Recordings: Sage Francis – Human the Death Dance

    Oftentimes, the shtick that hooks a rapper his initial success later tilts to serve as his slope downhill. After all, there’s only so many times we can sit through Mr. Lif or Aesop Rock’s highly stylized nasal bellows or watch Slug pout his proclaimed ugliness to a regenerating mass of screaming teenage girls before the act loses most of its preliminary appeal – even if inherent talent remains intact.

    Fortunately for Sage Francis, his critical junior release (the site where many artists fold inward and pick at their shtick ’til it’s raw) upholds a developed individuality despite incorporating a slew of outside influences – or, more likely, because of this. His fired-up diary flow echoes the best bits of his Def Jux- and Anticon-departed, abstract-underground contemporaries (mostly white): the mean graveyard rasp of Buck 65, who lays a loud, colorfully unmarred blues guitar and folky chorus under “”Civil Disobedience””; the politically dizzied, literal offbeat of Sole; and the quiet sneak of Alias, who’s behind some of Death Dance’s rich production as well. But he also takes a few well-placed leaps outside the inner circle, even commissioning composer and expert trumpeter Mark Isham (who has worked with legends like Taj Majal and Van Morrison, and whose current film-score assignment will host vocals from Francis) for two short but sparsely sweet, beatless tracks.

    If Francis ever had an autograph, it was a grungy, underproduced flimsiness to his rhymes and cymbal-lite rhythms; now, a stripped-solid base accentuates his time-tailored word bank. Aside from a couple obligatory unearthed raps from his childhood, the Rhode Island MC sees a maturation in his wordplay, evenly weighted with confident anecdotes (“”I’ve been practicing grabbin’ the noose when the nut slips/ Rewiring my mind and make the firing squad miss””) and streetwise snarkiness (“”Your lady got overpowered, and you got played/ Selling baby powder is over-the-counter drug trade””), staying well above water at a time when it would have been so simple to sink.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $2505
    $5000
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $2505
    $5000
    Contributed
    Our Goal