I remember in my college english 101 class our teacher warned us not to share anything too traumatic when we wrote about ourselves. I can see his point. When you meet someone new the first thing you wanna say probably shouldn’t be “Hi, I used to be a heroine addict,” especially if your trying to get a job. On the other hand, as many psychiatrists know, music and art can be powerful tools for healing. I respect emcees who can take dark subject matter from their lives and express it in a way that helps others deal with difficult psychological issues. I hear people often say my songs all sound upbeat and fun so the other day I decided to break new ground with my self and share something I went through that was very tragic and difficult to deal with. So I recorded this new song and while I was writing it I went through anger, guilt, shame, and just about every other human emotion. I posted it up on my myspace page today. The song is called ‘Lil Wayne Tried to Rape Me.’ Now is the time to let the world know what I’ve been through and let the healing begin.
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…Half the day is missing and I don’t miss it one bit. I’m under the pressure of a hundred or more faces waiting for me two holler my sorrows at them in great length. It’s mostly paranoia mixed with a tooth ache that could make a sasquatch cry, but They don’t notice the pain I’m in or the fear I’ve forced into my psyche all morning…and that works for me. The stage is covered in stomped on marsh mellows and the remains of a few hundred balloons that the half assed magic act before me left behind to keep me company while I pace the around and bitch in a four-four time signature. The sound is sub-par which in my book is a breath of fresh air. If you haven’t played a show before you might not understand, but I’m sure you’ve been to a million shows and have heard the guy or girl on stage asking the sound guy for more of something in the monitors. The monitors are you best friend on stage, they allow you to hear the music and your voice and there is a fine line between to much of the music and to much of yourself…this sound guy had his shit together…enough. I’m running through the set with out a hitch and the rain (outdoor show) that has been the life of the party all morning and afternoon didn’t take it’s frustrations out me…just a light mist that was probably good for me anyways since I haven’t showered in three days. I smell like a tall biker with over active sweat glands…standing next to me was like French inhaling a Cuban cigar. So I’m nearing my last song of the night and the crowd was smiling big smiles. I love to make people happy…it can take a lot out of you, but it always gives back an even reward in the end and the end was near. A round of applause and a round up of the days previous acts are giving their respect, shake a few hands, thank a few bands and I’m ready to go. I’ve been looking forward to the bbq that my great friends FOOD HEAD a.k.a. Andrew Troldahl and J.P. the master chef we’re whooping up all day…I dismissed a dillenger 4 show just to taste the finished product. I get there just in time to taste the last of FOODS famous halibut dish…he didn’t miss a beat…it was out-fucking-standing! When FOOD cooks…no remains. The night is moving quickly and the liquor soaked cup cakes are barking up the right tree. There are about 12 of us (friends) dancing around a bon fire like a bunch savages, taking photos and sweeping sips off a bottle of something that burns when it touches your lips…and then again in your tummy. We did a photo shoot in front of the fire with our pants round are ankles and our wits are in no way about us. Paper tiger was snapping away at his digital camera and struck photo gold when he took a flick of me and some friends in front of the fire and some flame ball showed up in my hand like someone had photo shopped it in there…I looked like a fucking sorcerer! It’s the little things. Something is telling me that it’s time to leave before shit gets unmentionable. I call for my cab and make the round of goodbyes that are usually caked with sarcasm. I finally make it home to my room that consists of a twin mattress, a 10-inch TV. And a jar of warm pickles…luxury class baby. I put in a DVD (la vi en rose) and slowly shut my head off. Half way through the film and I’m out. I wake up the next morning with a few minutes to spare before I had to start my shift at Muddy’s (coffee shop). I get a text on my phone from a friend that said, “Do you remember what happened last night?” I replied, “I was only there for an hour, but you guy’s were on one for sure”…I get no reply back. I get to the coffee shop and my friend and owner of the fine establishment started asking if I was o.k. I said, “Yeah, I feel like a million bucks…minus a few bad investments”. She begins to get very concerned about the state of my friends foot and the state of two my best friends relationship with one another. Turns out some shit did go down after I left. One is unmentionable and the other is outstanding. My friend nick that was three enormous sheets to the wind thought it would be funny to slam a full on ten-pound sledgehammer directly on to my even drunk friend Posso’s foot…he didn’t break his foot, but he did crack a few people up. Looking back on it, it’s seems kind of stupid, and it is, don’t get me wrong…I guess the only way I could explain the type of mayhem I and most my friends get into is “a mutual lack of shame mixed with booze and a small town out look on what “fun” is equals the kind of stupidity that we fall for just about every time”
So my day of work has ended and I didn’t feel like writing for my new album just yet. I decide to write my first blog ever…I call it my yesterday’s.
Oh. Snap. It’s that time again, kids! Grease up your Netflix queue, Benjamin’s about to take his shirt off.
1. Twin Peaks: Season 1
Too obvious a suggestion? Ehhh I dunno. But I like to make sure we’ve got the basics covered. If you haven’t seen the Twin Peaks series, you haven’t seen one of the top 5 series ever to be on television. Is this series better than The Twilight Zone, for me? Holy shit… it might be. I never considered that until just now.
Watch these late at night. When you’re alone. In an unfamiliar place. David Lynch understands how nightmares work.
2. Echoes from a Somber Empire
This month’s gem from the Herzog vault… A documentary about the former Emperor of the Central African Empire, Jean-Bédel Bokassa. Toward the end of his life, Bokassa proclaimed himself the 13th Apostle and claimed to have secret meetings with the Pope. He also murdered and tortured hundreds of political rivals and… ate them! That’s right. He was a cannibal emperor.
The film follows journalist Michael Goldsmith, as he revisits the ruins of the empire where he was imprisoned and tortured.
This one is mostly missing Herzog’s awesome narration, but does feature one of the most brutal, soul-crushing scenes in the history of film. I stared blankly into space for about 20 minutes after watching that fucking monkey smoke.
3. Dog Day Afternoon
Second only to the Godfather movies, in terms of Pacino. I’ve got a soft spot for this movie. Maybe because it’s the kind of thing I dream about happening to me all the time. Maybe because I’m one sex-change operation away from screaming “ATTICA!” outside the nearest Citibank branch… but ain’t we all? Watch this movie on a hot summer day when you’re tired of thinking about the bailout.
4. Rock the Bells
Aw helll no. I knew it! I knew this blog shit was just a thinly veiled way for SFR to push their fucking merchandise. Movie time with Benjamin fell the fuck off. Laying down. Selling out. Sucking up to the man!
Well, I’ve got some advice for you, little buddy. Sure, you can buy this DVD directly from Strange Famous Records by clicking on this sentence, but that’s beside the point.
This happens to be a damn good movie. Even if you didn’t give a shit about hip hop, this documentary would still hold water. White knuckle tension. Ambition. Drama. Physical danger. Broccoli. A landmark moment in the history of rap. For reals, see this movie.
And nevermind the fact that Sage Francis and I will be appearing on select Rock the Bells Tour dates this summer. Check our myspace and facebook pages for info. That’s got nothing to do with this.
Alright… one more. I haven’t dropped this installment’s H-Bomb yet, and I know you’ve been waiting for it. So here it is, baby. Just remember that you asked for it.
“Imagine, if you will, two Japanese directors who meet at a film festival, each familiar with (and appreciative of) each other’s work. Then imagine a night of binge drinking that leads to the gauntlet being thrown down – a little friendly competition to see who can make the best “Duel to the Death” film. Then throw in a few rules like 1) The script can contain no more than 2-3 characters 2) The film must be shot in seven days and on a small budget 3) the film can only take place in one setting, and most importantly 4) at least one character must die. Thus, the Duel Project was born.” -eFilmCritic
In my opinion, Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s 2LDK is the big winner. I don’t even want to tell you too much about this one. I just want you to hunt it down, buckle up, and enjoy the fuckin ride.
P.S. If you want to judge for yourself who won the duel, the other entry is Ryuhei Kitamura’s “Aragami.”
Well, there it is folks.
I saw The Hangover last night and dug it, but I’m saving my heart for Bruno this summer.
In 2003 I was interviewed in the basement of San Francisco’s Slims club by a college student named Jarrod Miller. He was doing a documentary of some sort, so this was all filmed. Parts of this interview were featured on my “Life is Easy” DVD, but Jarrod went through the trouble of transcribing the whole thing. It is long, and I don’t totally agree with all of my answers, but that doesn’t matter. Here it is:
Interview with Sage Francis
By Jarrod Miller
February 16, 2003 at Slim’s, San Francisco
Sage Francis: On the better days I wake up when I feel like it’s time to wake up and…I find something to eat, cater to the e-mails and the phone calls, and then we…I don’t know…I don’t have a routine, that’s one thing. It’s in between shows and all this, you know, between recording sessions and shows. Lately, it hasn’t gone so smoothly. I have to wake up, pick up the sound engineer, drive down to the studio, record all day, come home, eat for an hour, and then rehearse for the tour. That’s what we did for the past month. And before that there was another routine. But, you know, when nothing’s happening, which is rare, I find someone to hang out with or talk to, just like anyone else I guess. A lot of the time, if I have the opportunity, I spend it by myself. But right now it’s very intense. Every day we wake up early, drive for like 5 or 6 or 10 hours to the next show, and do the show.
JM: You were explaining a little bit about the recording process. How long do you usually have in your recording sessions?
SF: It’s been changing. What we do though is we…I figured out a routine with the engineer, his name is Chris Warren. I pick him up, we drive down to the studio, we spend four hours—increments—because after four hours…well, after one hour I lose my voice. It’s just like I go, go, go and it usually ends up going out, and then we mix down or we tweak some things here and there. I go home and listen to it, I mean, but it’s usually go the whole time. The whole recording thing…it’s not a science. I don’t have it down to a science. It’s new because now, I mean, doing the new album is a whole new process. The one before this one, I was recording most of it by myself. Sole, you know Sole from anticon…
JM: Sole, yeah.
SF: He flew me out to California and he let me stay in a little studio/recording area they had in their apartment, and it was just trash. It was like a mess of wires, a maze of dusty equipment and, you know, I’m not an expert by any means, but I figured most of it out, recorded a lot of the songs there, and mixed it down myself. That was an ongoing process, like I could do that all night long. And if I had a studio to myself I would probably get a lot more done, but at the same time I wouldn’t get a lot of the other things I get done. But we’ll see what happens. So now, it’s a much more professional approach I take where I actually go to a real studio…all the stuff is at its best sounding, you know.
I don’t even know all the terms…I go there and I’m comfortable in the fact that the person I record with knows what he’s doing. I didn’t know what I was doing; it may translate in the album, some of it’s just so raw and so–maybe sloppy–that you can tell that I basically just did it myself, playing with buttons. I didn’t understand. Maybe that’s part of the charm, I don’t know. Hold on. (Sage gets up and bangs on the wall to quiet down a drummer in the next room). Scott?
SF: Is it all right?
Scott: Yeah, it’s cool. Sorry.
JM: So, you were talking about going to the recording studio. How much of your written work…Do you ever record while you’re in the studio? I mean, while they’re just making the beats? Or do you have the beats laid out already?
SF: We always have the beat done and I know what I’m doing. I usually listen to the beat for a few months before I record to it, just because there’s so much backlogged lyrics that I have. I like to first go through what I already have and see if the mood fits. If not, if it’s a beat that actually has a very unique feel to it, then I’ll write to that beat. But that takes me awhile too. By the time we get into the studio, I’ll have changed the song a million times. I’ll think I’ll have it figured out, but sometimes I end up just writing while I’m in the studio and doing the last minute touches on it.
This last album I did there’s a song called “Spaceman” and I wrote the whole thing at 6 AM because I had to be at the studio at 1. It felt like a…it felt like…because when I was in school I couldn’t bring myself to study for a test. I would stay up the night before just telling myself, “Yeah, man. I’m gonna study today…gonna study, gonna study, gonna study. I just gotta eat one more cookie and talk to her for a second.” You know, you have all these things you have to do before you do it. You gotta mentally prepare. It happened a lot with these songs. By the time it came around to recording, I was just like, I don’t know. I stayed up all night long, and then I’d fall asleep for a couple hours, I woke up at 6 AM and just had to bang it out. It’s one of my favorite songs. It’s just, it’s very…if you listen to it and I told you I wrote it at 6 AM, you’d believe me. You can tell. My previous self would have kicked my ass for doing that because I like to have things very structured and planned out, and I know exactly how it is. And, I never would record without even having the song memorized, and it’s rare now that I memorize a song before I record it. In fact, by the time I perform the songs that I’m recording now, I perform them a lot differently because I have them memorized
and it just allows me to be a lot more comfortable with the inflections and stuff, and, I don’t know, maybe my recorded material will suffer for that, maybe not. I’m going with the moment for now. It’s doing me well, it makes me feel better. But yeah, “Spaceman” is my favorite song right now.
JM: What’s that about?
SF: Uhhh… (Sage shakes head.)
JM: Just wait until the album comes out?
JM: You talked a little bit about your writing process. Would you mind kind of explaining? Like, do you have the theme in mind for a song, or do you just kind of free-flow write?
SF: A lot of times…writing comes from a lot of different moods and…random ideas, or if I’m inspired by an artist of some sort, and I feel like I want to continue that path of emotion that they bestowed upon me, I’ll take it to the page and see what I can do with it. Most of the time it just fizzles out. I mean, most of the stuff I write doesn’t go anywhere, you know? I save it too, I log it. It’s just like, well, that’s half of a verse that probably will never get used. But…
JM: Do you mostly write or is it on computer too?
SF: No, I never do lyrics on a computer. I can’t because the way I write…I wish I had a notebook for you. But I’ll do this…(Sage pulls out a sharpie. I hand a piece of paper to him.) I’ll write on this. (Makes marks on paper.) It would go a little something like, I know the points I want to make sometimes and where they should go in the verse. And if a flow of words doesn’t fit correctly, I’ll just put a line through it and do alternatives and alternatives, and by the time I’m done, it’s just…whatever, whatever. It looks like a diagram, you know? And I’ll look at it and I’ll figure out what makes the most sense throughout the whole verse. I need to see what I did previously—what came before that, what came before that—to know really what works best as a whole. It’s like a rough draft and a final draft all in one. I can’t do without…I couldn’t ever crumple up something and throw it away because the original thing that I wrote was there for a purpose, and maybe I’ll forget why, and while I go through it, then I’ll be like, “Oh, that’s why I had to have that,” you know? So I go back to it and keep it. I’ve come up with all my own…I think everybody who does something that’s personal and private to themselves, or they’re the only ones who look at it, they come up with their own little system of codes and legends. I have beats, and the part in the bar where certain words get said, and where the pauses go, and when it goes up and down. It’s a (scratches head)…yeah, I memorize something usually right after writing it. I mean, after a few reads I have it. But still, when I’m in the studio I’ll be reading it off paper because I start to get all nervous about “Oh my god, I’ve gotta record it now,” and I shouldn’t be like that, I mean I figured I’d be beyond that at this point, but I’m not (hands back scribbled paper). Still, when I get in the studio I tighten up and I have to do a few takes before I
start to get comfortable. When I say few I mean 50 (laughs). But after 50, man, I start to really break in. It’s pretty silly.
JM: So, I mean, most of the editing is done that first time where you actually have that concept, or whatever, and you’re actually writing? I mean, do you ever go back…
SF: Oh yeah, you asked me about the process of writing. I mean, it’s all different things. Sometimes I’ll have a beat, and I’ll know what beat I’m writing to. Most of the time I don’t, I just write to silence. It’s the idea and it’s the actual words. Words are what inspire the rhymes, and rhymes are what inspire the verse, and the verse inspires the song. That’s usually the chain of events. So I’ll have words, like a grouping of words that will just pop into my head or I’ll hear someone say something like…drum and percussion. I just run through a list of words that all fit into that rhyme scheme.
JM: Maybe like “something for nothing?”
SF: Yeah, yeah. And, you know, then that goes in a list of…sometimes I’ll write a list of all those things and I’ll be like, “Well, how do these fit with each other and where do they go and how would that fit into something else that I may have been inspired to say?” And it’s…I mean I think that’s a really simple process. It’s not rocket science. It’s very…it’s pretty cheesy actually.
JM: If you’re gonna kind of string them together and have coherence and have some sort of connection…
SF: It’s little steps though, man. It’s baby steps. The whole process is all baby steps. Rap is…well, the kind of rap that I do, sometimes it turns into something greater than I had started out thinking it was gonna be, but most of the time it’s just a linking of words here and there, and ideas, and what I can fit in between the actual rhymes is very important just to make sure no word is supposed to sound like it’s filler. Every word has
its purpose in a sentence, and if it’s there just to fill space I’ll do without it, you know, it doesn’t have to be there. But sometimes I’ll have…this is another way songs get written. I think a lot of people deal with this is…they have something to say to somebody in particular, you know, and it’s not like they can just address them with whatever it is they want to say. And it goes on page, and that helps direction a lot because you know exactly what you want to say to this person, you know what applies and what doesn’t, and you stay true to that. And that makes for great songs because it’s all coming from a core idea and concept of who this person is and what your relationship is with them. It doesn’t stray from that too much. And even though the audience doesn’t know who that subject is, it still translates that everything you’re saying is constant about this one being, you know? Like…to make it simple, if I was talking about a woman that was imaginary and I started applying all these male traits to her and slipped in the word “he” by accident, you know like that’s…I’m just magnifying a problem that exists when you start to write about fake shit—it doesn’t work. You actually have to stay true to your original idea, to your subject, and stray from it as least as possible because no matter what you write it’s already…it’s turned into fiction right away. I mean, I say I write about my own life but it’s…I mean, you couldn’t pass a test on my life if I gave it to you. You know, you listen to Personal Journals as many times as you want. I can give you a list of facts about myself that you wouldn’t even be able to mark off as true or false. That’s why people can’t really…shouldn’t be subscribing to these ideas of idol worship. Not that I’m that guy, there’s others though.
JM: You have in mind that you’re writing for yourself also, but you’re also writing for the audience, I mean…
SF: It’s always…nah…I’m lucky. I’m lucky. I only…Most of the time I do write for myself because it’s just…I look at it and I see what I want to hear, who would do this for me, you know? It’s like when I did “Makeshift Patriot.” Obviously, that wasn’t for me. I made “Makeshift Patriot” with a bunch of people in mind and it was to instigate…thought, question…but at the same time it was what I wanted to hear, it’s what I wanted to see from an artist. So I wrote it and I put it together as a project, and when I felt comfortable about it I was like, “Damn, this is what the fuck needs to be heard.” That’s what I want to hear, you know?
SF: And that’s how I decide whether something is worth putting out to people or not. And that one is just like: as many people need to hear this as possible. So we put it out for free as an MP3, and I’ve put it out on multiple projects and it’s been put on compilations, and it’s still, like, being heard for the first time now…because I’m not a major pop culture artist. You’re not gonna hear my stuff on the radio.
JM: And…that doesn’t concern you at all…or does it?
SF: Uhhh…What, that my stuff doesn’t get heard or…?
M: Yeah, I mean like distribution or…
SF: I want better distribution. I want to be able to be accessible to the public at large. A lot of people still don’t know how to get my material…unless they’re Internet savvy. And not everybody is, you know? I do think it’s important to learn the Internet and know how to get the information you need because this is one of our tools as people, you know, people of the world are all able to…Before we lose the ability to do so I need to utilize it. It’s a huge tool for all of us. For information, for misinformation, for communication.
But you need to know what’s what, you know, like you can’t take everything that you see at face value.
JM: Yeah, don’t be force-fed. Like you said.
JM: About 9/11…I’ve read you’ve went there, you actually visited the site.
JM: Would you just mind sort of explaining how you were affected when you saw it? What emotions were running through your mind?
SF: The reason why we decided to visit…it was my roommate and I, and a woman by the name of Alixa. Umm…like everybody, I think we were all deeply affected by what was happening. But most of all, we were confused and…we had to see it. It wasn’t enough that we had this filter of a TV screen showing us images of an area that we’re familiar with, you know, we’re there quite often. And, I was supposed to be there that
day. All these people I know who were in New York, and just the fact that immediate threat was upon us, and that’s all that kept getting pumped to us. Like, this is gonna happen, this is gonna happen, don’t open your mail, you know, the anthrax scare and all this shit. Yeah, and seeing these images over and over…it became a blur to me, and I was like, “Fuck this. We’re gonna go to New York, and we’re just going to absorb the atmosphere. We’re gonna witness it, we’re gonna make more sense of it, and we’re gonna feel a little bit
better about ourselves,” because I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think straight, everything that I did or said was consumed by the whole 9/11, America, you know, terrorism. I was just like, “Man, I gotta get this the fuck out of my system. I can’t watch the news anymore, I can’t read these papers, I can’t watch, or listen to the radio.” So we headed down to New York, and it was still…I mean, it was crazy. We went to ground zero but you really couldn’t get too far in. All you saw was the billowing smoke, and fire trucks, and police,
and rescue workers were still going in and out, you know, and…it felt powerful. It was almost like these are the moments that we really do come together, regardless of race, sex, religion, all this. Everyone at that moment had their whole situation simplified of basic survival. There’s people that needed to be helped, and everyone comes together to help those people because we were all at immediate risk, and we were all potential victims, you know? And, it made that much sense. It was a huge and crucial time for…people in New York who would normally not even look you in the eye had you ask them for help. So I went there and I recorded it on my minidisk. I just wanted to grab the audio of people cheering. I felt like it was very important…. To do a song like “Makeshift Patriot,” which was a compilation of a lot of news reporter quotes mixed with some pretty interesting takes on what just happened, and to throw in actual audio of people cheering on the rescue workers, and throw that on the song, it was just…I don’t know. It was almost like a stamp of authenticity. Like, this fucking happened right now. And this is what I’m witnessing at this very moment. And every time I hear this song I’m gonna remember the confusion, the pain, and…the rage that I was feeling, and what everyone around me was feeling. That was important to me. I didn’t want to…I don’t know why, it was almost like I wouldn’t have put the song out without that. It needed to be there. Even though it was a little, small part, it just was like: when I hear it, it puts me right in that space where I was the day…it was five days after the attack. We stood there and we cheered on the rescue workers, and we saw everybody just coming together. It wasn’t like we were cheering on George Bush…on top of a pile of dust with his megaphone.
JM: Did you actually see him?
SF: No, no. He was…
JM: If you would’ve saw him there would you have done anything or said anything?
SF: I would’ve…I would’ve killed him. I would’ve killed him. I would’ve picked up a rock and thrown it right at his fucking temple. No, I wouldn’t have. I don’t talk like that (looks at the camera and gives a smirk). Um, if he was there man, I don’t know. I don’t know what would’ve happened. We…
JM: Some shit would’ve went down.
SF: Nothing would’ve happened. I would’ve watched him. I would’ve fucking seen what he had to say, you know, like…I wouldn’t have been cheering him on. I see the footage of him of his fucking megaphone, playing cowboy on a pile of dust, and really working this “Wow! They finally like me!” angle, you know? Like, “I’m actually gonna be the fucking hero today.” And uh…it just was too see-through. His whole approach was a fucking 80’s movie, you know? He’s a fucking action hero, man. I don’t dig.
JM: So, what’s your stance on government and religion? I mean do you…
SF: I’m very anti-religion. I’m very anti-government. I gotta be back…I gotta do sound check. I’ll be back though.
JM: Thank you.
SF: Yeah, no problem. (Leaves to do sound check)
…(Comes back from sound check)
JM: I hate to do this, but it’s for the documentary piece.
SF: (Looks in camera) Okay.
JM: Want to explain who you are, why you do what you do, you know, where you’re from, how you got involved, that sort of thing?
SF: Yeah. Can I talk to you? (Looks and points into camera.) Should I talk to you? (Looks and points at me.)
JM: You can do both or whatever.
SF: All right. Can I talk to the microphone? (Grabs microphone from the sound operator.) How you doing? How’s this sound? Am I okay…huh…yeeaah? (Laughs a bit, then puts on an animated face.) All right, here I go. I wasn’t making sense before. I’m gonna make a lot of sense. I’m sick of it because I kept telling the same story over and over, and when I do that I lose all spontaneity of thought and it doesn’t come out in a genuine way, and you could say, “Oh, wow. He’s saying something he had already said a million times.” This is gonna be a freestyle off the top. Okay…my name…is Jim Mullen, professional skateboarder. Been doing it since I was eight years old. I listen to Public Enemy, I really like Hieroglyphics, I think punk-rock is the shit. (Pauses. Looks at camera, then at me, then at camera again.) I’m here at the club tonight because I’m gonna fucking rock. I’m gonna watch this Sage Francis show, I’m gonna do my thing. I got my kick flip, I’m gonna do a little ollie in the back, I’m gonna let them know it’s really for real this time. I got a mustache, I’m gonna make my face look pretty, I’m gonna catch this pussy in my face. (Stares into camera for a moment, twirls sharpie, thenstares off into space.) That’s it. (Looks up at me and slightly smiles.)
JM: Do you really know how to skate?
SF: (Serious mode…haha.) Yes. I was sponsored by Pppooowwer…Peralta. Aren’t you a skater? I used to rock Vision, man…Vans. Come on, how can you be into hip-hop and not be a skateboarder? You must have missed the wave of new white kids that wanted to be cool. Fucking, white skateboard rappers. (Smiles and laughs. Gets serious, sort of.). Umm…my name is…Paul. I was raised in Rhode Island and born in Miami…like the rest of the hip-hop greats. Vanilla Ice, 2 Live Crew…
SF: Luke Campbell. Umm…
JM: Do you listen to a lot of current hip-hop?
SF: I really don’t listen to a lot of hip-hop. Sometimes people who are in my inner circle will come out with an album and I want to check it out because I’m cool with them. I listen to a lot of music, and they all need their propers, so I’m gonna…let me really dig this time. Let me dig. What do I got? I gotta, I gotta big CD collection, man. Ummmmm…
JM: No burned CDs, right?
SF: Um, nah. Only when I have something burned is when it was a gift, you know, if someone gave me a compilation. I don’t mind burned CDs, but if you flip through someone’s CD collection and all they have is burned CDs, it’s like, “Where’s your class, motherfucker? Buy something! Be a consumer, a good American. Why don’t you support these…?” But most of these artists aren’t getting paid for these albums anyway, you know? Like, fuck ’em. I mean, if they’re dead …hahaha…if they’re part of a really wack label, you know, don’t worry about it. Me? (Looks into camera) Buy my stuff– because it’s important and it helps me support my eating habit. I really appreciate it. (Smiles at camera.) And my mustache face.
JM: What’s your eating habit like on the road?
SF: It’s gas station cuisine. It’s horrible. It’s bad.
JM: And you’re vegetarian, also?
SF: I’m vegetarian and that severely limits what I can eat, and that’s very good for my health as far as gasoline stations go. Um, I eat cupcakes, genetically enhanced or chemically manipulated foods. I’m not a proponent…I’m not a fan and I do not endorse touring or traveling for the sake of doing it. I hate it. I don’t like tours. I don’t like doing all these shows and the situations it puts me in. I do it for a few reasons. One, I
spread my music to a lot more people. Two, there are hardcore fans and listeners who I really enjoy their company, and for them to be able to come to a show is great. Three, and most importantly, is it’s my main source of making money. If I didn’t tour, I’d be much more in the dumps than I am.
JM: Percentage-wise, I mean, how much? I don’t want to ask specifics…
SF: Go ahead.
JM: But percentage-wise, how much of your income is from touring?
SF: Uhhh…it’s six…seventy-percent of what I make when I do tours. Just because it’s that one situation where people are finally able to get all the albums that they weren’t previously able to get. And…it’s show time, man. It’s like, that’s where most musicians and artists make their money, is at shows, you know? You don’t…especially major label acts don’t make too much money off of their albums. It’s more of, like, shows. And I gotta say, anyone who has even a bit of a name for themselves has no excuse to be complaining about money situations. We’re given a lot of opportunity to make money for ourselves and sustain a good lifestyle, much better than…a much better one than I’ve ever had before, except when I’m touring. But when I’ve done the tour, I’ve got the money and I can live great, you know? I don’t need much. I’m a minimalist and…I need a roof over my head, I like to eat at Meeting St. Café in Providence, and uh, you know, pay for some hookers, and…beyond that, anything on top of that’s icing on the cake. I don’t need much more than that. I mean, sex, food, friendship—which you can buy…cheap in Rhode Island—
JM: Although, it’s not very good when you buy it.
SF: No, it’s good when you buy it. It’s good because when you don’t want it anymore, you stop paying and they go away. They don’t linger. That’s just like the girls. You buy the girls, you get sick of them, you stop payments. They go home. (Sips some water.) Same with the guys. It’s an equal sex issue. Ummmm…(knock on door). Come in. (Sage puts a big grin on his face as his road manager opens the door. They speak and
Sage leaves. Sage comes back.)
SF: (Grabs microphone.) Check, check, check. Ooohhhhh…(starts deep throating microphone). Do a little of that in the back room? Is that why you’re here? Hahaha…(smiles)…Aaaahhhh! Let’s do it! Real life. (Bangs hand on table.) Real rock and roll.
JM: Sorry. You know, I’m sort of a quiet guy.
SF: Me, too. I don’t like talking. I hate it.
JM: I hate talking.
SF: It’s the worst. (Drinks some water.)
JM: I mean, it’s great to be doing this, but…
SF: I know. I know, you gotta get an A. You want an A, you’re a good student. Mom’s proud.
JM: Ahh, probably not.
SF: No? Okay.
JM: I mean, college just sucks.
SF: I’ve been there, dude. I’ve been there.
JM: It’s a whole lot of money and…
SF: I know. It’s a sham, it’s a scam, it’s a scheme, it’s a…it’s a dream. It’s a spleen, it’s
JM: Do you think your college education helped?
SF: No, I…Here’s my theory: America and perhaps the world, since it’s been so Westernized, has two fangs. One of them is a credit card and the other one is student loans. And that tongue (sticks out tongue) is made up of some of college, family…uh, what else is in there? What the fuck is in there? (Looks up and thinks.) College, family, your job, careers—they all suck. They’re there. Families don’t suck but, you know, when you have to have a family, that kind of thing. Gotta have the wife, gotta have the kids…that kind of shit. (Sticks out tongue some more.) Uuuhhhh…aaaaahhhh…come here, come here…that’s what your tongue does. It goes, “come here, come here,” and it lures you in, and then…ERRRRRR! (Clenches his teeth.) The credit card and the college student loans in your neck…(stares off into space for a bit) then you’re done with. You’re done with. (Pulls out ringing cell phone from pocket and looks at who’s calling him.) They’ll come for you, man. I paid off my student loans…last week, in a bulk…of 20,000 dollars. I owed 30 grand, and college was so fucking wack. But, I could only imagine what I would’ve turned out like if I didn’t go to college because I see all my friends who didn’t go to college and they’re the same exact people they were when I left high school. Maybe it’s not college that was so important, rather than the environment and being in this group of people who all had the same ambition to just get the fuck out of their hometown, you know? I did so much learning outside of class. In class, it was a different story. It actually was…I went to a strict high school, so when I got into college it was a breeze. I was, you know, I was a straight-A student. I graduated my first college—it was only a junior college—I graduated with 3.8. And, high school I was a C- student, you know? And it’s like, I got to college and I figured, “Shit, I’m paying for this, man. I really want to get the good grades and all that. And then I…I just lost that drive, too. I was just like, “I’m getting the As, but who the fuck cares really, you know?” I…I was going through a rough time at that time anyways. You don’t want to hear about that. (Makes a call on his cell phone.) Sorry, I’m such a fucking dick.
JM: No, it’s all right.
SF: I gotta make sure it’s okay. Someone left me a voicemail. Sorry. (Pushes button on cell phone. Loud, indistinct noise is heard. Listens to the message again and begins speaking to the voicemail message.) Shut up. Shut the fuck up. (Turns off phone and puts it into his pocket.) Okay. Ready! (Makes scrunched up faces into the camera.)
JM: Uh, yeah…you have degrees in communications and journalism…
JM: How did that help you, as far as, you know…
JM: I mean, when you first got out, you didn’t directly step in to being a hip-hop performer.
SF: Uh uh. (Shakes head.)
JM: I mean, you had oddjobs, right?
SF: Uh huh. (Blows out some air.) Yes, I got my degrees in journalism…well, I got a bachelors in journalism and I got an associates in communications with a focus on public relations. And…uh…you don’t have to go to college for journalism. It’s a fucking scam, man. I think a lot of these subjects that they try to turn into this big, intricate, complex study–field of study–is just their excuse to make more money, or to lure kids in and, like, “You gotta fucking pay 15 grand for this, 5 grand for that, and books are…aahh.”
(Sighs). So anyways…
JM: Have the degrees helped you? I mean, job-wise…
SF: No, nah, no. Obviously not. I mean, the degrees themselves…no, they didn’t help because I didn’t pursue any of those careers. It wasn’t part of what I wanted to be. After seeing how everyone else turned out, and studying what I studied, and seeing how the teacher was, and how all these other kids who were like so, “All right, I’m gonna write for a paper and do the news,” it was like the fakest, most contrived shit. But what was important was I learned the ethics of journalism. The system, the rules that…that at its
core—what it should be—and I wouldn’t have known about that hadn’t I studied it. And, you don’t get that from watching the news because they don’t follow those rules, they don’t follow those set of ethics. It’s a really fucked up and unfree press that we have. It’s not a free press. These…these media outlets are all owned and controlled by the CEOs and presidents of oil companies that are benefiting from the news being skewed. There’s no way you’re going to get a real report on what’s happening in this world in a way that…shows them in a bad light. You know what I’m saying? Like, it just wouldn’t happen. And that’s fucked up for us to realize that we know…I think most of us understand who runs the media. And, for us to realize that, “Shit, you know. They most likely wouldn’t run a story that would show us exactly what’s happening, as far as what they’re benefiting from the war, what the purposes of a preemptive strike are without the
UN’s support.” It’s just like…. Dude, I went to the DC protest a couple weeks back, and, literally, there were hundreds of thousands of people there. It was insane. It was peaceful. There was no arrests…there may have been, but it was very…I didn’t see any, I didn’t hear about them afterwards. There were no fights, and it was just basically a whole bunch of people…from all over the country, all gathered together at DC to say,
“Listen. We are not for this war. You are not to do this in our name.” And, uh, we go home to check the press, and the way it was underreported just really fueled my fire even more than it already had been. Fucking…(imitating reporter’s voice) “At least ten thousand people show up in DC for the antiwar protest.” They also said…they put another twist on it that was so fucking crazy, man. And they would not show an
overview. They wouldn’t show an aerial view of the crowd. Because I looked at the crowd…you couldn’t see the end. Either way you looked, you couldn’t see the end of people. What they showed was them on the side…the camera angle was the side of the street and, like, 10 people walk by. You know, like, “Heeeeyyyy!” (Impersonates a protester with a goofy look on his face.) These fucking hippies, waving their fucking
signs, you know? It wasn’t a hippie thing. It wasn’t just this fucking artsy or lazy movement like, “Peace, man. No war.” It was all kinds of people. And that’s what they do. They’re trying to like….And I have a…yes, I have a problem with hippies. Not with what the idea of what a hippie is, but the whole hippie look and them trying to recapture what it was in the 70s, for people to rebel against the Vietnam War. This is a new world. This is a new purpose. This is a new approach that we need to be taking. You can’t just go there wearing your fucking…what do call these? Drug rugs and fucking play your hacky sack. It’s like, fucking show up in a suit and tie, man. We got doctors, lawyers…police officers. We have people from all different fields that are going to these protests, and they need to be represented, and they need to be presented as such. People in America, in middle America and other places that aren’t—I don’t know, they’re not around these kind of happenings too often, and maybe they don’t understand how much America, in general, is truly against this war—need to realize that it is everybody. It’s all different kinds of people. It’s not just one group of people. It’s not one religion. It’s not…it’s not an age thing. It’s just all across the board, different kinds of people. That needs to be represented. I’m sorry for dissing hippies. If…if you have dreadlocks,
fucking great, man. I hope you fucking…really rock.
JM: It’s all right. I think my dad was a hippie.
SF: I think my mom was, too. She won’t admit it. (Knock at door.) Come in. (Talks to road manager.) Okay, all right. I’ll do it. (Door shuts.) Thank you! I didn’t say, “thank you.” She fissed. She didn’t…I didn’t say, “thank you” when she left. She…she logged that information.
JM: Her name’s Dina, right?
SF: Dina. Lovely girl…woman. (Looks at camera.)
JM: Yeah, she’s got the Napoleon complex or…?
SF: Oh, man. Don’t say that! (Smiles.)
JM: Okay, I won’t say it!
SF: I don’t know if she does. We had a talk.
JM: Did you talk to her about that?
JM: I mean, you brought it up?
SF: She didn’t…
JM: Take it well? No?
SF: No. Let’s not talk about that.
JM: Okay, sorry. So…did you want to talk more about the war or…?
SF: No, I have nothing to say about it. I’m against it. A lot of people are against it. I’m not following it anymore. I won’t fucking subscribe to…I just don’t support it. And that’s where it ends, like, I will not support it. I will not fight for this country, and we are not represented correctly. We, the people, have lost the power. The government will and needs to be overthrown at some point. And…that’s all I believe in. I don’t believe in a George Bush. I don’t believe in this country, as we know it. If I’m ever to wave a flag,
it’s gonna be for the people that live inside of this country, and it has to be understood as such because at some point, man…When I was in…did I tell you that, man? When I was in Europe, I opened my set with an American flag and…it’s almost like an attack on the people at the show, you know? They see the American flag and the American rapper, and I’m sure, in their head, they had all these images of after 9/11. All the media showed was these crazed Americans waving their flags around and shit. And it was like, I wasn’t
there to disrespect the people of my country as much as I was to represent the people of my country, and let them understand that we aren’t the crazed people that they see on TV. We aren’t George Bush. You know? The people that exist underneath the symbol of this flag are me, you, people who are gonna go to this show tonight, people who fucking are going to the restaurant on the side of the street rather than the show, you know? It’s just like, the people who all went to the protest today, it’s like, also, we are not represented. And the world doesn’t know that. I don’t think they do…because it’s not reported on. How the fuck else would they know…the sentiment of the people of this country? Yet again, we’ve lost complete control and all power, and we’ve been knocked down to our knees for the fucking top few rich people. (Sips water.)
JM: Do you see any…
SF: I’m so inarticulate in this field of discussion. I don’t study it, and I’m not trying to figure it out. All I know is I’m very upset, and I don’t support the killing, and I don’t support the.…We’re going over there, we might as well just act like it’s 1500 and colonize these places that we have no place being in, you know?
JM: Yeah. Enough about the war.
SF: War is the worst thing that ever happened on this earth…and it should be the last resort. When there’s absolutely no…nothing to do, when there’s no way to go about doing what’s right for people…war. The very last fucking resort: war. I can’t believe that we are at our last resort right now, about to have a fucking war where, literally, millions of people are probably going to be killed. And if it’s not a million people, I’ll be surprised. Or maybe they’re just gonna explode a huge part of land and it’ll be over, but…
JM: Do you see any hope for mankind, ever, in the future?
SF: Uh, ye…dude, I don’t know, man. As far as mankind goes, I don’t see much of a future for it. It’s sad for me to say that. Um…I have hope. It’s there. But it’s not rational. It’s hope, that’s what it is. Hope. I fucking hope that it works out. I hope we realize what’s good about us, and we cater to those things. The path that we’ve taken since the beginning of humanity has…has been a very negative one. There needs to be
powerful people. There needs to be people who are convincing enough to the rest of this world, who have a positive light, who have answers and solutions and are able to lead through example, and we need those people. We need them to be heard, and we need the current leaders to fucking step aside when something like that happens because there’s some elements that exist in our daily lives that are preventing that from happening. (Answers cell phone.) Real quick. 10, 15…whatever pack comes in. Uh, yeah…I haven’t…all right. Well, they’re all on the list. I have no say in that. Yes, yes. Okay. Hello? (Puts phone into pocket.) Okay. Sorry, I said…(gets vocal) I’m really upset. I have a lot to say. I have a lot of things to say, but I don’t have anything to say. I’m not even upset. I think humanity is fucking beautiful. I think um…we’re still hairy, we still have hair on our bodies, you know? We need sex, and we need to fucking eat, and that will keep us down forever. When we break out of this fucking skin shell maybe we can evolve in some other weird plane that we don’t understand yet, and that’s my hope. That’s my fucking hope. I hope we live forever in a much better place. (Sage and sex)…missing
JM: I was reading somewhere that you were abstinent or something?
SF: What did you read?
JM: I don’t know…I think it was through a HipHopInfinity interview. You were talking about how you were abstinent. There’s no truth to that, is there?
SF: There’s none. (Laughs.) Because…sex is…one of these only fucking things that keeps my mind off some very negative and horrible things. The act of it…what leads up into it, what exists after it…is one of those…it’s…it’s a lot of things. It’s fucking beautiful, it’s fucking ugly. And it’s one of those simple things that, as a human and as an animal, I can believe in. I mean, it’s not a great thing to believe in, but it’s fucking…I like sex. Um, it fucks me up. It’s…I don’t know. Maybe I have a problem with it. I have a problem. I’m gonna talk about that problem. (Knock on door. Someone opens it.) Hello! (Shakes hands with fellow at door.) Let me talk to you. I’ll be real quick. Who’s that? Hi Anne! How are ya? I’ll be done soon. (Sage sits back down.) That was Christian. (Christian reappears at door.) I put them on the guest list. It has a…wristband. That’s what it said in the e-mail. Yeah. (Sage sighs.) Ooooohhhh.
JM: Yeah, hopefully we can wrap this up pretty soon.… How long do you see yourself
SF: I don’t know. I see some of the people that I enjoy and they’re in their 60s and they’re still performing. There’s other people who I love and they didn’t live much past 26, you know? Physically, I feel like…if I don’t make any major changes I won’t be able to perform well beyond…five years from now. My show has become too intense and too hard on myself that I just can’t see it happening. I just see it degenerating my body and my brain. It’s fucked up. I wanted to talk about sex.
JM: Okay, go ahead. Continue. (Laughs.)
SF: Okay, I had a problem. I have a problem. I think I have a problem. A real problem. I have an issue with it. It’s…uh…(thinks a bit). See, I have a dual nature. In one sense, sex is—and I was very idealistic about it from the get-go—to be for one other person. You know, um…and I thought…I thought I knew that one other person. And…you know, when you subscribe to that theory, and when you’re so idealistic—and you think you have the whole fucking universe worked out, figured out—and it crumbles, and it leaves you, and you have to reevaluate. I was like, “Well, I’m gonna fucking pick up where I left off and I’m gonna resettle somewhere else. And then that situation doesn’t work out, you know? And then I start to reevaluate myself and my ideals and what the fuck I’m thinking because everything that I wanted to work out for myself didn’t and um…I think about the simplicities of life. I enjoy good food. I like to feel healthy. I like to be awake and have good sleeping patterns. And, almost none of my life is conducive to that kind of shit. But I enjoy sex. And when I can’t have somebody to have sex with, I’m gonna have sex by myself. And I’m gonna fucking…when there’s somebody that’s fucking great to have sex with, and if it can be done correctly and it won’t fuck me up too much, hopefully we can have sex. And maybe I’m a virgin still and I don’t understand
sex. And maybe my dick fell of last year and…I’ve been trying to rebuild it. Um…I don’t know. I don’t like sex with guys, but I’m not against it. I just…I’m not a…personally, it hasn’t worked out. It’s um…my ass is…weird. I have a pink sock that sticks out of it. (Looks up and sees me making a disturbed, yet concerned, face. Sage breaks into laughter. So do I.) HAHAHAhahahaha. I wish the camera was on your face. Hahaha. Let’s not do th…I don’t…the gay talk was just to see how you were, if you were comfortable with it. If you were comfortable, I’m comfortable!
JM: Nothing against gays, but…
SF: I…I’m…I said I’m not against it, and I’m not…because I have issues with my homosexuality. And, uh, maybe that’s why sex with girls has turned into such an issue with me. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m too old to be fucking caring about sex and food and sleep. It’s just gonna come and go and…it’s a simple hunger. It’s a simple hunger that can be satisfied simply and then it’s time to get on to bigger and better issues.
I want to be the metaman…and I want to have a metadick…and the metaworld is where I want to live.
JM: And use that with metaforce (metaphors)?
JM: So…(looks at questions) hip-hop. Do you see yourself doing anything else besides hip-hop?
SF: Uhh…yeah. I don’t see…
JM: Could you quit today and not look back on it?
SF: I don’t know…because I’ve quit other things that have been just as big in my life, and I haven’t really looked back. I can’t really help it. I mean, if it’s engrained in me it’s there, and I have dreams about it, and I can’t escape that. It’s something that I probably think about more than I even realize. No, I couldn’t stop cold turkey. I would do it…I just have to do it. It’s part of my routine. It’s like a fucking…it’s just a habit of action, of thought. But that doesn’t mean I have to put it out to the public, that doesn’t mean I actually have to produce it. It’s just there. I don’t want to do hip-hop. I don’t want to do anything with a word like that. That is something that’s so undefinable. I want to do things. I want to do stuff. And, I want it to be enjoyed by people. It’s gonna be art, and hip-hop is very artistic, but it has to go beyond that. The whole hip-hop appeal has become cheapened and it feels cheap. And, that’s why I try to do what people consider hip-hop, with as much integrity as possible. I try to do it with as much…genuine spirit and…as truthfully as I can, and as honest as I can, without really pimping out my fucking mundane activities of life, you know? It has to be done artistically. I try to be creative as possible…and with as much integrity. But, um, it’s a point now [where] it’s time to move on. It’s change and do new things. As an artist, if I stick…if I’m just going to do this hip-hop forever…like, where the fuck am I going to go? How am I going to change and develop as a human, and just as a…rational being. You can’t do…you can’t be Sysiphus. You can’t be pushing that same rock up the same hill, up and down, up and down. That’s what sex is for. That’s what eating’s for. That’s the rock. Those are the rocks that we push. Sleep, sex, food—are the rock. And there has to be something
beyond pushing the rock up and down the hill that helps you elevate beyond the mundane world. Whew, deep. I just thought of that.
JM: Let’s go deeper.
SF: I’m gonna write it. Go ahead.
JM: Let’s go about six feet deeper…and talk about death.
JM: On your shirt, you know, and the name of the tour is “The Live Band, Dead PoetTour,” and on your shirt you have 1968-2001…you have your own start and end points, you know? It says, “Sage Francis” up there and…would you just mind explaining…death?
SF: Ummm…I can, a little bit. I mean…you said it well. You said it well. We have our own start and end points. We really do. And, we generate every so often and we start from new places. And, um, 2001 was the year that a lot of things happened for me and a lot of things took off, and Personal Journals was completed. That was a huge benchmark for me and um…it was it. That’s it. That was my life up until that point. It was…it was…I don’t know. The dates represent a few things. I can’t get into it, I’m not going to
explain it, I’m not going to break it down. It’s just…having the death date there is there for a few reasons, but one is…it’s a new beginning. When I’ve done that, like when I usually put that down, it’s a new beginning from that point. Like I’m going to go in a new direction.
JM: How is your life now different from what it was back then?
SF: It’s…I have a whole new…I can look back on things that I’ve thought two years ago, things that I’ve written, and not even identify with it. It won’t even click. And…I can look at myself…we all do that. Can’t you just look at your teenage years and, you read your diary and—I don’t know if you wrote a journal or whatever—and just shake your head and be embarrassed by like, “Why did I…why was I thinking that?” You
know, it’s just like because we’ve reprocessed, we’ve…went down new lanes of existence and understanding, and we’re so far from beyond that point. I don’t even want to do that. I feel sad because to consider the fact that I’m not even the same guy I was back when I was 14 years old, when I thought I had this world figured out. I was a fucking much happier person back then. Maybe I should go back, backpedal to where I was…but it’s, I’m beyond the point of no return now. It’s not like I can do that. Um, I
don’t know. Death is an issue…obviously. It’s something that consumes a lot of my thoughts and I don’t want it to and…
JM: So setting your own start and end points gives you more…gives you a sense of control?
SF: Sort of, yeah. A little bit. That’s part of it. Yeah.
JM: I think that’s about it. If you’d like to say anything else…
SF: You know, dude, I’m…(looks into camera) I want to apologize. Your red light’s blinking. What does that mean?
JM: It’s okay. I think it’s still recording.
SF: (Stretching out t-shirt.) I want to apologize…for…paying too much attention to my mouth when I talk, and my hair and my mustache are uneven, and it makes me self conscious, and I’m very aware of my face. My accent annoys me. Um…
JM: What kind of accent is that?
SF: It’s a Rhode Island accent. But it’s been bastardized and switched up through the years. Um…there’s other things I wanted to say. Uh…(looks back into camera) I want to keep making things. Death really is not to be a part of my everyday activity. It’s not to be in my music anymore. I don’t want it there. It’ll sneak its way in and out but that’s…we’re beyond that. I mean, death only as a concept is what matters, and god as a concept is one of those huge things, to me, um…and to you. I know you. I know you much better than you think I do. I hope we meet sometime. I would love to shake your hand and…maybe get a kiss, uh, right here (points to mouth) on the face. Uh, I don’t know…maybe have sex a little bit, if you want to have sex. Just, uh, no condoms. I like skin. I don’t believe in diseases. I think they’re fake. And, uh, germs…were never real. Do the knowledge. (Puts on t-shirt. On the front it reads, in big letters written with a sharpie: I BLAME YOU. Stretches arms out.) Good night. Thank you. (Shakes my hand.)
JM: Thank you, Sage.
SF: Get it on camera…like a politician. (Smiles.) Thanks.
Sound Operator: That was very cool.
SF: (Gets up and hugs sound operator.) I love you.
People have been asking me when I’m coming out with new material and my guess is that it will probably be in late 2010. For now, here is a verse from song I just wrote titled “Going Green”.
I can’t live without my radioooo, or my electric appliances
Even though it’s bad for the environment
I’m trying to quit and Go Green
But it seems like its just another slogan from the home team
A global campaign, spearheaded by GE
and the Exxon mobil brand names
Two of the biggest, polluters in the business
Are trying to clear their name and boost their image, by association
Its all for show and entertainment
So give them their awards and standing ovation
For their innovation and coming up with a scheme
and the means to deceive a whole nation
Its the same joke they keep playing
So, Fuck Matt Lauer and his half-hour promo statement
About how this campaign is such a success
Cuz the GE logo is on his checks
Now, they’re making profits using their products
To clean up toxins they put in the Housatonic
“I can’t truss it” and never will support it
I don’t believe a word or the smile it’s endorsed with….
Where the fucks ya head at?
Can you imagine living in a world where no one liked hip hop music? I don’t mean a world where everyone hated hip hop. I mean a world where it barely existed – where there was no interest because nobody knew about it. Like, imagine being really into Indonesian music from the ’60’s… You’ve discovered this music that has blown your mind and you want to share your excitement about it but no one cares because they can’t understand it and they’re more interested in something else…
I know it’s hard to imagine, but that’s how it was for me growing up. Honestly, there was nobody living in my town or who went to my school who knew about the music or was interested at all – not even curious. This was in the early to mid ’80’s. I was listening to Run DMC and The Fat Boys and UTFO and Whodini and LL and Kurtis Blow and Doug E. Fresh. It was so exciting! I would play the stuff for my friends and they would feign interest for a few minutes. They’d say, “cool!”, but they were just being nice because they were my friends. Most of them were more into Iron Maiden at the time.
It wasn’t until I got to high school that I met a few other people who were into hip hop. And then, it was literally 3 or 4 guys. Thane Upshaw was really into Too Short and Ice-T. We both really liked that MC E-Z song “Get Retarded” and The Skinny Boys. I remember once he gave me a tape with “What’s My Name” by Steady B. on one side and “In Full Effect” by Mantronix on the other. These were the days when it wasn’t uncommon to find King-T, Shy-D, Just-Ice and Newcleus all on one mixtape. In those days, I don’t remember having debates with my friends about who was the best rapper (or DJ!). We talked about our favorites. During the bridge wars, I really liked Criminal Minded and Down By Law.
All through my youth I was more than just a hip hop fan. I was a defender. A crusader. A champion. I fought for it. I had big hopes for it. I believed in it so strongly and it was frustrating to me that it was a gutter music. In those days, people were still saying it was just a fad. No one took it seriously. I just wanted respect for this music that I thought was so interesting and even important. Right around the end of high school – desperate for a sense of community and solidarity – I became a member of Afrika Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation.
In ’88, people in society at large started to talk about hip hop. Mostly because groups like Public Enemy and NWA were impossible to ignore. I was somewhat excited that there was some interest being taken in the culture, but I was also a bit concerned that the interest was for the wrong reasons. People weren’t talking about how great and exciting the production of Dr. Dre or the Bomb Squad was, they were talking about how scary and dangerous the message was (especially the mainstream press).
Then, in ’90 or so, there were the first few hip hop pop hits from acts like Hammer and Vanilla Ice and The Fresh Prince. Again, part of me was happy that the music was finding a wider audience, but the other part of me was not so psyched because I knew that these songs weren’t the best representation of what the genre was all about (that didn’t mean I wanted to assassinate M.C. Hammer).
Soon hip hop had it’s first platinum records and Grammy’s and stuff. But I was a disciple of Chuck D. in those days and subscribed to a strict “who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy” credo. A watered down version of hip hop was blowing up and so my excitement only went so far. Besides, these victories were about music business politics and commerce, not art or meaningful culture.
Somewhere along the line in the 90’s is when I got my first glimpse of what I saw as a major victory and a great success for the culture I had devoted my life to: hip hop had become global. I was beginning to find really interesting underground hip hop scenes all over the world! Hip hop from Japan! Hip hop from the Netherlands! Hip Hop from Brazil! Hip Hop from Zimbabwe! It was becoming so diverse and so interesting and so rich! I imagined Afrika Bambaataa and the other founding fathers to be so proud! It wasn’t a money thing. It wasn’t a fame thing. It was all about changing the culture of the planet! What could be a greater accomplishment than that?!
Naturally, I didn’t love all the music I heard. I couldn’t relate to all of it. But that wasn’t the point. Even if I couldn’t relate to Chinese hip hop, there was a scene in Beijing that kids were excited about! And it was amazing to me to imagine kids on the other side of the world coming together, rocking mics and turntables, and getting involved with all aspects of the culture.
It was always so exciting to me to watch the old DMC DJ battles and to see really dope DJ’s from Egypt and Denmark and Korea because it was still pretty fresh in my memory that few people outside New York cared at all – only 6 or 7 years before.
But now… Now there is a poison. We have lost perspective altogether. The internet has made it easy to lose sight. The internet has made it easy for a kid born in 1990 to become an “expert”. Experience and perspective doesn’t count for much anymore. We attack each other with vicious and brutal hatred when our opinions and tastes differ. Rather than supporting and defending the culture as a whole, we choose a handful of artists, or a scene, and seek to destroy everything outside it. In recent years I’ve seen things get very threatening, at times flat-out racist, and even violent.
How did this happen? What is it about hip hop that opinions are no longer welcome? Why are we not allowed to choose our own favorites? Why do we feel so goddamned threatened by people who look a little different, who have had experiences different from our own, or who have ideas different from ours, using hip hop as a way to express themselves? I just don’t get it. What’s wrong with just saying, “it’s not my cup of tea”? Why is it that if I named a specific rapper by name and said “I don’t like him” or said I preferred another rapper more, I’d get attacked by a thousand commenters? Why is my personal taste such a threat to anyone else?
I hate to say it, but there’s a word – a very ugly word – for this kind of thing: fascism. Here’s the definition –
“A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.”
In our opinions, we become that dictator and “hip hop nationalists”. We’ve all seen how racist things can get in comments and various on-line discussions. Ideas, opposition and criticism is suppressed.
I don’t love every hip hop record that’s ever been made and I don’t know anyone who does. But I love the diversity that exists. I marvel at it. It’s the same with any other kind of art. Two of my favorite painters are Basquiat and Manet – they couldn’t be more different from each other. Films – I love Buster Keaton and Jodorowsky. That’s ok, right? I can’t decide what I like more – Indian or Italian food. Thank goodness, I don’t have to choose.
Does a kid from Japan, who looks different, who’s had very different experiences have the right to make a hip hop record? Honestly. Come on. Do I have to answer that question?
I know I’m not the best rapper in the world. I’m not famous and I don’t want to be. I’m far from rich. I work a regular job for Christ’s sake! But I keep getting forced into a competition I’m not willing to participate in. I just want to do my thing in peace for my own satisfaction and that of the handful of people who are interested. If that’s not ok, then why don’t you kill me?
For a couple of years after I left the national slam scene, I stayed involved with the Brave New Voices festival. And for a year or two, that festival seemed on track to become everything I’d always imagined the “adult” slam could be.
The first year I went as one of Providences coaches, and ended up totally dumbstruck by how great it all was. Huge cyphers outside every event (which I always see as a sign that the crowds are leaving charged up,) all night gatherings of kids in the rooms of the youth hostel… kids and adults taking turns reading stuff for each other out of notebookes until the sun came up…
I sat in the front row on finals night and heard some of the best work I’ve ever come across. Made eye contact a few times with saul williams, who was hosting, and shared multiple looks of “jesus christ. Are you hearing this?’
The competition that night ended with a team being in a position to win, and choosing instead to spontaneously invite every single youth poet in attendence onstage to chant ‘its not all about the competition’ and shut down the fucking show. Far and away the most incredible poetry show I’ve ever witnessed.
In the years since, I’ve watched the Brave New Voices festival be taken over by one of the organizations within it, Youthspeaks.
Youthspeaks’ annual budget is well over a million dollars at this point, and they’ve used the money and staff avaliable to them to completely take over BNV. The guy who runs Youthspeaks, James Kass, is literally Crackah Smiley. He sounds like Whitey McCEO talking to youth mentors and coaches about budgets in the backroom, then gets onstage in front of the youth on some “Yo yo yo you ready for some bomb ass poets or what yawl?”
Evil cocksucker. The result has been the introduction of big money into something that was meant to be about community and creating space for kids. Now it seems to have become another self contained creativity vacuum, where lame poets can get their ego stroked and play rockstar for an audience of equally deluded peers. Just like the “adult” slam.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Crackah Jimmy sold the whole show to Russel Simmons, who hasn’t let the fact that he barey understands what performance poetry is stop him from degrading it while banking off it for almost a decade.
The tragedy is that it becomes increasingly unlikely anyones going to have the kinds of exeriences that used to be found at those shows.
Jared and I have debated this within the past week actually, but I’m still pretty firm in my assertion that the good poets have all moved on from poetry slam, and any new good ones will do the same shortly. From where I’m standing, any poet that hangs around that scene is either delusional or addicted to having their ass patted. You win again, champ! 10!
So, felt the need to air that out. I have some friends in the community still, who I enjoy getting to see and talk to, but for the most part I’ll continue quietly hoping for the collapse of Poetry Slam International, Youthspeaks, and the sham national competitions they run.
if you forgot how to laugh you should watch this. forget about it.