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Online Exclusive: National "Sage" shares poetic wisdom

By Kevin Smith
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday November 5, 2002

Communicating a greater message through common language is something many struggle with.

Not many people can claim that they've made a career out of it though.

Sage Francis is a 25-year-old touring and nationally recognized spoken word poet/rapper who graduated with a degree in communications from Dean College in Massachusetts and a degree in journalism from the University of Rhode Island.

"Journalism was interesting to me because it was a way of learning things and presenting information to the community at large," Francis said.

"Plus, writing came fairly easy to me so I figured I could coast by while focusing on more important issues, such as rap and sex."

Many aspiring poets and rappers find it difficult to move from audience to entertainer, but Francis had a pretty good reason for switching early on.

"I wanted to get in front of people and show off," Francis said. "I did this at the age of 12."

Since then, Francis' love for performing spoken word has become essential to his person.

"I would be in an unfortunate place without it," Francis said.

"It is easily the most therapeutic and most meaningful stuff I do. No restraints. No limits. My voice and your ears."

Early on in his development, however, Francis caught slack for being a white hip-hop performer in what has traditionally been a black-dominated craft.

Gradually, Francis witnessed hip-hop cross many barriers, cultural and otherwise.

"It is changing because the rest of the world is slowly adopting hip-hop as their own," Francis said.

"You can't blame them either...because hip-hop has permeated pop culture for over 20 years now, so most people are virtually being born into a hip-hop world. The Internet has spread it to the darkest corners of Earth. It's accessible to everyone, and fairly easy to participate in."

Many old school hip-hop heads are becoming disenchanted, since the traditional formula is being augmented and tested, though not totally being scrapped, by many of today's more innovative MC's.

"Hip-hop has all possibilities ahead of it, but evolution doesn't seem to be a priority of people," Francis said.

"Whatever I'm doing (as an MC), I have no interest in rehashing the same old bullshit unless it's great bullshit."

Credibility also remains something the hip-hop community clings to, but how does one maintain credibility in the face of a potential global marketization?

"I don't target anyone," Francis said.

"It is most important that my material reaches people who can identify or maybe benefit from what I offer. Credibility should be maintained, but I can't please everyone with all the approaches I like to take. It's important for them to accept me as a person who is trying to explore thought and emotion while staying honest to the condition of each. I will never compromise as much integrity as is needed in order to go mainstream."

So once a poet has secured intentions, how can someone begin to perform private scribbles in a notebook to a room full of strangers?

"Write for your voice," Francis said.

"Write in a way that you know you can perform it. Write it while performing it to see how it comes out. My only advice to anyone with something to offer the world through their art is·love them, but fuck 'em."

Sage Francis visited Tucson last night at the Rialto Theatre to promote his recent full length LP "Personal Journals."


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