In the words of Sage Francis himself, A lot of s**t has happened since A Healthy Distrust.
The poetic, lyricist, battle MC, political dissident and one-time ice
cream server has amassed a collection of thought-provoking songs and
molded them into his latest album, Human the Death Dance, out this month on Epitaph Records.
With a collection of compilation albums, the Sick of Waiting series, and two releases under his belt, 2002s Personal Journals and 2004s A Healthy Distrust, Sage has been steadily building his rhyme repertoire. Whereas A Healthy Distrust was more aggressive and provocative, focusing more outwardly toward society, 2007s Human the Death Dance is a reflective album for Sage Francis, and a chance for listeners to discover their own personal freedom.
Sage Francis spoke AllHipHop.com for the first time in his career to
discuss the upcoming release, what listeners can expect to find on the
album and the underpinnings of the songs for Human the Death Dance.
AllHipHop.com: Whats the meaning behind the title of your new album, Human the Death Dance?
Sage Francis: There are a few elements working. It started as a poem by
Buddy Wakefield called Human the Death Dance. But it wasnt a poem
hed written yet. I basically stole it from him. And I put it on my
album. The image it provokes works for what I wanted to get across in
the album; the human death dance of life. There is a saying that when
youre taken away by death, youre supposed to do a dance that
represents your life. And also getting to have Buddy Wakefield on the
album was a motive to represent that idea.
AllHipHop.com: How would you say Human the Death Dance differs from your last album, A Healthy Distrust?
Sage Francis: A Healthy Distrust sonically was more abrasive. I was more aggressive with that album. With Human the Death Dance,
I was more laid back and I tried to pull more stories. There are a few
breakup songs on the album about relationships, as opposed to A Healthy Distrust, which was more political. Since A Healthy Distrust, a lot of stupid stuff has happened and it came out in my music.
AllHipHop.com: What do you mean?
Sage Francis: Just I wanted to move on. I wanted to get some things out
of my system. I addressed failed relationships and I tried to explain
that sometimes it is a good thing to end relationships; not just with
the girlfriend, but with people in your life, and to really explore
your freedom. A lot of the songs might seem depressing, but I think in
a way its the scary celebration of freedom. You dont know where
youre going, but youre just moving along; Every now and then youre
going to have to hop some trains.
AllHipHop.com: You make a number of commentaries of Hip-Hop, society,
politics, sex and suicide, to name a few themes on the album. Do you
feel like youre preaching at times or are there any specific things
you do when youre writing to prevent yourself from sounding like
Sage Francis: Im kind of confused when people say I preach. My earlier
music, stuff not available anymore, had a level of preaching to it that
turned me off. And thats something that bothers me when people preach
in their music. I think I very clearly express whats in my life, the
things that are bothering me. I try to raise a lot of questions and
offer alternative thoughts. I dont think I tell people what to do.
AllHipHop.com: You switch a number of times in the album from looking
inward at yourself to outward at others. How do you balance the two?
Sage Francis: I did some switching between introspection and
extrospection. A lot of life is lived in your head. There are only a
couple of tracks on the album that I address things that arent
personal to me. Hoofprints in the Sand is clearly an attack on the
current government. I didnt want to do too much of that on this album.
I did it so much on A Healthy Distrust
that I didnt want to do it on this album. I have a problem with
balance. I should just make an album with one tone. At least you could
hear the one song and say, I like it. Listening to one song could
misrepresent the whole album. If you take the album in as a whole, it
ties together. People now seem to hear one song but not the whole
album. A full album is supposed to be rewarding, like a movie. If you
watch one scene from a movie, you cant grasp the entire idea.
AllHipHop.com: In the song High Step you start out replaying your
history in football. Were you a football player growing up, or is speak
to something higher in athletics?
Sage Francis: The story is true. Its all literal. There is a higher
metaphor working there. I played football from seventh grade all the
way to college. But I was into all different sports. I was really
athletic. Once I got to college I decided to put sports on the side and
focus on academics. But I ended up spending time on music and poetry.
Its been a long time since I focused on sports and that really felt
good to me. This song is kind of like showing that I hold stuff in me a
long time and wait to let it out. This album is about reflection and
learning from those experiences. Everyone is led to believe there is a
higher power working over them; God this, God that. You submit to
higher powers and you submit to the machine. Thats how the government
and the military work. Its a huge microcosm. Thats what I
experienced. At one point I was doing martial arts, which I did from
fourth grade to college. At the time, thats where my spirituality came
from. Only when I broke away did a lot of falsities that I bought into
faded away. And thats something I was trying to get across.
AllHipHop.com: You talk about government conspiracy, demographic
breakdowns and death on the song Hoofprints in the Sand. How did the
all of the concepts for that song come together into one, cohesive
train of thought?
Sage Francis: Again, I didnt want to have too much political
commentary on this album. This was the last song I decided to put on
the album. I had all those lyrics hanging around. And though I pulled
the lyrics from different points, I didnt want all those lyrics to
become different songs. A designer for Strange Famous Records had
actually come up with the music video for the music, which was produced
by Reanimator. And it was a bunch of words that dealt with social
problems. I was watching it and thought, This music fits with the
words I have. And I showed it to her and asked to apply the lyrics to
the song. I really wanted to do something with Reanimator on the album.
In the song, I talk about medical experiments and population control.
But I wouldnt say there is one once of preaching. I throw out
concepts. I look at things a lot of people might not pick up on. And I
think its good to spark discussion. Thats what Public Enemy did for
me; N.W.A., Too $hort, KRS-One. All these people were throwing out
AllHipHop.com: Who did the production on the album and how did you decide what kind of music you wanted?
Sage Francis: There are various producers on the album. Alias did three
of the beats. Migration did a couple of tracks hes mainly a movie
producer [see Crash and Million Dollar Baby]. Migration and I are actually working on an upcoming movie together, Pride and Glory,
where I do the vocals and he does the production score. Its been two
years in the making, but I guess thats how Hollywood works.
In terms of selecting the music for the album, I have a large catalog
of beats. Various producers send me music. And if I like it, I keep it
on file. When Im writing lyrics I look into the music I have and the
sounds that capture the mood Im trying to get at in my lyrics. A lot
of the time, I sit on the beats I get and wait for lyrics to come out.
Some of the music is five years old. Im kind of a pack rat with lyrics
and music. I had lyrics from A Healthy Distrust that found a home on this record. One song in particular, Keep Moving, was originally made for the Personal Journals album and I never got a chance to use it until now. I just had Alias rework the beat and now it sounds completely different.
AllHipHop.com: How did you decide to title your songs and what do the names mean?
Sage Francis: Some of the titles are literal. Keep Moving was the
least innovative song title. Underground for Dummies was a concept
Ive held for awhile. I wanted to break down my rise in the Hip-Hop
world point by point. Its like a play of those books for dummies.
Though, a publication recently misprinted the song title and it read
Underground is for Dummies, which completely changes the meaning. I
dont think underground is for dummies.
AllHipHop.com: If there is one thing you want listeners to take away from your album, what would that be?
Sage Francis: I want people to really look at personal freedom and the
value in personal freedom; having no anchors. The song Call Me
Francois really touches on that idea. I want people to get away from
their commitments to everyone. Or dont. Get married, have kids, join