Sage Francis: Sick to Death

Sage Francis: Sick to D(eat)h

(Strage Famous, 12/12/13)


The mixtape tends to be one of two things. For artists just starting out, it might be the only option. No label, no problem; release it yourself. For established rappers, it’s a vent. Dis tracks, B-sides, and experiments have all wound up on mixtapes. For bearded hip-hop juggernaut Sage Francis, it’s an archive…and a vent…and an experiment. His long running Sick of… series continues with Sick to D(eat)h.

These are tracks whose origins range from 1994 to 2013, with the expected variation in sound quality, but they even out to 75 minutes of brilliance. Demos of tracks like “Slow D(eat)h” and “Rehab” open the past up to entirely new interpretations. “Rehab” rages out the gate, reaching from beat one the velocity that “Going Back to Rehab” did by the end of the song. “Zero” becomes almost playful, with a humorous and repeated existential realization, while a stripped-down live version of “Baby Stays” from the BBC is even more affecting than the original — no easy feat.

A few friends make appearances, including Atmosphere and Cecil Otter (of Doomtree), and Epic Beard Men cohort B. Dolan returns on a remix of “2Bad” by Buddy Peace, who incorporates some Breaking Bad verve. Beats from Prolyphic and Reanimator are put to inspiring use on new work.

Some may balk at D(eat)h’s focus on the past, and yes, it’s mostly demos and unreleased tracks from Sage’s long career. However, the fact that it plays as solidly as any major release is a reminder of just how good of a musician he is. Whet your appetite with this and remember that June of 2014 (when his next LP is due) isn’t that far away.