Photos by Anthony Saint James

In the world of rap characters, Sage Francis is as unique as they come. Well versed in the arts of spoken word and freestyle battling, Sage has earned a cult following through years of operating with an independent mindset. As an underground fixture, Sage has built a reputation for his cerebral approach to crafting rap songs stacked with clever wordplay, mind boggling rhyme structures, and–even when cloaked in sarcasm, punchlines, and irony–a point. He’ll be the first to admit that sometimes people take him too seriously, so we decided to have a little fun with this one.

Sometimes, when listening to popular hip-hop lyrics, we find ourselves wondering, “What would Sage Francis think?” Finally, we have the answers.

Disclaimer from Sage: “I am dissecting these lyrics the way I dissect and judge my own. I don’t think everyone should hold the same standards as I do, as that would result in everyone writing the same kind of songs. This is a merely a glimpse into the way I process song lyrics which is admittedly neurotic and sometimes silly. And awesome.”

Hit the jump to read Sage Francis’ dissection of  lyrics from 10 popular rappers…

“Valium and Caesar salad, I’m DJ Khaled, I’m a Daikon radish / See me next to sushi sexually, I’ll sex your coochie, Extra juicy” – Das Racist, “Michael Jackson”

Sage says:

Other than the Valium reference, I have no idea how any of this relates to Michael Jackson but I’m going to smile and nod my head like, “Yes man…yes. Totally.” Das Racist seem to have brought stream-of-consciousness style back to the forefront of lyricism. This technique was popular in the late 90’s, especially in the freestyle scene. Lots of alliteration, off kilter rhyme schemes, multi-syllabic rhymes, and a scattering of seemingly incongruent imagery all squished together. I say “seemingly” because they reference a lot of things that rely on the listener’s familiarity with the subject matter. As I’m not familiar with much of what’s referenced in these lyrics, I just have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Same with their song that says “I’m Sage Francis on the cover of Beyond Race.” I still have no idea how scathing of a dis that is, or if it’s a dis at all. To their benefit, their laid back demeanor and sense of humor make them a likable bunch.

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“And my flow art my nigga, I’m Mozart with it / I do this, I turn a straight prude bitch into a nudist” – Wale, “Slight Work”

Sage says:

This is mainly a poorly executed attempt at braggadocio and sexist humor, which is odd considering how easy it is to be a sexist braggart in hip-hop. It’s cheap and lazy in every way. In fact, the only thing “Mozart” about Wale might be a love of fart jokes. What I find most amusing about these lyrics are these two points:

1) There are straight prude women as well as gay prude women.

2) Wale is only able to turn the straight prude women into nudists. Gay prude women are impervious to his powers.

I will give Wale credit for a tinge of originality as I’ve never heard someone reference nudism while boasting the power of turning a woman into something. Despite what you may have imagined, nudist colonies are filled with people who look a lot like me. And we ain’t much to look at, homie.

Note: We brought up the fact that Wale is probably using the word “straight” as in “straight up” and not to identify sexual orientation. His response:

“I assumed that’s what he meant, but as that’s not what he said I decided to have a field day with it.”

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“Cause you’ll never get on top of this, so mami, best advice is just to get on top of this / Have you ever had sex with a pharaoh? Put the pussy in a sarcophagus” – Kanye West, “Monster”

Sage says:

While likening himself to ancient Egyptian rulers (which is slightly more ridiculous than comparing himself to Evel Knievel,) Kanye seems to have built this entire lyric around the word “sarcophagus.” My guess is that he happened upon that word while googling “monsters” which brought him to “mummies” and he eventually landed on a page about the mummification of pharaohs who were laid to rest in a sarcophagus. Yet, unless he’s experimenting with complete abstraction, I get the feeling that he’s being careless with his language or he has no idea what he’s talking about. For instance, is the woman to put her vagina into a tomb? Just the vagina? Can she come along as well? Or is the woman the entire pussy? If he’s saying that a woman is the entire pussy, she won’t be able to fit in a sarcophagus with him as there’s only room for one. Maybe he thought the sarcophagus was a tomb. I don’t know. Maybe we need to ask Russell Simmons to answer for him, but…surprise…more braggadocio/sexist lyrics! The “get on top of this” part of the lyric is not worth dissecting as it is clearly a filler set-up line. All this being said, I give him a bit of a pass as I consider Kanye to be more of a producer than he is a pharaoh, daredevil or emcee.

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“Wobble-dy wobble-dy wob wobble wobble / I’m st-stackin’ my paper, my wallet look like a bible” – Big Sean, “Dance (A$$)”

Sage says:

Despite the ridiculousness of the first line to set up the second line, I actually enjoy this. Contrary to what it might seem, I really don’t think that hip-hop needs to be introspective or have a deep message all the time. Sometimes it’s OK to just have fun. On top of that, I get a kick out of the imagery in this lyric. His wallet looks like a bible! Good for him. He seems to be doing well for himself. I listen to this and I think, “Man…every time I look at my bible I’m always reminded of my wallet. I’m glad someone finally put that into words.” So much paper. Stackin’ scripture. Paying for wobble with gospel.

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“Stunna I got ’em, I’m back on them bitches / All about my riches, my name should be Richard” – Lil Wayne, “Blunt Blowin'”

Sage says:

Lil Wayne has heaps of clever moments but this is not one of them. I’ve noticed that there is a freestyle quality in his writing sometimes, where it’s clear that the very first thing that popped into his head is what fell out of his mouth and into the mic. This is one of those times. Considering how the name of this song is “Blunt Blowin”, it’s possible that this is a concept song that entailed him getting fully zooted while writing it just to show what kind of things he can conjure while in that mental state. However, rhyming
“Richard” with “bitches” really irritates me. I’m cool with forced rhymes for the most part, but I don’t give that one a pass no matter how high he is. That said, Lil Wayne can do and say whatever he wants as he’s one of the most interesting characters the music world has ever seen.

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“Please God tell Flex drop a bomb on me / Tell the Minister to tattoo the Quran on me / Before the men in black try to pin a crime on me / and Rupert Murdoch and his goons get to lyin’ on me” – Jay Electronica, “Call Of Duty (MW3)”

Sage says:

I appreciate this for a lot of reasons. I mean, sure, he just rhymed “on me” four times in a row but hey…”Quran” and “Bomb” almost rhyme. Just like “crime” and “lyin'” almost rhyme. It’s much better than rhyming “bitches” with “richard.” Also, I like when NYC rappers make NYC references that I can make sense of. Lately, all I hear when I tune into Hot 97 is auto-tune trash, so it would be a welcomed change of pace if I tuned in and heard Funk Master Flex dropping multiple bombs on a Jay Electronica track. I like how the rest of the lyric is condensed with politically relevant references. However, having the Quran tattooed on you should be low on your list of priorities if you’re trying to save yourself from the men in black or right wing media. Just sayin’.

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“They play musical chairs once I’m on that pedestal, frightening, so fucking frightening, Enough to drive a man insane, a woman insane / The reason Lauryn Hill don’t sing, or Kurt Cobain loaded that clip and then said bang” – Kendrick Lamar, “HiiiPower”

Sage says:

I haven’t heard any of Kendrick’s music but I like the way these words flow. I don’t know the context of this lyric, but I’ll give him the greatest benefit of the doubt by interpreting his opening line as if he is saying that the music stops once it’s his time to speak. That’s good shit right there. Dramatic and imaginative. I don’t typically enjoy easy pop culture references, so the Kurt Cobain line would annoy me if it wasn’t juxtaposed with the Lauryn Hill reference. The way he ties those two icons together, along with the negative affects the industry had on them, is powerful.

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“Let’s have breakfast have the moon, lets have dinner on Uranus / I got Venus on my penis, got Serena wrapped ’round my finger.” – Gucci Mane, “Weirdo”

Sage says:

Let’s not.

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“You’ll never play me, nice try, I’m ballin’ in a nice spot / No more Mr. Nice Guy, hello Mr. Nice Watch.” – J. Cole, “Mr. Nice Watch”

Sage says:

The wordplay and use of inner-rhyme here is great. It’s graphed out wonderfully. Very neat and purposeful in its lay out as well as pacing. I don’t derive any great meaning from the lyric, but this is my favorite style of song writing. I also get a kick out of how watches are still considered a status symbol.

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“There’s smoke in my iris, but I painted a sunny day on the insides of my eyelids” – Aesop Rock, “Battery”

Sage says:

Aesop has contributed one of the most unique and interesting styles to hip-hop. That said, this lyric you quoted doesn’t seem to mean what it’s supposed to mean. I’m not sure. I’d assume that a sunny day being painted on the inside of one’s eyelids wouldn’t do much if there’s smoke in the iris. If it were possible to see the inside of your eyelids, while having smoke in your iris, it would probably look like an overcast day. Which is cool and all…but it’s certainly not as great as seeing a sunny day. As everyone knows, exposure to the sun is the greatest status symbol in underground hip-hop.

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