‘Tis the season of great white rappers! Following anticipated releases by El-P and Brother Ali (who, granted, is albino), Sage Francis returns with a new album of spoken-word-styled rhymes and Ernest Hemingway-sized manifestos. The Providence, Rhode Island citizen will soon release his third major album (and umpteenth overall), Human the Death Dance.
“With all the work Epitaph plans on putting into this record, I suspect it will break the 100,000 point, which is something I have never done. Fingers are crossed,” writes Francis on his website. “The material on this album is strong as hell. I have to say…there are Personal Journals moments…there are Hope moments…there is ONE Healthy Distrust moment…and the rest is probably the stuff I will be most remembered by.”
Guests featured on Human the Death Dance include eccentric folk stylist Jolie Holland, character rapper Buck 65 and trumpeter/movie composer Mark Isham (Crash, The Cooler). Several of Isham and Francis’ collaborations will appear in Pride & Glory, a forthcoming drama about New York police corruption starring Ed Norton and Colin Farrell. Human the Death Dance hits stores via Anti/Epitaph on May 8.
In the years since 2005’s excellent A Healthy Distrust, Francis burnished his reputation as a fierce and unpredictable artist. He founded a muckraking website with spoken-word poet Bernard Dolan called Knowmore.org. Admirably, the site uncovered hipster clothing line American Apparel’s use of sweatshop labor. He also mentored new artists like Sol.illaquists of Sound and Macromantics, and collaborated with artist Sarah Coleman on a series of projects.
Human the Death Dance is being billed as Francis’ most personal album to date, but I can’t see how that’s possible. His breakthrough, after all, was called Personal Journals. Maybe this one has fewer cryptic metaphors? Song topics, according to the press release, range from “9-to-5 cubicle madness and addiction to sex and hip hop.” Titles include “Hell of a Year,” “Woke Up This Morning” (with Holland), “Keep Moving,” “Underground for Dummies” (a montage of his earliest tracks produced by Odd Nosdam), “Civil Obedience,” and the politically-oriented “Hoofprints in the Sand” (which may be a nod to President Bush’s fascination with Western iconography.)
“As the album stands now it is 55 minutes long,” writes Francis. “I want it to be something people can digest in one sitting. Not something you have to break up in 3 parts just to hear the whole thing. But I think 55 minutes is a good length. Perfect for an hour long road trip.”