If all you knew about Sage Francis was that he is a hip hop artist you might be a little confused when you first start listening to his latest album release, Li(f)e. The intro to the opening track, "Little Houdini," sounds as if it belongs in a folk song, far away from the thought-provoking lyrics of a heartfelt rapper. I am a big fan of artists who aren't afraid to create music that bends genre expectations and Sage Francis does just this. If you were to separate the instrumentals from the lyrics it would sound like two completely unrelated albums. Sage Francis' extremely conscious lyrics, paired with folk-ish melodies, make Li(f)e seem darker and much more heartfelt than most hip-hop albums currently out today. There are very few notable white rappers aside from Eminem, Aesop Rock and the duo Atmosphere but Sage Francis is definitely capable of holding his own in the genre. Li(f)e is Sage Francis' fourth studio album and, as does his previous releases, relies heavily on metaphors to create vivid images through his lyrics. Sage Francis is more concerned with creating a conscious story rather than rapping about his money, cars and women, a concept many rappers today lack. Individually each track on Li(f)e is unique and each serves as an example of how hip-hop has evolved since the early 1980s. Despite this, as a whole the album seems scattered with no coherent, universal concept. The tracks, although great on their own, do not flow well throughout the course of the album which prevents me from thinking of Li(f)e as some sort of masterpiece, or even as something deserving an "A" grade. I probably won't listen to Li(f)e as an album too often but the individual tracks are great for future "chill" mixtapes to accompany long, D.C. summer nights.
-- Dominique Barron