Pitted against the monotonous rhetoric of mainstream music and the mindless consumption of pop culture since the early 2000s, Sage Francis has made a name for himself in the indie hip-hop scene. Hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, the underground rap monarch and prominent slam poet has built his reputation on introspective, intricate lyrics, biting social commentary and an unassuming disposition. After suddenly declaring retirement from touring in 2010 to focus on his record label, his cats and recording new material, Francis has decided to show his face in only a handful of cities this year, including San Antonio.
We recently had the chance to pick Francis' brain via email about his most recent album, Copper Gone, building a self-sufficient subculture and honesty ... here's what happened.
Sage – can I call you Sage? Mr. Francis?
Both work well for me. Could I please call you Mrs. Robinson? This would help fulfill a lifelong dream of mine. I'm going to call you Mrs. Robinson.
On the blog for your label Strange Famous Records you noted that you are only accepting "select shows" in 2016. San Antonio, of all places, somehow found itself on your extremely short touring list ... why was humble ol' San Antone so lucky?
I played several Texas shows in 2014 and 2015, but none of them were in San Antonio. An artist named Progeny contacted me last December to let me know that San Antonio is upset about that and it's time to make things right. I agreed.
You are one of the few hip-hop artists I've heard mention notable authors in their tracks (Bukowski, Vonnegut, Ginsberg, etc.). Which author or poet is a mainstay on your bookshelf?
Tom Robbins. Hands down my favorite for the past few years. Full disclosure: I'm not as well read as I'd like to be, but, yeah. Tom Robbins is my motherfucking dude. I buy his books in bulk and hand them out to people I like. I'd like to thank the fan in California who threw Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates at me while I was on stage. That was a fine introduction to Robbins' work.
From where do you derive inspiration?
My inspiration depends on an unpredictable combination of where I am, what I'm experiencing, who I'm interacting with, how I'm feeling, how that makes me feel and a lot of other variables that can never be contained into a magical red button to push. I just try to stay open to the feeling and make the most of it ... Either that or I watch the MacGruber movie, but that's kind of like using a cheat code.
How do you think your music has evolved over the years? What does Copper Gone symbolize for you? What were you trying to say within its 14 tracks?
My music has gone through an interesting journey of its own. I feel it started off as guarded, which helped it fit in. Then it became unguarded, and then it learned that, for its own well-being, it had to become a bit more guarded again ... without the desire to fit in.
Copper Gone said what it needed to say the way it needed to say it. I don't mean for that to come across as a reluctance to answer your question, but the album quite literally says what I wanted it to say about a slew of topics. Hopefully it engages, involves, entertains and provokes the listener.
You faux retired in 2010 but came back strong because the game needed you. What's next?
Ha, well ... I fake retired from touring in 2010. That wasn't me using a broad retirement brush to paint the final quit picture. The final quit picture is going to take a bit more time. I came back to buy myself the time I need to complete it. That's what's next. And it's coming to you live in 3D.
How important is honesty in your music and in music in general?
Depending on what you intend to achieve, it can be none. None important in music.
Do you consciously try to speak the truth? If not the whole truth, what percentage?
Haha. What percentage? I mean, if I cared THAT much about truth I suppose I would have done better in statistics. I do my best to engage others with truth. Math is hard, though.