Ethen Jimenez may be just 19 years old, but the Costa Mesa-based rapper known as Sage One already feels wise beyond his years. "I guess you could say I'm an old soul. I wanted something that speaks of wisdom," Jimenez says, reflecting on his hip-hop alias. "When I think of a sage, I think of that random old guy in the woods who just has all this knowledge and who will let you know how things are with no bullshit."
Embodying that truth-telling ideal in the form of rapping is something Jimenez began to take seriously as a 14-year-old in Garden Grove. "I keep it really truthful," he says. "I'll spit about events that have happened in my life that are straight heartbreaking, the things that I've been through that have made me stronger today because of them."
His love for hip-hop started after being given a copy of Atmosphere's Outcast! "I was just like, 'Damn, what is this? This is rapping, but it ain't rapping, you know? It's actually like life coming alive through my speakers.'" From there, Jimenez ventured into the realm of underground artists such as People Under the Stairs and the Living Legends for inspiration, cultivating a youthfully energetic yet disciplined delivery.
About a year later, he crossed paths with Eduardo Iniestra, a rapper and DJ who was working with the Save Our Youth center in Costa Mesa. "Eddie was actually the first person to reach out to me," Jimenez remembers. "I was going to independent studies [in high school]. I had a lot of time on my hands."
Iniestra told him that if hip-hop were really what he liked to do, to come back to the center. Jimenez returned the very next day and the two began collaborating. "Eddie actually paid for my first studio session. That's what really broke me in," Jimenez says. "If he weren't ever to do that, I would not be where I am today."
The two are still working together, with Iniestra laying down scratches for Sage One's forthcoming six-song EP, Summertime. "The beats are really smooth," Jimenez says. "It's like the summertime feeling, the good vibes of being with the homies or enjoying family." A planned follow-up, Wintertime Blues, will be a bit on the darker, colder side musically and lyrically.
Whatever the weather, Sage One just wants to see his music and fan base grow, a task he's willing to take risks for. In Huntington Beach, in between shots for his first music video, for the song "Rolling Stoned," the baseball-cap-and-raglan-sleeved-shirt-wearing rapper engaged in an experiment. "I got right into the smack-dab center, right in front of the pier and started hollering out, 'Free poetry!'" His call attracted few at first. "The more I started flowing, the more people started to come around." He started off his piece saying, "I'm caged behind a prison of music/Doing life behind bars."
By the street performance's end, Jimenez shook hands and thanked all who applauded. If that spontaneous one-man show at the beach serves as a metaphor for Sage One's hip-hop horizons, the rapper is ready. "I want to be the voice of this generation," he says. "I want to make this music all my life. This is what I was born to do."
Gabriel San Roman is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and tallest Mexican in OC.