Review Summary: Human the Death Dance may not be perfect and perhaps not even an improvement for fans, but regardless, it's full of wonderful moments that should satisfy fans and serve as a great introduction for newcomers.
If this is the first time you've heard of him, you can be forgiven for thinking that Sage Francis
is the kind of artist who, on paper, might sound a little ridiculous. After all, he is a bald, herbivoric white rapper who happened to be the first hip-hop artist ever signed by punk record label Epitaph. But then again, hip-hop has seen has seen all sorts of unique characters from the beginning. There's Flavor Flav from Public Enemy
, (white) hip-hop pranksters The Beastie Boys
, highly successful rapper-turned-preacher MC Hammer
, filthy-mouthed mother's worst nightmare Eminem
and in more recent times, Hasidic Jew Matisyahu
. While there's nothing quite so 'out there' about Sage Francis, hopefully you've caught onto the fact that he's not exactly your typical hip-hop artist.
Human the Death Dance
is Sage Francis' third full-length and his second for Epitaph. Billed as his most personal to date, Human the Death Dance
features, among others, Alias
, Buck 65
, Odd Nosdam
in producing roles. After opening with "Growing Pains" (a collage of snippets recorded by Francis in his childhood), Francis wastes no time opening with "Underground For Dummies", a witty introduction to him and his career. Containing retorts to his detractors ("This is hip-hop for the people/stop calling it emo, waaa") and affirmations of his underground roots ("And you will know me by the trail of demos", "I'm a DIY artist with thick grass roots"), "Underground For Dummies" quickly brings new listeners up to date. Later on in "Midgets and Giants", Francis delivers more wittily biting insults to his adversaries; "8 Mile
wasn't true ***head, it was a promotional tool but not for you ***head, so let me tell you exactly want to do, don't be a fool, stay in school...***head", "If you aint dead, you aint a suicide girl". For an album that is supposedly his most personal to date, Francis does spend a lot of time delivering insults to the mainstream, which, while still technically done in a personal manner, is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind at mention of the word 'personal'. That said, anything insulting is always delivered in a highly witty and fun manner, making his rants fun and interesting.
Muscially, Human the Death Dance
is delightfully eclectic with a plethora of interesting tracks that are essential to each song rather than simply existing to back Francis. Stylistically, the music is a mix of old-school beats, ominous soundscapes and in the case of the Buck 65 produced "Got Up This Morning", southern blues. Perhaps the most intimidating track is the 2 minute "Waterline", which, devoid of percussion and building up to epic proportions, features crescendoing strings, a gorgeous harp and some soft piano. "Going Back To Rehab" is the album's closer and takes the form of a confessional with perfectly complementing music that is largely organic. Clocking in over the six minute mark, it is the perfect way to finish to finish the electic range of moods, lyrical subjects and musical ideas that makes Human the Death Dance
While his lyrical concepts may not always be the most original, Sage Francis is a true wordsmith who is able to piece together perfect streams of one-liners. Francis' lyrical skills more than make up for any inadequacies with his delivery and his cleverness is undeniable. Human the Death Dance
may not be perfect and perhaps not even an improvement for fans, but regardless, it's full of wonderful moments that should satisfy fans and serve as a great introduction for newcomers.
Great mix of fun tracks and more serious ones
His delivery isn't perfect, which may or may not be a negative attribute
Some of the songs aren't given adequate time to develop
A few of the lyrical concepts aren't exactly groundbreaking
Underground For Dummies
Got Up This Morning
Going Back To Rehab
Final Rating: 3.5/5