Human Death Dance
Okay folks, here we have a hip-hop album that has been released on a well established punk label, namely Epitaph. So what does this mean? Is the label adapting? Well, no, not exactly, cause this is hip-hop with a punk sensibility. The artist I'm talking about is Sage Francis, and his new album 'Human Death Dance'. Now I've been following this guy for years, and am yet to be disappointed.I'm not what you'd call a 'hip-hop head', I tend to enjoy hip-hop that is as boundary blurred as you can get, but Sage has scope to work in both sides of the spectrum. So lets see what one of the hardest working Mc's in the game has cooked up for us this time.
Opening into sees more use of his early recordings, from when he was a kid spitting over loops into a tape machine, a method that is echoed in every Sage Francis release. From there straight into 'Underground for Dummies' which is as tight lyrically as ever, and listens like a biography of his career from the very beginning to date. Full of metaphors and intuitive wordplay, Sage Francis has lost nothing of his rasp over his many years in the game, and his flows just seem to get more intricate. The production on this album is a mixed bag of talent, as per, with some of the usual names Reanimator, Alias, Jel, Sixtoo and Odd Nosdam, but also sees offerings from Buck 65, Mark Isham, Mr. Cooper and Kurt SP. This gives the album a real depth, full of different sounds, different flavours, all sewn together like a patchwork quilt, with Frances' vocals being the tread. 'Got Up This Morning' is a country tinged affair, as you'd expect from producer Buck 65, and lyrically weaves a tale of religious courtship gone sour, filled will all the flavours of heartache Francis has become a dab hand with. 'Clickety Clack' is a brooding anger filled mission statement, brimming with metaphors and similes; we are painted a picture of Sage's position in the battlefield of hip-hop. 'Midgets and Giants' listens like a battle rap against, well, any other mc. Playing on clichés, and typical rap bravado Sage Francis manages to single out just about every famous MC in the limelight at the moment and completely undermine their work. As well as the one-sided battle raps, Mr. Frances also lays himself bare, and some of his tracks sound like streams of consciousness, almost like deep diary entries that you weren't meant to read. 'Waterline' is an ode to the planet, an environmentally conscious poem on a bed of sombre strings, piano and guitar, truly beautiful and insightful. From this track on the album takes a more sombre turn, but that doesn't mean that the album trails off, 'cause that is far from the case.
The brilliance of Sage Francis is his ability to isolate himself, putting him in the corner trying to fight his way out with words, and whilst this might sound defeatist, by the end of every Sage Francis release u get the feeling his point is well and truly made. This album is chock-full of sarcasm, spite and misery, but is delivered with the attitude of punk and the literary intelligence of a university lecturer. If you like hip-hop, but always felt that it needed something more, then Sage Frances might be your salvation. Like he was mine when I first heard 'Personal Journals'.Nothing this guy does is worth over looking. So make sure you don't.