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Sage Francis 

A Healthy Distrust (Epitaph)

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A white guy with a journalism degree, rapper Sage Francis is a writer and a rhymer. On A Healthy Distrust, his solo debut for Epitaph, a predominantly punk label, the New England native teams up with producer Dangermouse (of Grey Album fame) for "Gunz Yo," the first song to address hip-hop's firearms fixation in academic terms. On it, Francis lambastes "a homophobic rapper/Unaware of the graphic nature of phallic symbols/Tragically ironic/Sucking off each other's gats and pistols." It's hip-hop deconstruction and reconstruction at once.

Francis was the master of ceremonies on the Non-Prophets' Hope, arguably the finest white-rap LP since the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, which proved once and for all that two white guys weaned on Yo! MTV Raps could hang with the finest minds in hip-hop. More insightful than any of this year's punk-rock rants, the new single "Slow Down Gandhi" targets the suburban culture that dresses down in dreadlocks and perks up with mood-enhancing prescriptions. Through A Healthy Distrust, Francis rhymes long paragraphs in a single breath, eulogizes Johnny Cash, ponders God, muses on magic, and reminds us that rap is about the careful use of words -- which can do more to facilitate revolution than tons o' guns and hours of whining.

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