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Taken from The Indianapolis Star March 12, 2004

Michael Franti is looking past hip-hop

by David Lindquist


Michael Franti
Michael Franti believes his views on world politics belong in his music. -- Artist Direct Records
Somewhere along the way, Michael Franti and hip-hop drifted apart.


As one of rap's sharpest social commentators, Franti took his Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy on tour with U2 in 1992, and he rhymed about poverty and charity on Spearhead's minor MTV hit from 1994, "Hole in the Bucket."


But now -- when hip-hop has become the dominant sound of popular music -- he's rapping less than ever. Current album "Everyone Deserves Music" unveils a modified name for his 10-year-old group, "Michael Franti and Spearhead," and it features a mostly sing, zero-bling formula.


"I love hip-hop, (but) it's not necessarily what I want to do as a musician," Franti says during a telephone interview.


"I like to play live, and I like touring. I believe that hip-hop is not so much about the music as it is about all of the marketing of this lifestyle, which is a lifestyle that's contrary to one that I want to live."


Fortunately, the "jam band" community has embraced the soul-funk-reggae evolution of Franti and Spearhead, who are scheduled to perform Sunday at the Vogue.


"I'm into music that enlightens people, music that inspires people, music that talks about what's happening in the world," Franti says. "I'm not interested in making music that's just about how much wealth I can accumulate and how I can (mistreat) other people to get that wealth."


Past tours with Blues Traveler and String Cheese Incident helped Spearhead connect with the improv-rock crowd. Franti says he admires the "jam" traits of in-concert experimentation, respect for musicianship and an overriding sense of community.


The 37-year-old draws a parallel to his personal history, starting with his adoption at birth by white parents in Oakland, Calif.


"My vision of family has never been limited to just black or white or who I was raised with," Franti says. "It's been about those people who surround me in my life -- who I love and who loves me. It extends beyond that to my community, and extends beyond that to the planet."


Global politics remain front and center in Franti's work. The chorus of "Bomb the World," a recent single from "Everyone Deserves Music," underscores his anti-war stance: "We can chase down all our enemies, bring them to their knees. We can bomb the world to pieces, but we can't bomb it to peace."


The musician says he's disappointed that news reports frequently focus on the economic and political impact of war, but rarely measure the human cost.


"If they were, this country and the rest of the world would stop war immediately," he says. "People would say, 'Why are we investing in this?' and 'What is the point of this?' "


As one might expect, Franti encourages his audiences to vote this fall.


"I firmly believe that, in the future, people are going to look back on this time the same way we look back at the time when there was whaling," Franti says. " 'You almost brought to extinction every whale on this planet because you wanted to light your street lamps with the blubber? You wanted to make soap out of the blubber?'


"Fifty years or 75 years from now, our children are going to say, 'You fought wars and killed thousands of people and destroyed your domestic economy because of this black stuff you dug up from the ground to run your cars? And the whole time, you had the sun overhead and vegetable fuels that could have done the same thing?' "

 
 

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