“Sick to D(EAT)H” Review by Dakota Williams
First, let me begin this with a disclaimer: This is the first Sage Francis mixtape, (or any collection of recordings for that matter), that I have ever given a chance. My only exposure to Sage Francis prior to “Sick to D(EAT)H” was a Rock The Bells DVD where, for some reason, he was not very well received. For some reason, despite the countless recommendations from friends, I never felt the need to give him a chance, but I should have long ago.
At first glance, just the cover and the track listing piqued my interest. On the front, there’s a creation of a dead Francis. Turn the CD over and you’ll find track titles that just prod you to listen, such as “Life Is An STD”, “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead To Me”, and “Dark Arts Abridged”. Not only do those things grab me, but so do the featured artists. As a Rhymesayers fanboy, I was ecstatic to see features from Cecil Otter and Atmosphere.
Now, to the music. The production is great. The beats are rough at times, especially on “Gimme Dat”, and I love it. Multiple foreign stringed instruments appear the album, so much so that one would think it was an RZA production. There are great vocal samples, some modern, such as the Ghostface Killah sample on “Breaking 2Bad”, which almost has the sound of a Wu-Tang song anyway. Then there are the relaxing tracks like “Viva La Vinyl”, which is a track of praise for the vinyl format and laments the rise of the digital, and the dark “Let Em Come” with a distorted hook accompanied by a simple guitar loop and electronic percussion.
Then it comes to the tracks with B. Dolan. “You Can’t Win” is your everyday fun hip-hop track with horns and a catchy hook and “Breaking 2Bad” is a great, heavy track with vocal samples taken from Breaking Bad. I only know that because Sage says so.
I absolutely love “Don’t Think Vs. Rebel Yellow” because it takes the beat from my favorite Cecil Otter song and puts it under verses from Sage and No Bird Sing. The next track is a beautifully painted portrait about a man’s love for a baby called “Baby Stays.” Sage sounds like a mix between Brother Ali and Tom Waits, both in tone and cadence.
The next track should honestly be Atmosphere featuring Sage Francis. The verse and hook both sound essentially like an Atmosphere song where Slug takes the lead and Sage does backing vocals. It even sounds like an Atmosphere track, quintessential Ant.
Aside from that, I absolutely love the tape. It makes me wish I had taken heed of all the recommendations. The lyrics are thoughtful, often reminiscent of Astronautalis, but a little bit rougher around the edges. Sage’s cadence and flow are extremely smooth. This tape goes to show just how skilled Sage is as an emcee both in terms of flow and lyrical content. Not only that, but it’s obvious from the tape that he keeps the company of skilled emcees as well, which if one is to be judged by the company they keep, Sage Francis is quite the lyricist.
After listening to this mixtape a few times, I realize that I need to make room for Sage in my music library between all the punk, outlaw country, and trap rap. It’s a great tape and it hooked me as a Sage Francis virgin, so I would definitely recommend this mixtape for a newcomer or a Sage veteran so they can hear different versions of songs they’re already familiar with or get a chance to hear what fell through the tracks during the production stage.