Review Summary: A journey into the mind of a Sage
Sage Francis released Personal Journals in 2002 and pretty much revolutionized the indie hip-hop scene. Until then the scene had been somewhat of a counter-culture to mainstream hip-hop in the way it discussed social issues and sometimes found itself attacking mainstream distributors (major labels, MTV, etc). On Personal Journals, Sage Francis discusses himself but he does it without ever sounding boastful or self-centered. He lays his life, his experiences and his emotions bare on a slate for the listener to pick at and dissect and in the process creates a musical journey unlike any other.
With roots laying in spoken word (slam poetry) it isn’t hard to see where Sage gets his ease with words. But these influences aren’t only seen in his ingenious lyricism but also in the way he uses his beats. A song will often start with a calm, almost minimalist beat that gives the front stage to Sage’s poetry and will slowly build alongside Sage’s enthusiasm and ferocity on the mic. But even at his fiercest, Sage delivers every syllable clearly, articulating his intricate verses with steady flow and raw emotional strain that adds only more sting to his often provocative content.
Crack Pipes, an interesting piece about addiction and rehabilitation flows right into the song Different that can be considered Sage’s invitation to the listener to enter his mind. It can be describe quite literally as a very condensed autobiography and features some almost quirky passages like: “I'm a real vegetarian: No chicken...not even fish; I'm a real underground rapper; My tape quality sucks, my records are warped and my CD skips” next to more thought provoking passages like: “I talk with authority while I question it; When I ask, "Who am I?" I'm left guessing; But if you're a poor man's version of ANYTHING
It is your self-perception” and is the perfect way to introduce what is to follow. Sage flows from song to song, exploring news aspects of his life with each, exorcising his demons one at a time and telling the stories in an almost narrative way that can make it easy to forget that he is even rapping. From the heart wrenching Inherited Scars that deals with his sister’s self mutilation, to the darkness of Eviction Notice that paints a picture of succumbing to drug abuse and relationships crumbling, Sage crafts deep portraits of life without censoring the “gory” details.
Personal Journals is quite literally an experience in itself. The themes are presented intelligently and are the type of troubles that can be related to by many. Truly taking in the album can be a draining experience but a satisfying one at the same time. While Sage exorcises his own demons, he has a similar effect on the listener, an almost therapeutic effect of calming and reassuring. This is the album where Sage Francis made a name for himself, a name he has been able to keep for years although his quality has gone way down since. Just because this album is that ***ing powerful.