Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's Day, dudes! I love all y'all!

Sage Francis is a strong performer. Onstage, he looks larger than he actually is, which is always a good sign. Last night at the Ottobar, he looked striking and singular: monk's robe, parka, huge beard. He had one hypeman, two hypewomen, and a totally superfluous guitarist with him onstage, all of whom were dressed in all black with Sage Francis hoodies. When he moves around the stage, frantically flopping for comedy points or prowling the stage during serious moments, he makes a great focal point. He's even better when he's standing still at the middle, flanked by his soldiers, standing tall. His show is long and rehearsed and focused and powerful. He's got a thick, commanding voice, and last night he held an extremely packed Ottobar crowd in the palm of his hand. He gives you your money's worth. But Sage Francis irritates me. He's a slam poet from Rhode Island who positions himself as the true savior of hip-hop culture or whatever. Last night, he dissed Buck 65 and Jay-Z, both of whom I like a lot more than Sage. (Can you imagine if Jay deigned to respond? Shit would be like Godzilla vs. Bambi.) At the end of the show, his whole crew kneeled and faced the turntables while the DJ played the King "I have a dream" speech and then played a Hendrixy distorted "Star-Spangled Banner" on the keyboards. He dissed the idea of dancing, for fuck's sake. It was all a bit much. Right now, Nate Patrin's blog has a nine-minute MP3 of Sage and Apathy freestyling at some radio station. It's not amazing or anything, but it captures Sage relaxing, enjoying himself, rapping for fun. I'd like to see a lot more of that guy and a lot less of the stentorian prophet-myth guy I saw onstage Saturday night.

Other than one album I can't talk about here yet, the Geto Boy's The Foundation may be my favorite album of the year so far. (Runners-up: Game, Black Mountain, Chemical Brothers.) After listening to it for a month or so, it reminds me of a Western about three old gunslingers who've known each other and fought side-by-side for years but who grew sick of each other and stopped being friends, ignoring each other when they'd walk past each other on the streets, until some outside threat forced them to come together one last time, for honor and not for glory, knowing no one would even see or acknowledge what they've done. (Not sure what the outside threat would be here, so maybe ignore this analogy.) Their voices just have such authority, just sink into the beats with such leathery perfection. The beats have the same mythical tired rock-hard lope. The moments of beauty are fleeting, but they add this sad pathos to the whole thing. It's mean and misogynist and homophobic, and Scarface sounds kind of clueless when he misquotes "Lean Back", but it really is a powerful piece of work.

Three surprises from Southern Smoke 16: Jermaine Dupri murders Slim Thug on "I Still Ain't Heard of That". Mase crushes Lil Scrappy on "Take a Picture". Killa Kyleon absolutely destroys Young Buck on the Youngbloodz' "Datz Me" remix.

I didn't watch the Grammys.