Sage Francis is a reformed poet from Rhode Island who's evolved into one of the sharpest lyricists in hip-hop. He looks more than a little bit like Dave Attell, and he's got the same say-anything attitude.
Last time Francis came through San Diego, it was for his "Fuck Clear Channel Tour." It was either brilliant marketing (backlash against the media giant seems to have permeated the mainstream) or a full round of bullets to the foot. After all, Clear Channel probably owns most of the nation's hip-hop stations that could give Francis a shot at wide-reaching success-not to mention the venues he could play and the promoters who could promote his tours.
But Francis doesn't seem too interested in sacrificing his real opinion. Hell, he says he doesn't even listen to hip-hop anymore and isn't a big fan of touring. Most labels would probably wince at such a disregard for the rules of the game. Maybe that's why L.A.'s marquee punk label, Epitaph Records, was both willing and able to put out his newest bomb, A Healthy Distrust.
Read on for nuggets on race relations, bowel scooping, grandma's home cookin' and why Francis is his own biggest fan.
CityBeat: Why Epitaph? They're fucking punks. Why not a high-powered entity that's more efficient at moving units?Sage Francis: I didn't even know they were fucking punk until it was too late. Punk rockers think they're so cool with their little anarchy car fresheners and Avril Lavigne ass patches. "Let's sign the dumb rapper and make him think we are a Def Jam imprint label for the influx and demand of nerd-hop." Joke's on them, though... 'cause I am their goddamn cash cow now, which invalidates them as a punk label. Wait.... Epitaph is punk?
I would hate to minimize a topic that's so important to you because we have space limitations in our newspaper, but could you give me a paragraph-length opinion on Clear Channel? Because, you know, we have space limitations in our newspaper....You probably have space limitations in your newspaper because there's a big Clear Channel ad infringing on my interview page. Wretched cunts of world-homogenization. Clear Channel thrives on choking out the independent ownership of local radio stations, venues and promotion companies (among other things) and they enforce their right-wing agenda through obvious means as well as subversion. All I know is that I wanted to support my mason president and kill some goddamn brown people already.
I heard you rank touring right up there with emptying out your clogged bowels with a soup spoon.I heard that, too. Meanwhile, I am sitting in the lap of luxury on my way to Detroit so I can rock the holy hell out of Motor City. I have been quoted as saying that I don't get excited about touring, and that is often true, but not this time around. I am watching my health and I am in the company of mystics. We don't even need to talk in order to communicate, therefore I save a lot of strain on my voice. Really. People tend to glamorize touring, though, because all they see is the fun on stage, which is about 5 percent of the whole process.
I've found that the spoken-word scene is a bit like a really fucked-up church. How was your experience?At first, the spoken-word scene appealed to me a lot because there was a variety of styles, subject matter and delivery. All different weirdos from Providence. It was great. It fed me. As the years went on, hip-hop bravado and machismo infiltrated the poetry scene just like a verbal McDonald's, and now I don't get nearly enough nutrients from poetry slams as I used to. I still stop by for snacks every so often, even though I know it's not really good for me.
You're white. You do hip-hop. The color line's been broken and the novelty's worn off, but do you think the hip-hop experience is different between white and black emcees? If no, well then, screw this question. If yes, how?Adversity comes in many forms. Being white and from Rhode Island were some of the easiest things to overcome. It's really too typical to focus on those things. I mean, all you gotta do to overcome the Rhode Island white-boy thing is rap better than the people trying to clown you. But I've been doing that since the very early '90s, when a majority of the hip-hop audience was black, and now, in 2005, we definitely run into the distinction between what kind of hip-hop attracts what kind of crowd. Some of that has to do with race, but that's mainly due to social circumstance and class... which can-and should-all be pointed back at race relations. This is a deep issue which has a lot more to do with big business than it does with indie rappers appealing strictly to white people-which isn't true.
You've said you don't listen to rap music anymore. So you wouldn't listen to you?I listen to me. I am my biggest fan. But the fact is, I don't find myself listening to hip-hop records anymore. I don't get the same feeling out of them as I used to, so I look elsewhere for soul food. Would I listen to Sage Francis if I wasn't? I'd probably need a trusted friend to introduce me to his music first, but after that I would definitely be a huge fan. I love everything he says. It's like he's reading my mind.
How was your last show in San Diego? Mack mass hos and pet Shamu? My grandmother cooked us an incredible vegetarian meal at her home. She fed the whole army. It was the best food we ate the whole tour and we were deeply appreciative. Other than that, I got to walk on the beach after the show. A guy asked me to sign his girlfriend's breasts while my girlfriend and grandmother were in listening distance. It was so great! BSage Francis plays with Solillaquists of Sound and Jared Paul at Canes, 8 p.m. on March 4. $15-$17. 858-488-1780.