Depending on your position in the hip-hop fan worldview, Sage Francis is either: a) One of the best emcees in the game today, b) A backpacker nerd who's ruining "real" rap, or c) Some fool you've never heard of. After making a name for himself through multiple solo projects, being in two different bands, making TV appearances, and achieving champion status at high-profile battles, this Rhode Island wordsmith recently dropped Personal Journals, teaming up with the East Bay's own equally controversial Anticon crew.
For the uninitiated, Sage's hyper-lyrical style can be a lot to handle. Comparable to other left-of-center favorites like Aesop Rock and Sole, his spoken-word upbringing is apparent in every track, with meandering lyrical flows nearly overloaded with double entendres, dark humor, and vivid descriptions of his own personal turmoil. The production (handled by subterranean sound providers like mayonnaise, Sixtoo, jel, alias, and Mr. Dibbs) is surprisingly catchy throughout, with loops that are unorthodox but still funky, and less "abstract" than their creators' reputations might suggest. Several tunes could easily find love as singles, including the exquisitely mellow "Message Sent," the bass-driven "Different," and "Personal Journalist," which is built on some fierce acoustic guitars.
Sage Francis makes emotionally charged music that forces you to follow along rather than simply nod your head to the beat. Your average radio-rap head may be turned off by his intense wordplay, but those looking for something more compelling will not be disappointed.
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