Across the Margin: The Podcast


Episode 135: The 20th Anniversary of Personal Journals with Sage Francis

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with independent underground rapper Sage Francis, widely considered one of our generation’s greatest lyricists. His career derives mainly from gifted wordplay which creates vivid narratives to instigate as well as inspire. Dubbed as the “forefather of indie-hop,” Francis originally earned acclaim in the early 2000s by winning the most highly coveted titles of the emcee battle circuit. With little to no funding, Francis sustained himself by selling his innovative “Sick of” mixtapes, all made by hand on the floor of his Providence, Rhode Island apartment. These were essentially bootleg compilations full of select recordings from his 12” vinyl singles, demo sessions, live performances, and radio freestyles. The popularity of these tapes birthed Strange Famous Records (SFR); a meager, one-man operation in 1999. Despite having no official distribution, Francis’ unique brand of music spread like wildfire via the advent of file sharing networks. This resulted in him attaining a massive cult-like following around the world, creating a demand for his albums and live performances at which point the bigger labels took notice. With his first studio album, Personal Journals (2002), — the focus of this episode — Francis daringly set aside the more boastful side of rap by catering to his poetic leanings and scathing socio-political commentary. In 2005 Sage Francis was the first hip-hop artist signed to the punk rock label Epitaph Records and soon became one of the highest selling independent artists of his genre. Rather than abandon his day-to-day grind at SFR, he channeled all of his newfound resources into it, allowing the label to expand in staff as well as roster. Having fulfilled his contract obligations with Epitaph Records, Sage Francis has returned to releasing music independently as he gears up to defeat the odds. But, as alluded to, this episode focuses on where it all began for Francis, his aforementioned first studio album put into the world by the underground hip-hop collective Anticon in 2002. It’s a deeply personal album where Francis wears all of life’s suffering on his sleeve while inviting listeners to join in on a tour of the tortured, introspective mind of a gifted storyteller. While decisively weighty, Personal Journals is also witty, and full of hard-hitting old school boom bap hip-hop brimming with a slam poetry ethos. Personal Journals, like few hip-hop albums ever birthed, is an amazing display of fearless honesty and it’s easy to look at the lyrical offerings of Personal Journals as akin to Francis pulling wide his scar tissue and narrating a detailed, candid tour of their frayed innards. In this episode host Michael Shields and Francis discuss what Francis feels and about Personal Journals with twenty years of hindsight to consider. They explore the meaning behind a bevy of the tracks on the album while Francis shares stories about the Personal Journals recording sessions, how his intimate lyrics were received by those closest to him, and much, much more.

Bonus Feature: At the conclusion of the episode you will hear a snippet of a demo referenced in the interview of "Runaways" lyrics over the Alias beat which would eventually become the "Keep Moving" song on Human the Death Dance!


More Episodes


Episode 134: Get a Job with Robert Walter

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with organ, keyboard, and synth extraordinaire Robert Walter, a founder member of the Greyboy Allstars. Walter is a dynamic and prolific musician who splits his time between his own 20th Congress, The Greyboy Allstars, and a robust film soundtrack career in Los Angeles. Initially formed as the backing band for rare groove luminary DJ Greyboy, The Greyboy Allstars became a long term project for Walter with a string of critically acclaimed albums and world tours. The band quickly became home to some of the most revered players in the modern music scene and their success served as a platform for the band's individual members to launch highly successful and substantially diverse solo careers. The Greyboy All Stars recently released an album entitled Get a Job: Music from the Original Broadcast Series Soul Dream, which lies at the heart of this episode. Originally aired as Soul Dream — a four-part, episodic series on in the summer of 2021 — Get a Job is a ten song set of unique never-before-released covers that have become an integral part of the band’s famed live sets for nearly three decades. Songs by artists such as Gene Ammons, Gil Scott-Heron, Sonny Stitt, George Harrison, Gary Bartz and Langston Hughes, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Burt Bacharach and Hal David. In this episode host Michael Shields and Robert Walter discuss how Get a Job emanated from the four part episodic series Soul Dream while conversing over how Walter and the Greyboy Allstars decide upon the songs they choose to cover. They go back in time to talk about the genesis of the Greyboy Allstars, celebrating the famed Wednesday night shows at The Green Circle Bar in San Diego where it all began. They discuss Walter's excellent solo album Better Feathers, how he came to be a part of Mike Gordon from Phish’s band, what it is going to mean to him to return to Jazz Fest this year, and a whole lot more.

Episode 133: Fight Like Hell with Kim Kelly

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with the author of Fight Like Hell : The Untold History of American Labor, Kim Kelly. Kelly is an independent journalist, author, and organizer. She has been a regular labor columnist for Teen Vogue since 2018, and her writing on labor, class, politics, and culture has appeared in The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Baffler, The Nation, The Columbia Journalism Review, and Esquire, among many others. Kelly has also worked as a video correspondent for More Perfect Union, The Real News Network, and Means TV. Previously, she was the heavy metal editor at “Noisey,” VICE’s music vertical, and was an original member of the VICE Union. A third-generation union member, she is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World’s Freelance Journalists Union as well as a member and elected councilperson for the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). Kelly’s profoundly researched book shares the stories of working-class heroes who propelled American labor’s relentless push for fairness and equal protection under the law. Those champions of American labor include freed Black women organizing for protection in the Reconstruction-era South, Jewish immigrant garment workers braving deadly conditions for a sliver of independence, Asian American fieldworkers rejecting government-sanctioned indentured servitude across the Pacific, Incarcerated workers advocating for basic human rights and fair wages, and the queer Black labor leader who helped orchestrate America’s civil rights movement. Throughout Fight Like Hell, Kelly excavates these untold histories and shows how the rights the American worker possess today — the forty-hour workweek, workplace-safety standards, restrictions on child labor, protection from harassment and discrimination on the job — were earned with literal blood, sweat, and tears. Fight Like Hell comes at a time of economic reckoning in America. From Amazon’s warehouses to Starbucks cafes, Appalachian coal mines to the sex workers of Portland’s Stripper Strike, interest in organized labor is at a fever pitch not seen since the early 1960s. Inspirational, intersectional, and full of crucial lessons from the past, Fight Like Hell shows what is possible when the working class demands the dignity it has always deserved. In this episode host Michael Shields and Kim Kelly talk about how a heavy metal writer and editor became a tireless advocate for the working class. They touch on a bevy of the stories told in Fight Like Hell, from early 1800’s washwoman and garment workers to the prison labor unions of today. They converse about how Covid-19 affected the worker’s right movement, the Amazon Union battles, and so much more.

Episode 132: Stuart Bogie's Prophets in the City

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, and music producer Stuart Bogie. Bogie has toured and recorded extensively with groups such as Antibalas, Arcade Fire, TV on the Radio, and Iron and Wine, to name a few, and he performed as the featured soloist in the original Broadway production of Fela!. As a composer/arranger, he scored the Oscar nominated documentary How To Survive a Plague, which featured performances by the Kronos Quartet alongside Bogie’s group Superhuman Happiness. He has appeared on recordings by renowned artists such as Craig Finn (of The Hold Steady), Cass McCombs, Sharon Van Etten, Angelique Kidjo (2 Grammy winning albums), Medeski Martin and Wood, Yeasayer, Spencer Day, Holly Miranda, Foals, Passion Pit, Mac Miller, and legendary improvised conductor Butch Morris.Bogie currently leads The Bogie Band featuring Joe Russo, a nine piece Winds and Drum group that just released their debut album entitled The Prophets In The City (Royal Potato Family) — the main focus of this episode. The Prophets in the City is a collaboration between old friends, as Bogie teams with drummer extraordinaire Joe Russo most known for helming Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Heightening Bogie's fiery arrangements and Russo's dynamic drumming, The Prophets in the City features a supporting cast of musicians whose resumes run through some of New York City's most beloved bands including Antibalas, The Dap-Kings, Budos Band, St. Vincent, and David Byrne's American Utopia.The resulting efforts on the debut album are riotous and jubilant, pushing the boundaries of instrumental music. In this episode host Michael Shields and Stuart Bogie discuss how New York City’s energy and spirit directly inspired The Prophets in the City. They discuss the brilliant grouping of players on the album and what it's like for Bogie to work with the phenomenally talented Joe Russo. They discuss music that has influenced Bogie over the years, a variety of his other projects, and so much more.