If you listen to the one of the local hip-hop stations in the San Francisco Bay Area, nine times out of ten the song playing is either Sage the Gemini’s “Gas Pedal” or “Red Nose.” Those songs are so ubiquitous that Sage has admitted in interviews that he’s sick of hearing them. He worked hard to be at a point where his songs are driving people nuts. The 21-year old dropped out of high school in Fairfield, California to focus on music full time, and it took five long years before “Gas Pedal” and “Red Nose” finally took off in 2013.
“Remember Me,” which dropped in March, collects several songs that were on 2013’s “Gas Pedal EP” plus nine new tracks (thirteen if you buy the deluxe version). Sage uses the album to prove that there is more to him than making songs to get girls shaking their asses.
Musically, the songs on “Remember Me” stick close to the template that has earned him a spot in the Top 40: stripped-down, pulsing beats with a keyboard providing melody. It’s a sound that can trace its roots to hyphy staples like “Vans” and “Blow The Whistle,” as well as the Neptunes minimalist classic “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” He also throws in some hi-hats, snare snaps and synthesizers. He favors ambient elements over dance elements, which gives his compositions a dreamy feel. Sage the Gemini’s music mirrors his lyrical persona: laid-back, a little street and a little romantic. P-Lo, League of Starz, the Exclusives, and Jay Ant also take the boards. The wistful beat on “Mad At Me,” the punishing 808s of “Down On Your Luck,” and the whining gangsta lean of “Second Hand Smoke” show that Sage is as adept at choosing beats as he is at making them.
“Remember Me” delivers somewhat on its promise to show that there is more to Sage than booty anthems. There are several songs where Sage flexes his newfound money and fame at the people who ignored him when he was coming up. The title track is Sage the high school dropout saying nyah nyah to the people at his school, bragging about his success and proclaiming “Cool bro, bitch I’m a nerd!” “Second Hand Smoke” is about how he has tried to avoid the streets, proclaiming “I can’t handle the pen unless it’s a record deal.” “Go Somewhere” is a surprisingly romantic song from a guy whose biggest hit asks women to dance like dogs:
“Excuse me? I know you don’t care
But I saw you from across the room
And I just want to say I like your hair
Maybe some time we can go somewhere?”
His range only goes so far, however. Sage has said in interviews that he doesn’t really drink, smoke, or hang out in the club. That’s odd considering that many of the songs on this album reference drinking and smoking in the VIP section of clubs. Sage and his HBK crew fall into the same trap a lot of younger rappers fall into, dropping the same twenty references to luxury goods, smoking blunts, drinking champagne, and getting with bad bitches in the club. There is a rigidity and conservativeness to the subject matter that is at odds with how expansive the music is. Maybe it’s a product of being 21. At that age, what more to life is there but girls, partying, and hanging out with your friends? And do we really want to hear songs about hungover Mondays and working shit jobs to pay the rent?
It’s frustrating that so many of the songs stick to the same cliched themes because Sage can actually rap. He’s got a low-key charm, spitting his rhymes effortlessly. He sounds like a dude who knows what he is doing, not some kid who is barely old enough to buy his own liquor. “Remember Me” isn’t a perfect album, but it has some great songs and a lot of promise. Sage the Gemini has established himself as an artist worth remembering.