way back...  Reply with quote


WRITTEN ON 06.26.2014

Terrell used to get these DJ Unknown mixtapes from Providence on the regular. This dude Sage Francis always popped up and we dug the cut “Narcissist.” It wasn’t the purest in terms of timing and bars but it was witty and honest. Sage is from Providence and has always stayed outspoken. Between pioneering his hometown’s grand slam poetry team, and dropping the scathing “Makeshift Patriot” in the wake of 9/11, Strange Famous found time to record his anticon debut, Personal Journals, featuring the bomb track “Climb Trees,” in early 2002.

This was still in the midst of hip-hop’s underground renaissance and so many records from that era are fucking classics. Personal Journals might not get Blackstarr type love across the board but Sage earned his props from the jump and has gone on to drop a record every other year on average, not to mention his whole “Sick Of…” series, which is at eight and counting. Via constants like “Escape Artist,” he’s aligned himself with Lex, Epitaph, and Rhymesayers but still maintains that anticon aesthetic – Buck 65 and Alias produce tracks on his new album, Copper Gone. Sage remains a paradox though, a straight edge you wouldn’t dare corner. Dude’s the Bill Laimbeer of the emo rap movement. He even won trophies for fighting!

Anyway, when I heard Sage was back on the scene, after a four-year hiatus, with a new LP, Copper Gone, released on his own Strange Famous imprint, my ears were peaked. It’s taken me a few weeks to get to (blame it on Step Brothers and MURSDAY!) but here’s a preview… I never really know what to expect from a rap cat after taking time off. Like I’ve said; hip-hop is no country for old men. (Sage is 37) Part of me thought he’d come out all reflective and shit, like awww I love my kids and wife and cat and other normal person crap. But like Biggie and Em, I was dead wrong. This shit is aggressive! “Pressure Cooker” sets the tone sonically, like Linkin Park with a PHD, and “Grace” exhibits Sage’s trademark anti-establishment verbosity by taking on the prescribed “healthy” lifestyles most of us aspire to. “ID Thieves” is next and, by song’s end, has effectively merked rappers who’ve made it big by doing what Sage has been doing for years – spitting in the face of inequality – Macklemore, I think this means you… “Why you think I let you get away with doing a radio-friendly version of what I do, like I wouldn’t chide you, out perform, out write, and out rhyme you? Outsmart, out heart, and out grind you? Out shine you with the torch that was given to me / Torches and I’ll pass it to the bastards of the little league / If rap was a game, you’d be MVP, most valued puppet of this industry / Get your I.D… Independent? Fuck you.”

Within the first three songs of Copper Gone, Sage Francis has proven he’s every bit the man on the mic we came to embrace back in the early 2000s. Hard, smart, worldly, compassionate, confrontational, and wordy for the sake of impact. “I talk a lot of shit but I can back it all the fuck up,” begins “Cheat Code,” which is packed with more potent quotables than a sack of dusty Faulkner letters. What’s cool about Sage is that he can be just as powerful over mellow production as he can on the opposite: “Make Em Purr,” “Thank You,” and “Once Upon A Blood Moon” are all great tunes but resonate more like a good cry on a therapist’s couch than a kick in the face. That’s not to say I don’t embrace a Doc Marten to the grill; Copper Gone closes with “Say Uncle” and “MAINT REQD,” both of which will inspire listeners to get the fuck up! (off their therapists’ coaches) It’s somewhere in the middle I enjoy Sage’s music most though. “The Set Up,” produced by the homie Alias, is that purgatory. The beat moves but makes room for meditation. Alias has truly mastered a sound – see The Other Side of the Looking Glass, Brookland/Oaklyn, or any of his other records immediately – and Sage’s Scorpio extremism is given the freedom to hiss, hug, fight, or fuck therein.

It’s always refreshing to hear music made by smart people. But not straight up art people. Sage Francis has always been a purveyor of the human condition and convicted in his written responses to it. As far as metals go, Copper is considered soft and it changes to a bluish green upon oxidation. Sage Francis sure as hell isn’t soft and maybe he’s seen enough change to realize the clothes he’s in fit just fine. Copper Gone, indeed.

Cop this LP.

-Bronze Johnson
Post Thu Jul 10, 2014 1:48 am
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