Sage Francis A Healthy Distrust

It starts with the drum-like "heartbeat of the Sage,” violins, and a sci-fi vocal sample. Forty seconds later, guitars replace the violins and Sage Francis calmly begins to rap. At one minute, Reanimator kicks the drums up a few notches and introduces a manic, synthetic bass line to opening track "The Buzz Kill.” With great wordplay and imagery, Sage takes the American government and others to task. It may very well be the best track on the album. It’s certainly the catchiest, and a great choice for kicking off the album. Then Sage follows it up with "Sea Lion,” a touching love song with guitar and vocal assistance from Palace’s Will Oldham, before returning to rocking the mic with gun analogies and a Danger Mouse beat on "Gunz Yo.” It’s that mix of poems vs. battle raps, of the personal and the political, and of beats that are always entertaining whether they’re melancholy or malicious, that makes A Healthy Distrust the album that finally lives up to the full potential of Sage Francis. The results are no significant lows and a bunch of definite highlights like: "Dance Monkey,” which attempts to cut the strings on the puppet-masses over a groovy Daddy Kev beat; the Reanimator-produced, turntablist-like battle of "Sun vs. Moon;” and the possible Buck 65 dig of "Ground Control,” produced by Sixtoo. And let’s not forget the ode to Johnny Cash ("Jah Didn’t Kill Johnny”). A Healthy Distrust is a fantastic way to begin the New Year. (Epitaph)