Taken from Music Monitor (May, 1997)
Spearhead: Chocolate Supa Highway
by Barbara Beebe
Only a few people found their way Home when Spearhead pointed the way in their 1994 debut. Like the organizers of a highly publicized, low-turnout house party, Michael Franti and crew needed some soulutions. Thus, the construction of the Chocolate Supa Highway. This no-tolls journey is a comfortable ride to Hip-Hop Consciousness, USA.
Along the way, youll experience some memorable aural attractions. Check out the stunning vocal addition of the recruited warrior Trina Simmons on
"Madness in Tha Hood (Free Ride)." This musical tour through da' ghetto has her overlapping melodies underscored by Ras I Zulu's chanting and is truly bumping. This free ride will run you straight into "Rebel Music (3 OClock Roadblock)," a reggae/hip-hop collision between Franti and Stephen Marley that's bound to get everybody paid!
"Tha Payroll/(Be Strong)" is by far one of Spearhead's best attractions on this journey. The song's dense and compact structure may take a few listens to get used to, but no other song on this disc is as relevant and timely in this "down-sized" economy. The accompanying guitar and percussion are purposely out of hip-hop sync and the result is smashing.
The adventurous drivers will head for the first unpaved road where they'll find the "Wayfaring Stranger." This is rapabilly at its best, and the fusion of country, gospel, folk and hip-hop is spiritually lifting and mesmerizing. The magnificent voice you hear is Joan Osbourne. Feeling like a cross between a field holler and a funeral dirge, this is by far the most emotional cut on this release. Mark your map, 'cause this is the spot to return to when youve lost your way.
As a bonus to those who've followed Franti's road to success (Beatnigs, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Spearhead), Chocolate Supa Highway includes a repaved, chocolate version of "Water Pistol Man." The fact that the song works so well here is a testament to Frantis durability and lyrical handling.
Chocolate Supa Highway is an impressive map and well lit path. Hitchhikers on the highway should know that all Spearhead roads lead to Home