Sage didn’t make XXL Magazine’s Freshmen 2014 list, but you can argue he’s doing better than most of the rappers who did. By dropping just two singles, this man single-handedly turnt up Vine, YouTube, the West Coast and eventually the Billboard charts. Now I never use the word “turnt”, but when talking about Sage the Gemini it’s appropriate.
With songs like “Gas Pedal” and “Red Nose”, the young Cali artist is one of the few who has made a very coastal sound into a new wave in rap. The bay-area tempo and bounce has been blazing the radio and is hot in the market. It’s so popular, teenage girls can’t seem to have a sleepover without having one friend record another friend twerking to Sage blaring on little computer speakers and uploading it on Vine. The new Bay Area scene is a breath of fresh air in a genre that forgets to have fun.
The 21-year-old Gemini decided to claim his stay by releasing his debut album Remember Me on March 25, 2014. Usually rappers heat up with several mixtapes over a span of a couple years before releasing a debut, but that formula doesn’t stick with Sage. His success is so big and viral, he probably felt he didn’t need to build a buzz with three free projects consisting of 15 songs each when two singles did that already. A method most rappers wish they could follow.
On the down side, when young artists have tremendous success too early in their career they try to stretch their luck. Sage exemplifies his style, lane and the type of music he produces on Remember Me, but at the same time lacks the subject variety and natural originality on some songs. An album filled with singles urges hip-hop fans like me to look for more dimensions.
In a couple interviews, Sage said the album title is a way to get back at the doubters who hated on his dream. With a meaningful title I had hoped for more conceptual records, possibly about his come-up and personal struggle. All his fans know he can get hype and be the life of the party, but when it comes to albums I believe there should be a parallel theme to the project’s title. Sage has songs that coincide with it, but they’re only glimpses of a very in-depth artist fans unfortunately don’t see enough of. Fans of this album will get the “ratchet-party” Sage, but not the 21-year-old young man with an inspiring story.
The intro titled “Remember Me” is one of the highlights of the album. Haunting synths, vibrant keys, light claps, a catchy chanting chorus, fun lyricism and a relatable concept make this one of the better songs on the LP. This is his “I made it, ha-ha” anthem, something that goes perfectly with the title. The hook will have teens screaming “Remember me? Fuck the cool crowd, bitch I’m a nerd / This is not a high school, the cool crowd absurd.” Sage isn’t afraid to be himself when he raps, “There was bitches there thicker than a steak fry / But I couldn’t get head on FaceTime / They used to treat a nigga like a step child.” The intro perfectly balances his personality, artistry and style in a 2-minute 53-second record. Not to mention the first verse showcases his flow capabilities. The same cadence that makes me want to throw up the thizz. R.I.P Mac Dre.
Sage further impresses me and continues the get back on “Put Me On”. Gemini stands up for himself, states his hard work and suggests any haters or aspiring artists to do the same, no less. He shows his inspirational side while maintaining humility. Rather than non-stop braggadocios bars and rubbing his accolades in people’s faces, Sage lends genuine advice while defending his integrity to the city. He raps, “The reason I got a name from when it’s dry or it’s pouring / I was trying to make beats past 4 in the morning” and “Strive for the spot ‘til the struggle is gone / but even then work harder until the struggle is foreign.” Sage has earned a lot of my respect and left me wondering why he didn’t show this side more on the LP.
There are moments on this album where he tries to create the same radio magic again but it doesn’t seem to translate. On the second song “Bad Girls”, the synth sounds like a stretched-out whiney harmonica that’s more distractingly loud than complementary. The chorus is very mundane, repeating “I want a bad girl” over and over again that sounds flushed out under the auto tune, making it very hard to listen. “Don’t You” is along the same lines where the beat contains very weird off-sounding synths and bland repetitive piano keys. His whispery delivery sounds awkward and doesn’t mesh well with the chorus. Songs like this make me appreciate the bouncy-spark that originally made me a fan of Sage.
The radio-hit attempts and lack of depth make this a good outfit for a mixtape rather than a debut album. I believe full-length albums should showcase the artist as a person and the small teases of his inspirational side show he can incorporate more dimensions in his music. Not saying his other party songs are bad, but after the same concepts in one continuous listen, it makes me want a different aspect of Sage outside the club. Sage the Gemini’s Remember Me showcases him as a songwriter but I believe if he becomes too experimental with the production, leaves his niche too early and doesn’t incorporate more of himself then the scene will miss his presence before they fully get to appreciate his contribution to the game.