Saturday, 16 January 2010

Reggae Inspired Influences from Michael Franti & Spearhead

Michael Franti & Spearhead

Oakland, CA born Michael Franti has occupied a unique position in American music over his two decade career. Cutting against the grain of fashion, he has been an outspoken champion of social justice - whether that's fighting for human rights, veteran's rights, ridding poverty or producing his 50,000 capacity 'Power To The Peaceful' festival each year. His newest album 'All Rebel Rockers' has struck a loud chord Stateside and become a hit record. Recorded in Jamaica at the Anchor Studio with Island Records legends Sly & Robbie, the album produced the rapturous dancehall-reggae hybrid lead single 'Say Hey (I Love You)'. With Kingston's own Cherine Anderson on guest vocals, the single has sold a million copies (certified platinum) in the US, and the video has been watched close to 4 million times on Youtube. Commercial success has come as an afterthought for Franti after two decades of trailblazing socially conscious music. Franti's first band in the 80s was an avant-garde industrial punk band called The Beatnigs signed to the Dead Kennedy's label Alternative Tentacles, who gained infamy in the Bay Area hardcore scene. Then he formed a hip hop duo, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Their 1992 debut 'Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury' was released by Island Records and saw the band open for other conscious acts like U2 and Public Enemy and his single 'Television Drug Of The Nation' charting and gaining critical acclaim from press. He appeared on William S. Burroughs poetry and spoken word album 'Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales' (also on Island in 1993) providing the funky backdrop for the subversive 'Words of Advice for Young People'. In 1994 Franti started a rootsy, funk-orientated group called Spearhead and dissolved the Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Michael Franti & Spearhead's seminal 2001 album 'Stay Human' began the band's ingenious hip hop, folk and funk genre-fusing, with 2006's 'Yell Fire' and their current 'All Rebel Rockers' exploring their more Reggae-inspired influences. With a laid-back, trans-global Cali vibe 'All Rebel Rockers' blends feel-good love songs and pointed lyrical content. "Increasingly over my life, I have less interest in being part of the fighting between parties" says Franti "I'm interested in bringing people together on the left and the right, to face the issues of the day. The problems from global warming to the economy that we face today are so clearly universal that we need to address them together." Michael Franti's message hasn't change but in 2010 more people want to listen.

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