Taken from Jam ShowBiz (March 8, 1997)
Angry young man turns introspective
by ERROL NAZARETH
There are a few lines in Spearhead's forthcoming CD, Chocolate Supa Highway, that suggest head Spearhead Michael Franti's not above self-analysis.
And that's refreshing when you consider Franti's reputation as a strident political songwriter, a breed that's given to training its crosshairs on others before aiming at itself.
"Water pistol man full of ammunition / squirtin' fires on a worldwide mission / But did you ever think to stop to squirt the flowers in your own backyard?" Franti sings in Water Pistol Man.
"The song's directed at myself," Franti agrees, prior to his spoken word performance here last month. "As a kid, I never knew my birth parents.
"I was raised by a foster family so I always had questions like, `Where did I come from?,' `Where are my roots?' and my situation made me ask a lot of questions of self," he explains.
"So, I've always been, like, `F-- the trends, f-- the conformist stuff and f-- what people say about me. Let me chart my own path and I've really tried to do that in my music.' "
Franti's been singing it like he talks it all along -- from his tenure with the abrasive Beatnigs, to industrial agit-rappers Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, to his current crew, Spearhead.
Over deeply sensual and soulful music, Franti unleashes righteous rage -- "Yes, I remember the time in Oklahoma you tried to blame an Arab but the whitey was the bomber" -- and introspective diction -- "I took for granted the dope s-- that you did for me, I mistook all your lovin' for captivity."
Unfortunately, there's a price to be paid for being this honest and political, and Franti pays every once in a while.
"People who don't know me take shots at me, people review the record like they've never listened to it, and the s-- really hurts," he says.
"I get really frustrated sometimes but I stop and think, `When I worked at McDonald's and as a bike messenger, not one person clapped when I handed them a Big Mac or delivered a package.'
"But now, I get to do shows, share my creativity with people and connect with them," Franti adds. "And that's not something everyone's able to do."
Franti says Chocolate Supa Highway, which arrives in stores March 25, is "about coming to the end of the decade.
"I think everybody's gonna think about what's happened over the last hundred years and how we got to this point," he says.
"Since 1901, the computer, the atomic bomb, and the car have come along but we're still dealing with the same problems `cause the aim's always been to create a consumer utopia.
"We're exporting consumerism and that's the new colonization," he adds. "We're getting kids in India strung out, they want Guess Jeans 'cause they see that on MTV."
And, as the album title suggests, it's also about the 'Netification of the globe.
"I think we put undue importance on the Internet," says Franti, who only goes on-line to e-mail friends.
"It's kinda like Michael Jackson. What you feel about him says more about you than it does Michael Jackson."