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In keeping with Anticon traditions, Sage Francis treads the path rarely followed by his hip-hop counterparts. His is the road of introspection, harsh self-examination and soul-bearing lyrics revealing the tortured mind of a poet. Francis combines the intimate reflection that spoken word allows, with a precise flow that is matched by some intricate production from the likes of Sixtoo, Mayonnaise, Jel and others. Personal Journals is not an album that can be surmised easily. It will definitely be an acquired taste for some, but will come as welcome respite for any hip-hop head wondering if MCs have anything interesting to say these days. Francis lays it all bare on Personal Journals with evident conviction. It seems to be a cathartic exercise; track after track overflows with tightly woven and wordy verses that will prove challenging for many listeners. This is by no means an album to throw on while cleaning the house. This is some serious lock the door, turn off the phone and tighten the headphones type of hip-hop. The melancholy piano loop of "Message Sent" matches Francis’ despairing tone. Likewise, Odd Nosdam constructs a suitably dissonant beatscape to underline the mood of "Eviction Notice". Personal Journals is noteworthy for the close relationship each track displays between MC and producer, and for its sheer depth of emotion and thought. The antidote to commercial hip-hop venom, Personal Journals is hip-hop that actually challenges the listener. It’s about time.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.