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Taken from Tucson Citizen (January 29, 2004)

Hip-hop veteran Michael Franti still evolving


Michael FrantiAs the leader of the musically-adventurous "Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy," Michael Franti was at the forefront of the '90s movement of taking hip-hop beyond its traditional boundaries to include jazz, reggae and world music.

With his new group, Spearhead, Franti has continued to evolve as an artist.

Last year's "Everybody Deserves Music," was perhaps Franti's best and most mature effort, a wonderful collection of socially-conscious lyrics over a dazzling variety of musical sounds.

While Franti's lyrics are politically and socially conscious, he considers himself a storyteller.

"I found when you are overtly political, people either agree with you right away or they tune you out right away. But if you write a narrative, people get caught up in the story... . And that's how people change," he said in a recent phone interview.

Franti has also not been afraid to touch on social issues that most hip-hop artists have shied away from, particularly AIDS and gay rights.

It was Franti's move to San Francisco that first brought the issues to his attention.

"When I first moved over there in the early '80s, I was startled because I grew up in a pretty conservative family. I grew up in a situation where my parents were very kind of closed. My father was an alcoholic so that kept him closed in a whole different kind way. I was surprised to see gay people in the street.

Then, when the AIDS crisis came about in 1986 I saw people who were friends of mine through music and the art world, whose parents had abandoned them because they came out of the closet. They were suffering through illness and death alongside of their lovers, who were taking care of them and cleaning their bed sores and holding their hands on the street as they were going blind and ultimately shrivelling up and dying. And I started to realize that it's not so important who you choose to love as do you choose to love?"

A truly refreshing attitude in the macho world of hip-hop


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