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Wordplay Magazine "Copper Gone" 5 star review
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Sage Francis
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Joined: 30 Jun 2002
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Wordplay Magazine "Copper Gone" 5 star review  Reply with quote

Without the slightest shadow of a doubt, Sage Francis is one of the eldest elder statesmen of Independent Underground U.S Hip Hop. He has also often been noted as a rather gifted spoken-word poet. Having not released a fully produced studio album in four years, this knowledge droppin’ resident of Providence, Rhode Island, has recently released “Copper Gone”, one of the most eagerly anticipated hip hop records of this year.

“What you don’t see is an OG oak tree protecting the forest like nobody else”

Having spent years on the Slam Poetry circuit and proven himself a worthy freestyle emcee in many a Scribble Jam battle, Sage Francis has over the course of 15 or so years independently released four solo albums and six mixtapes as well as “Hope”, the 2003 Non-Prophets hip hop masterpiece on Lex Records. His last album, “Li(f)e”, a release on ANTI-/Epitaph Records, was a noted move away from his usual yet largely experimental hip hop music backings, instead collaborating with a variety of U.S indie rockers including Modest Mouse producer Brian Deck and Califone frontman Tim Rutili. Sage’s lyrics largely focused on showing the pitfalls of contemporary organised religion.

I dare to assume that, as with many artists constantly applying and staying concerned in their craft, a fresh creation is generally the summation of the artist’s previous experiences of life and at work. If this is the case, this album is a wonderful testament to Sage becoming more and more comfortable (or indifferent, depending upon your viewpoint) with the nuances and pitfalls of his own personality, while still holding strong in his societal views. This record markedly displays a furthering of Sage’s rhyme style and the evolution of his choice of production.

“Outshine you, with the torch that was given to me, Torches are not passed to the bastards of the little league” If rap was a game you’d be M.V.P, Most Valuable Puppet in this Industry”

Musically, this album goes in a different direction from the crisp and bouncy boom-bap loops that hip hop lovers all appreciate. With a variety of producers spanning from the highly regarded Dub Sonata to long-term collaborator Buck 65 and U.S underground champion Alias, many of the tracks having a wonderful blend of analogue and digital sounds, many of them culminating in anthems of various descriptions and emotive value. Lyrically, Sage is as strong as he’s ever been, forever telling peeps all that shit they just don’t wanna hear. And big him up for using the old word ‘betwixt’.

On this record there is, as with Sage’s rhymes in the past, a plethora of examples of him getting straight to the point with his lyrics. Notably for me, an unnamed hip hop industry callout “Forefathers of stability in this industry have ridiculously Fallen OFF”, personal openness and world perspective “I’ve been busy self-diagnosing disorders/ First world problems, yeah, USA, number one”, and also observations on the poor treatment of young, impressionable Americans, “Picking the pockets of people who probably needed assistance most/ Selling them lies, selling them out, sending them off to a distant coast”. These viewsall feature large amongst his fine blend of personal and societal standpoints.

“Sometimes I shoot myself in the foot, I put my foot in my mouth, Clean it while it’s there and then I suck the bullet out”

A few of the highlights of this album include the intro track ‘Pressure Cooker’, a rowdy reintroduction into Sage’s vibes that I’m sure that Zac and Rage against the Machine would have been pretty damn proud of. ‘ID Thieves’, with thunderous drum rolls present throughout, is a heated lyrical response to some yet unnamed U.S emcees claiming independent rap status. ‘Cheat Code’ then sees one of Strange Famous Records in house producers, the aptly named Reanimator, lay down a high tempo anger-shaded beat occupied by what sound to be 1980s b-movie samples, a track that Sage gloriously annihilates. ‘Dead Man’s Float’ is a haunting ode to human nature and religious faith while ‘Over Under’ sends you to war from the moment the beat kicks in. ‘Make’em Purr’ is probably the track most lauded over by reviewers for the fact of the emotional poignancy of Sage’s lyrics. I can understand why they have been pouring over this track as this sort and the depth of openness is rarely on show in the super-macho world of male emcees… However, this is surely exactly what avid listeners of Sage have come to expect of him.

“Have you ever listened to Biz Markie’s ‘Just a Friend?”

‘Vonnegut Busy’, the pre album single release and for me the main anthem on the record is an absolute barnstormer of a beat with Sage gracing it in appropriately epic manner, his second verse a scathing reprisal of the U.S economic and social system. ‘Thank You’ sounds like one of the most heartfelt tunes I’ve heard all year, while ‘Say Uncle’ is for me a properly raging Sage anthem. ‘MAINT REQD’, the last tune on the album, comes equipped with a bassline and tempo which pays direct homage to the supreme brag rap track from ‘Hope’, ‘New World Order’.

To round off, Sage has for me always been up amongst the most passionate and stylish of microphone technicians. Well known for dropping damning political, religious and social observations forever entwined with his trademark introspections which at certain times gently convey great humility, and at others times passionately open informed debate. This lyrical style, backed by a production line up that should make most beat connoisseurs dribble, is a music and lyrical experience probably not to be missed. Definitely not a booty shake party music album to get the kids dancing, but an awfully wonderful album it is indeed, both poetic and prophetic. He makes rappers like Grieves seem pre-school. A true education in expression.

“Sometimes it feels like life is too long, but not forever enough, One day you can’t give it away, the next you basically beg for the stuff”

Within the realm of hip hop this Strange Famous emcee consistently and vividly expresses himself amongst the ungodly din of the US rap industry, media, and wider society, always in a most highly admirable fashion. A man who, at the same time as being nasty like Nas was at ‘Halftime’, is as heartfelt like Ghostface on “All that I Need is You”.

Sage Francis remains a rapper at the ready to hit the game right in the spot where it hurts most.

Go Cop Copper Gone. A.S.A.P.

Phil Tang
Post Fri Jul 18, 2014 12:17 am
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