I myself don’t follow a vegetarian lifestyle. In fact, I’m the poster boy for eating meat. But when I found out that one of my favorite musicians is strictly vegetarian, I just had to get more information.
Paul Francis, better known to the underground hip-hop community as Sage Francis, is a practicing vegetarian. Famous for creative lyricism injected with intellectual outlooks, Sage Francis embodies all that is precise and mystical in the underground hip-hop culture Legendarily self-aware and honest, Mr. Francis has his hands in political activism and can always be heard at a poetry slam sharing insightful, Freudian paradoxes. Sage Francis, as well as his alter ego Xaul Zan, sit down with me and discuss the ways of a vegetarian sharing the spotlight with music.
You yourself are a proud vegetarian and for many it happens to be an unknown fact. Right out of the gate, when did you choose this lifestyle and more importantly why?
“I’m actually not proud of my diet. I’ve never been proud of my diet in any of its various incarnations. I remember when my parents went on a fad diet in the mid-80’s where they ate nothing but hotdogs and beans. This was supposed to make people lose weight somehow. As a fat kid I gladly took part in this diet and it became a bonding experience of sorts. Gross. I didn’t boast about this diet at school and thankfully slam poetry wasn’t around at the time. Who knows what kind of awful slam poem could have been written about a strict frank-and-beans diet. Alas, I first went vegetarian in 1996 based on a bet. I was proud of winning the bet.”
For the most part, eating establishments impersonate “vegetarian” cuisine with super- sized side dishes or appetizers. When touring, how hard is it to follow your restrictions when fried meat wonderlands are seemingly the only option?
“I’m not too picky of an eater so I never feel too restricted. I wish I had higher standards but I really don’t. Eating on the road can be just as horrible as it is great. It all depends on where you are during a coast-to-coast jaunt as well as the free time you have (which there usually isn’t a lot of.) During the long drives we are stuck with gas station cuisine. It’s a lot of junk food and bad coffee. However, when the stars are aligned just perfectly, we stumble upon great mom-and-pop eateries which can offer home cooked meals in the middle of nowhere America. Of course there are the certain restaurants in every city that we try to hit up but by the time we get to the club we don’t often have the time or energy to get the good stuff. I usually just walk down the street from the club and try to find pizza or Thai.”
Whether it pertains to energy consumption or food, America is the land of excess and overindulgence. In your worldly travels, are there any cultures and/or countries that cater to a thoughtful existence in relation to food?
“I’m not sure if there’s any place in the world that thinks about this kind of thing more than certain segments of North America. There may be some countries that have more organic or healthy food by default but it’s not the kind of thing where they consciously cater to anything that is ‘thoughtful.’ I do know that America provides me with my favorite food options. No one else knows how to make pizza the right way. Especially not France.”
Is there anything you can recommend to someone considering a vegetarian lifestyle?
“Don’t be like me.”
Your alter ego, Xaul Zan, is deliberate and forth coming. Does Mr. Zan share the same outlook on food as you?
“Xaul Zan is still stuck on the frank and beans diet. He does sneak in some broccoli from time to time.”
In a line from Different on the album Personal Journals, you state, “I’m a real vegetarian, no chicken not even fish/I’m a real underground rapper: my tape quality sucks, my records are warped and my CD skips.” What else does your vegetarian diet not consist of?
“It does not consist of haggis. Haggis is a wonderful Scottish dish containing a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs minced with spices and simmered in the animal’s stomach. Mmmmm!”
And finally, if by chance you were to introduce a perfect stranger to the vegetarian culture, what restaurant would you take them to and what dish would you recommend?
“There are so many incredible spots. But since there’s only one place that has named a dish after me I would have to take them to the Bad Apple in Chicago and force feed them the Strange Famous Burger. Then maybe we’d dip over to MN so I could treat them to some Pizza Luce.”
Sage Francis’ most recent album, Li(f)e is available now.