Where were you the day hip-hop died? Don’t answer too quickly, this is a trick question. Hip-hop is alive and well , though nowadays you have to do some serious digging to find a hip-hop label worth trying out. Perhaps we can blame this on the fact that for the past couple decades it seems to be a constant pattern for a rapper to achieve fame as a musician only to start a label of his own. Now amongst the umpteen million pebbles we have a diamond in the rough.
It is unfortunate that “artists” like 50-cent and Jay-Z represent such a prolific art form as hip-hop. The power of an originally produced beat overlapped by the poetry of spoken word is incredible and no one, I say, no one can pull this off as eloquently as one mister Sage Francis. Personal Journals marked his mass-market album debut in 2002, released on Anitcon records. This was the first album of Francis’ that I heard. And it was life changing. Tackling intimate issues like losing a close friend, self-mutilation, and small town-itus Personal Journals is an album for the emotions.
But the newest album to hit stores was released on Lex records and titled simply, Hope. This time Sage teamed up with fellow Rhode Islander, Joe Beats and formed a production team they call, Non-Prophets. Sage mentions in his thank you comments that Hope is the album he’s wanted to put out since he started the business. For the album, Sage left his emotional sensitivity at the door and got a lot more, well, bitchy. For example, the team tackles more global issues: politics, (“I’m just another hip-hop political figure, but I’m not left wing or right wing I’m the middle finger.“), homophobia (“I attended candle light vigils for Matthew Shepard, while you put out another Fuck-You-Faggot record“), The human quest for the meaning of life (“Life is just a lie with an F in it, but death is definite.”), and even noisy annoying children in “Disaster.”
Francis does have a record label of his own — Strange Famous Records. But the releases are set to his own beat. Take a look at what’s been released on Strange Famous Records: Sick of waiting tables, Sickly Business, Still Sick and Dead poet, Live album. None of these albums are available in stores, but you can find them at the merch table at each show.
If you’re convinced that hip-hop is on it’s death bed, feeding from an I.V. and employing a bed pan, then get out of the nursing home, into the record store, seek out Non-prophets and find some Hope.
Sage Francis – Personal Journals
Atmosphere – Seven’s Travels
El-P – Fantastic Damage