Taken from Shakethrus (August 16, 2003)
Michael Franti and Spearhead: EDM
Boo Boo Wax, 2003
by Kevin Forest Moreau
As a member of the Beatnigs and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Michael Franti once stood poised to break out as one of hip-hop's holiest prophets, the love child of Chuck D. and Gil-Scott Heron. But what's jarring about Everyone Deserves Music, his latest effort with post-Heroes project Spearhead, is the way in which confrontation has given way to contemplation. On songs like the summery soul-funk opener "What I Be," "Love Invincible" and the Bob Marley-inspired "Pray for Grace," Franti trades in his challenging rhetoric for humility. Musically, it's a natural progression; "We Don't Stop," "Bomb the World" and "Never Too Late" sport easy, organic arrangements, and Franti's once sharp voice has weathered into a fine, light instrument. Lyrically, however, the fit is less precise, as on the title track, in which Franti adopts a naive, treacly all-is-love vibe: "Even our worst enemies deserve music," he sings, an all too forgiving stance from a onetime politically conscious firebrand. Such sentiments, well-intentioned though they are, prove distracting. It doesn't help that Music is heavily front-loaded, with album highlights "What I Be," the funky singalong "We Don't Stop" and "Bomb the World" packed fairly close together. That's good for the album's early flow, but it's less of an advantage as the disc wears on (although a remix of "Bomb the World," featuring Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar, does prop up the final stretch). The musical stretches Spearhead makes go a long way toward making Everyone Deserves Music a memorable, even highly recommended affair, but the sanding down of Franti's rougher edges just prevents it from being an essential album. Spearhead fans deserve more consistently inspiring fare than they get here.