When Sage Francis announced a hiatus four years ago, one of hip hop's most intelligent and creative voices went silent. The Providence, R.I., rapper has commanded attention in the underground scene since the early 2000s, with flows that bordered on spoken-word poetry dealing with socio-political topics and the darkest pages of his personal journals. Love him or hate him, it's hard to ignore the depth of his craft. Thankfully, Francis has too much on his mind to keep his mouth shut, and he's stepping back up to the microphone with Copper Gone, packed to the gills with the sharp lyricism he's known for spread over some of the densest beats of his career.
This isn't feel-good rap. "They say anger is a gift, I'm very gifted/ and if ignorance is bliss than I'm a sadomasochist" Francis claims on the first track, "Pressure Cooker," over a beat more abrasive than brass knuckles. His lyrics are equal parts cynical critiques of the world and culture around him and self-deprecating confessionals, both brimming with brutal honesty and clever wordplay. Underground rappers attacking the wack-ness of their mainstream contemporaries is overdone and too often sounds like a whiny reflection of the artists' lack of fame, but Francis makes his digs on tracks like "Cheat Code" so pointed and intelligent that they're hard to dismiss. Copper Gone is a torch of righteous indignation that signifies the welcome return of a force to be reckoned with.
Sage Francis plays the Palace Wed., June 11, at 9 PM. $15, plus fees, in advance at Ear Candy. $5 surcharge for ages 18-20.