blog: Give rapper Sage Francis a try
Seems like most everyone these days seems to fashion themselves some sort of artist or musician. And when youre seeing high priced hookers on TV claiming that they moved to New York originally to sing, that might be where you have to draw the line. Then again, mainstream music these days is often filled with disappointing high priced folks who have prostituted their integrity to get where they are, so maybe a 22 year-old in the oldest profession who has a penchant for hooking high powered politicians WOULD have something new to offer. At the very least, there could be one quite funny song about Eliot Spitzers junk.As it stands though, both are bound to disappoint. Unsigned folks who appear on MySpace and whos crowds at shows consist of three slightly disappointed family members and one very ugly drunk blonde woman past her prime are no worse than a Snoop Dog who plays to packed arenas, shows up late and high as a kite, and performs as well on stage as the elephant man would in a beauty contest.Thats where Sage Francis comes in. Well, Sage Francis and a plethora of other guys you probably have never heard of if you dont give a damn about rap music that hasnt made it on the radio. More likely though, you give a damn about good music and just havent heard everything thats being offered, and its about time that you did.Underground hip hop has long been a fixture in the Boston scene, never has it come so gloriously from the armpit of America. Housed in Providence, RI, Paul Sage Francis is writing the rap music that record labels dont believe you are smart enough to hear. Its like a teacher telling you that you would prefer a McGraw-Hill history textbook to Zinns A Peoples History of the United State, an insult to your intelligence. Francis is one of many rappers these days coming out with truly intelligent music and hes doing it his way, refusing to succumb to pressure to sell-out in any fashion whatsoever. Owning his own record label while being a huge part of a burgeoning music scene, Francis still finds time to co-run a website with fellow artist B. Dolan called http://www.knowmore.org, where they deal with issues ranging from environmental concerns to human rights abuses.Attempting to educate the masses through uncommonly intelligent lyrics and some pretty amazing music, spending their free time dedicated to important global and local causes, and yet, chances are, you havent heard of them, whats wrong with this picture? Whats wrong is who is deciding what it is you are exposed to. You wont see a Sage Francis on TV, even though parents opposed to rap music would probably be able to feel some connection to his feelings on the war, or the state of our country today. So why, if parents dont like Snoop, and his music is truly sub-par, does he end up plastered all over TV and the radio while Sage and the rest of the intelligentsia are playing college shows to a fraction of the audience? Maybe its because Sage doesnt like the idea of living with the sacrifices hed make by prostituting himself to get a deal like that, or maybe, just maybe, its only because you havent heard him yet. And although you probably wont become the head of MTV and get Sage his own TV show anytime soon or get him a multi-million dollar record deal, you owe it to yourself to give him a listen, to stop insulting your intelligence for once, and to give the future of rap music a chance.Listen to him: Strange Famous Records (www.strangefamousrecords.com) Be like him (belief-wise at least): Knowmore (www.knowmore.org)Interview with Sage Francis What first got you into hip hop? What was the biggest obstacle when you first started out? Biggest obstacle now? “Well, it’s a tale that has been over told at this point. Hiphop found me at the age of 8. It was a powerful force and I couldn’t ignore it. I needed as much of it as I could get and that hunger didn’t get satisfied for many, many years. The biggest obstacle might have been finding my own place in a craft that I loved so much. I didn’t just want to re-do what has been done so I had to find my own voice and approach. Make an actual contribution. I believe I have done that and I continue to do that. The biggest obstacle now is having a personal life outside of music and business.”You have been releasing music since 1996, if you had to choose one song that you are most proud of writing, which one would it be and why? “I have about 4 that are neck in neck for that prize. The songs I am most proud of writing are the ones that carry multiple meanings while clearly explaining a situation that affects me personally. As long as the execution is good and the outcome is solid. Doesn’t always work out the way I intend it to.”Have your politics in your songs ever been questioned by other artists? Or at your shows? Any good stories from that? “Hell, this happened just yesterday. My grandmother is part of an organization that holds peace rallies in RI. She asked me to perform at an event and I happily obliged. I sat through a female folk performer who sang her peace songs. I sang along. She talked about how…if she was in a gas chamber she wonders what she would be like. She concluded that she would be the one singing Coombaya. We clapped our little clap (all 10 of us) and then I took to the mic. I said, ‘If she’s going to be the one singing Coombaya, I’m going to be the one on the other side of the gas chamber screaming F&$K THIS S#!T!’ Needless to say she was unamused as were everyone else in the place except for my Grandmother. I also explained that I could be the yin to her yang and our yin-yang symbol could turn into a ninja star that would cut off all the nazis’ heads. Crickets started chirping. At the end of my set this woman told me that I need to preach peace instead of violence. I told her that I don’t preach violence. She said, ‘Well, you were clearly trying to tear down Gandhi and his accomplishments in that last song.’ I told her that she misinterpreted what Slow Down Gandhi is all about and she said, ‘Well, maybe you should make a clear explanation before doing the song.’ I disagreed and told her I don’t need to do that with my music. As an artist I don’t feel comfortable doing that. And on and on and on this rollercoaster rode. Coombaya, my Lord. Coombaya.”If you have to give a summation of your opinions of the music played on the radio, what would it be? “I don’t listen to much radio, but that’s because almost all the hiphop I hear on it is very sterile. Like someone with a white coat made it in a laboratory while the mice screamed and chewed their own ears off.”You started http://www.knowmore.org with friend B Dolan with the hope that you would “raise awareness of corporate abuse, and to serve as a catalyst for direct action against corporate power”, hows that going? “Knowmore.org provides an amazing service that has not reached its full potential yet. We’re an organization that needs to grow and develop, and that’s happening as fast as we can make it. The more people who get involved the better. It is a free service provided to the public, and it can only reach its potential when enough people utilize it.”If you controlled TV, radio, and the movie industry, what would we all be watching and listening to? “Ha. Well, I don’t want to put myself in that position. Because I don’t want to be Clear Channel.”Whats next for Sage Francis? “Running the Strange Famous Records label. We’re releasing Prolyphic & Reanimator’s ‘The Ugly Truth’ as well as B Dolan’s ‘The Failure’ within the next couple months. We’re all doing multiple shows together. B Dolan and I will be touring Europe together. We’re expanding our online store and digital store at http://www.SFRstore.com and working on more music. Looking for more artists. And of course I have my own material to put together. A new album and DVD. But that’s not my focus at this very moment.”
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