Li(f)e is a marked evolution for Sage Francis. The celebrated agentprovocateur of hip hop brings his signature wordplay, a dazzling mix of sardonic humor and biting social commentary, to a setting complimented by a talented band consisting of producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron and Wine) and cohorts Jim Becker and Tim Rutili of the acclaimed Chicago outfit Califone. Along for the ride are some of indie rock's most prestigious songwriters. Take album opener "Little Houdini," a stirring Steinbeckian tale of prison break, with music written by ex Grandaddy frontman JasonLytle. "We specifically sought out songwriters who had never worked with a rapper," Francis explains. "I didn't want them to write music they thought they should for hip-hop. The music for 'Little Houdini' was a long epic instrumental piece Jason had just hanging around which I then worked my story into." With collaborations with Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie, Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse, Calexico, and DeVotchKa, Sage is pushing the envelope of a genre he helped create, with a confrontational tongue and wit to match Shepard Fairy's iconic album artwork. The record's title says it all: a deliberate amalgamation of the words life and lie. As Francis says, "What about life is a lie? What we're told about God is a lie. What we're told about race, gender roles, beauty, war, food, drugs, sexuality, capitalism, history, the nature of humankind...a gang of lies. I feel it in my gut, I think it in my brain, I write it with my hands and I speak it with my mouth."