Listen Up: Wednesday, July 2, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Michael Franti and Spearhead

Everyone Deserves Music (Boo Boo Wax Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

Listening to the lyrics on Everyone Deserves Music, the new c.d. from San Francisco-based groove rocker/hip-hopper Michael Franti, you might get the idea that this fella is overly concerned with The War, making this the most, uh, relevant piece of product since the Rolling Stones’ song “Highwire” from the first Gulf War. But those who know history understand that Franti’s a no-fooling political activist who puts his money where his mouth is.

A black man raised by white parents in Oakland, Franti sings about what’s on his mind, and what’s on his mind these days is “military madness, the smell of flesh and burning things.” “We can bomb the world to pieces,” he sings, “but we can’t bomb it into peace.”

After emerging in 1986 with the industrial noise of the Beatnigs and continuing in the early ’90s with the multiculti Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (dismissed by some as hip-hop for white liberals), Franti added ’70s R&B influences on the first Spearhead disc, Home, in 1990. He bailed out of a Capitol Records contract in 1999 to work and organize protests against the death penalty and corporate globalization.

Musically, Franti comes across like a ’70s revivalist in the manner of the Brand New Heavies, saturated with the consciousness and supple groove of Curtis Mayfield and Bob Marley. “We Don’t Stop” borrows rhythmically from the Clash’s “The Magnificent Seven.” The gentle “Never Too Late” boasts Beatlesque orchestration. Dub masters Sly and Robbie from Peter Tosh’s old riddim section join him on two cuts. Lyrically, he’s a social commentator à la Gil Scott-Heron, minus the scathing anger. “Power to the peaceful,” indeed.


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