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But don't just take my word for it. Apparently, there are quite a few critics out there who have been rubbed the wrong way by the "sage." Here are a couple of examples —reviews of Francis' latest disc, Human the Death Dance—from two other alt weeklies, lest you need convincing. Or, better yet, go check out Francis' upcoming Dallas performance. Just don't stand too close—you might end up with a loogie in your eye. —Jonanna Widner
Rapper Sage Francis can be an asshole. That's the only way to explain a sardonic 2,000-word response to a post on the MySpace blog of MC Serch, pioneering white rapper and host of VH1's white-baiting Ego Trip's The (White) Rapper Show. Francis has a habit of attacking high-profile hip-hop artists who are oblivious to his existence, from speculating on Common schooling Kanye West in spirituality to a verse reworking Jay-Z's "99 Problems" that ends with "If you hate hip-hop, I feel bad for you, son/I like 99 rappers, but Jay-Z ain't one." Francis' version actually is pretty good and helps validate his own presence within the culture. He provides a means for people who would otherwise have zero interest in hip-hop to become fans. The "I'm not really into Nas or Ghostface, but I love Sage Francis" sort of thing. If this is you, then Human the Death Dance doesn't disappoint. Francis is one of the more challenging lyric writers in any genre, whether railing against an industry in which he works hard to be a success on "Midgets and Giants" or walking us through two breakup songs about the same relationship with "Keep Moving" and "Black Out on White Night." "I wrote those songs under different conditions, different mindsets, and in different places," he explains. It's a lot to keep up with, but for those who like their thinking-man's rap well thought out, Sage Francis is as smart as they come. —Ronnie Reese, East Bay Express
Sage Francis is a champion battle rapper, but the dude makes shitty CDs. Maybe that's because battling—which requires gimmicky quips, passionately spun—is a different skill set. Imagine hearing this lyric, from the track "Good Fashion," at a rap battle: "Clowns are playing Russian roulette with paint guns/They run in place and call it the human race." Hell, you would stand up and cheer.
Problem is, on wax—where listeners have time to really tear apart the words—Francis' lyrics lack depth. This is why Human the Death Dance, Francis' second disc for Epitaph, resembles a hoochie mama who looks like a 10 from afar, but up close is clearly a butterface. Almost every line sounds profound before you've processed it: "I've seen a wealthy man melt into the snow and blow his credit on a decongestant," and "Toe tags get caught in my teeth 'cause my foot is in my mouth." So...he's dead?
But songs such as "Got Up This Morning" and "Hell of a Year" could be fun if Francis' whiny voice didn't dominate the mix. The guy should take a lesson from Brother Ali and learn that socially conscious rap needn't be a buzzkill. —Ben Westhoff, Cleveland Scene