Taken from Charleston.Net (Feb 12, 2004)
'Everyone Deserves Music' from Michael Franti and Spearhead
by MARK R. PANTSARI
Relevant and reflective lyrical content in popular music is something of a rarity these days. Amidst the choreography, product placement and "wardrobe malfunctions" taking place in pop music, the all-too-often lip-synched lyrics often take a distant backseat to the hype.
In a career that spans two decades, Michael Franti's musical vision has been to find the rare and happy medium between music with a broad appeal and socially conscious lyrics.
"That's the craft," Franti said in a recent interview with Preview.
"I'm trying to make music that people want to listen to and enjoy, and plant seeds in the lyrics. I've learned, over the years of making music, that people don't really want to be hit over the head. They become more open to listening when they feel something from the music."
From his first group, the Beatnigs, in 1986 to 1992's Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (a group that also featured guitarist Charlie Hunter), Franti's career has continually progressed. Since 1994, he's been with his band, Spearhead.
By blending hip-hop, reggae, rock, jazz and funk with pop sensibilities, Michael Franti and Spearhead's 2003 release "Everyone Deserves Music" is an album that can easily make listeners stop and think about the music's message and dance like no one is watching.
From the funky, neo-soul of "What I Be" to the party, hip-hop vibes of "We Don't Stop," it's evident that Spearhead's sound provides a fitting backdrop to Franti's delivery.
With flowing rhymes, melodic rapping style and soulful singing, Franti's message is one that's refreshing to hear.
In what could easily be a hit on any Top 40 station, "Everyone Deserves Music" speaks of music's ability to unite people on a simple level.
Whereas "Bomb the World" hopes to bring "power to the peaceful," in Franti's view of war: "We can bomb the world to pieces, but we can't bomb it into peace."
The song seems all too poignant, considering the differing views on the current situation in the Middle East.
"It's an election year, and it's hard for anyone to avoid the politics," Franti said.
"It brings up the question of, as a nation, where do we want to be five years from now. Do we want to be viewed as a benevolent nation that looks out for the well-being of other, lesser-developed nations? Or do we want to be viewed as a military threat and a nation that has its own private agenda that comes at the end of a big stick if you don't agree with it?"
"We have to ask ourselves 'where do we want to be five years from now?' and get out and vote."
Franti and Spearhead have managed to take their music to diverse audiences through appearances with U2, Dave Matthews, Ani DiFranco, KRS-One and Phish's Trey Anastasio.
"What we try to do first is play great music," Franti said. "We are like a hip-hop jam band. At our shows we improvise and stretch the songs out to where our hearts are in that moment. The live show is something we put a lot of effort into. We pride ourselves on being a live band that does it by getting in the van for some hard work and playing live."
Michael Franti and Spearhead's current tour with Ziggy Marley seems to make perfect sense. Marley's latest album "Dragonfly" shows his reggae background seeping into more modern influences, and should vibe nicely with Spearhead Wednesday night at the Music Farm.
"We each have this strong bond and kinship that music can mean something in the hearts of people," Franti said. "It's not as though music will change the world over night, but I do know it can help us make it through a difficult night. And that's what a lot of people need."