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May 28, 2007 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Sage Francis – Human the Death Dance

Heartbreak, battling demons, corruption, tragedy and unorthodox playing in the hip-hop world all run deep in Sage Francis fourth release, Human the Death Dance. Hip-hop’s staple themes of bitches, guns and hustling are avoided by this “whitey” hip-hop street poet, who uses brutally honest and politically minded words as weapons.

Francis was the first hip-hop artist to be signed to punk-rock label Epitaph, which saw his popularity boom when he featured on Punkorama 8. In 2005 he released his third album (but first for Epitaph), A Healthy Distrust – a scathing social commentary about war mongers and a failing American society overrun by corporate greed, all held together by his views on the state of the world.

Human is loosely based on the concept of death – be it the death of a relationship, a scene, a way of life or the result of acting out a fantasy revenge (as on the menacingly aggressive ‘Clickity Clack’). His raps are all held together by understated varied beats and arrangements, keeping the emphasis on his lyrical flow. The majority of tracks are indebted to early ‘80s stripped back beats, often mixed with a blues rock instrumentation.

There’s interesting variety, however – such as the honky tonk backing of ‘Got Up This Morning’ (which also features the distinctive, smouldering vocals of Jolie Holland), the gentle piano of ‘Waterline’ or the trip-hop of ‘Black Out on White Night’.

The album also plays as a history lesson on the life of Francis – opening with a montage of raps by a young Sage Francis, to then detail his life – decade through decade – including his football days in ’High Step’. About half way through HTDD, the tone changes from political finger pointing, dashes of humour and general commentary to Francis articulating his darkest times; here he battles his demons and confronts personal tragedies.


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