Sage Francis
A Healthy Distrust


4.0
excellent

Review

by Mark A. USER (51 Reviews)
February 14th, 2013 | 29 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Francis’ sharp wit and keen sense of wordplay keeps you hanging on his every word.

Sage Francis is a bit of a dichotomy in hip-hop music. His persona and self-aware style are so far away from the braggadocio that infests the genre in general, yet he has made quite the career of creating lyrical masterpieces supplemented with decent to excellent production. Francis’ style of rapping leans more toward spoken word poetry, spitting confessional and sometimes witty verses over sparse instrumentation. Many hip-hop purists would not consider Sage to be saddled with the genre tag, but he hits with some of the most interesting material of his career with A Healthy Distrust. Although a bit uneven, the tracks on this record display all aspects of Sage’s personality. From the manic and paranoid verses of “The Buzz Kill” to the laid-back tempo of “Lie Detector Test”, Sage is not afraid to push boundaries and push his strange personality to the forefront. This ends up being what pushes this album into greatness, while unfortunately also detracting from the overall sound in some cases. At fifteen tracks overall, the album does feel bloated in places and could have been a bit more effective if it were pared down to a smaller tracklist.

The uniqueness of his delivery is not in the speed of the words spoken, but rather character in his voice. There is a weathered, beaten tone in his voice as he detaches himself and plays the role of storyteller in songs such as “Sea Lion”:

“Get in the bus, hop in the van
Jump in the water, crawl to the land
Build another castle out of sand
Break it down and then get into the saddle again

I'm going city to city, I'm already lost
Tell the boss who is new in town
I'll ride this horse till it bucks me off
And I'm forced to shoot it down”

The somber tone of the above-mentioned song plays directly into the morose lyrics, and this song is a perfect representation of how Francis shows the ability to mesh the tone of his lyrics with the music provided. He treats the mic as an open opportunity to spill his guts about anything from politics to relationships, and for the most part he doesn’t talk about anything that hasn’t already been beaten to death. What makes the listener continue to make their way through the album is the way that he says things, and the unique perspective that he provides on topics that may have been trite coming from someone else. “Crumble” is an excellent example of this, as he equates lost love to a disintegrating piece of paper over a simple but effective keyboard sample. “Gunz Yo” finds Francis utilizing guns as a symbolic reference to other rappers’ over-reliance to their “pieces”, and how that may be to make up for the shortcomings of other extremities. This tongue-in-cheek song is also the best showcase of his flow, as the bombastic beat fits perfectly with the overzealous lyrics about guns and phallic symbols.

With all the strong tracks that are present on the album, there are a few things that take away from the experience as a whole. The middle part of the album drags it down quite a bit, and unfortunately doesn’t yield any strong tracks at all. It begins with “Voice Mail Bomb Threat”, which is a pointless interlude/voicemail message about how Sage should probably steer clear of Detroit. I admit that it was unexpected and provided a laugh at first listen, but it just doesn’t honestly add any value to the album as a whole. That segues into arguably the worst track on the album, titled “Dance Monkey”. This was an overt attempt at a diss track that falls flat. The chorus is a childish chant of:
“Dance monkey, dance you god***n monkey
(Do that thing that's funny)
Do I make you wanna laugh?
I make you wanna move
I make you wanna dodo dododo do”

While the song is obviously meant to be dumbed down for a specific over-hyped Caucasian rapper (I think we all know who I’m referring to), it doesn’t change the fact that it is almost painful to get through. The album doesn’t really pick up again until “Crumble”, but continues to swell with ingenious wordplay and interesting beats, culminating with “Slow Down Gandhi”. The politically-charged song shows Sage at his strongest lyrically; and for an overtly political message, the song ages well and does not include specifics to date it to a specific time frame.

Sage Francis has created an incredibly interesting mix of personal experience and outside perspective on A Healthy Distrust. Minus the lull in quality songs through the midway point of the album, as a whole it creates an intelligent look at the world around us and still manages to be more fun than most of the independent hip-hop that is out there now. Francis’ sharp wit and keen sense of wordplay keeps you hanging on his every word, which truly puts the music itself on the back-burner. It’s a shame on some songs such as “Ground Control”, as it boasts an incredible beat and complements the vocals on the track very well. A Healthy Distrust boasts a more confident Francis, and is a definite step up from his last effort Personal Journals.

Recommended Tracks:
Sea Lion
Crumble
Ground Control



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Comments:Add a Comment 
thelastsignal
February 13th 2013


1370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

If anyone could provide some feedback, that would be awesome. Also, I was wondering if anyone could let me know how to italicize words in the reviews and such. I am tired of these quotation marks lol. Thanks!

sixdegrees
February 13th 2013


17149 Comments


this is how you do [i]italics[//i] (without the extra backslash obv)

album's cool, but quite a step down from Personal Journals imo.

Digging: 10Minimal - Aluminum World

thelastsignal
February 13th 2013


1370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks just testing it out lol

thelastsignal
February 13th 2013


1370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I appreciate the tip, sixdegrees. I do love Personal Journals, but I find myself going back to A Healthy Distrust a little more. I like indivdual songs more on PJ, but I think this is a better album overall.

sixdegrees
February 13th 2013


17149 Comments


no prob. I just feel like I can connect more to Sage's lyrical style on Journals, plus this has some weak tracks like "Dance Monkey" and "Ground Control" whereas journals was more consistent.

I can't fault him for wanting to explore different styles and topics though.

MikeC26
February 13th 2013


3181 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I dig Personal Journals way more. That album hit me really hard when I was younger. Nevertheless a great album from a really interesting, intelligent individual.

Great review man, pretty sums up my opinion to the T.

MikeC26
February 13th 2013


3181 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sea lion goes do hard holy fuck



thelastsignal
February 13th 2013


1370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks, Mike. I agree that personal journals was amazing, but I really think that he lyrically hit his stride with this album. Incidentally, what do you guys think of the non-prophets LP in comparison to the sage francis solo efforts?

sixdegrees
February 13th 2013


17149 Comments


I need to get that at some point. Is it any good?

thelastsignal
February 13th 2013


1370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's really good. Imagine Personal Journals-era Sage with more traditional hip-hop influenced beats. It's a nod to the old school, but is still undeniably Sage lyrically.

sixdegrees
February 13th 2013


17149 Comments


sounds great, definitely gonna check it.

thelastsignal
February 13th 2013


1370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Definitely worth a listen, let me know what you think of it. "Spaceman" and "The Cure" are fantastic songs.

thelastsignal
February 13th 2013


1370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think he has gotten progressively worse over the years, as much as I hate to admit it.

thelastsignal
February 14th 2013


1370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Because he was one of the first rappers that I really got into, and I worshipped everything he did for awhile haha.

thelastsignal
February 14th 2013


1370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

T'was my intent *cue evil laughter*

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
February 14th 2013


19790 Comments


nice review man pos



Digging: Spectral Lore - III

thelastsignal
February 14th 2013


1370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks mane. It's appreciated, got any reviews coming soon?

Ecnalzen
February 14th 2013


6565 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sounds interesting. Great review.

thelastsignal
February 18th 2013


1370 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

thanks, ec. Definitely check it out, even if hip hop isn't your bag.

omnipanzer
February 18th 2013


21552 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"I think he has gotten progressively worse over the years, as much as I hate to admit it."

It's hard to keep a fire stoked in your guts that hard and for that long man.



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