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Taken from Dancing About Architecture (??, 2001)
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Stay Human

(Six Degrees)
by Tim Frommer

Michael Franti Music with heart and a message, not to mention slammin' beats. Former Disposable Hero of Hiphoprisy, Franti's newest release with his band Spearhead is a stridently pro-life disc -- and I don't mean that in terms of the abortion debate -- incorporating an incredibly funky groove with direct lyrics and an interesting, though pedantic, radio play interspersed between the songs.

The album's title is a plea that works on several levels and the songs back that up: anti-violence, anti-racism, anti-death penalty, pro-medicinal marijuana and pro-environment. The lyrics included in the CD booklet are augmented by brief quotes against capital punishment from an array of celebrity types including Krist Novoselic and Kenneth Cole and salient incarceration statistics.

Franti's rich baritone is well-deployed from rap to spoken word to reggae inflection to r'n'b and is augmented by a variety of guest vocalists, including Zap Mama. His impassioned, eloquent delivery touches on a wide swath of society's ills with ingratiating choruses and nonsense syllables that implant themselves in your brain after one spin. The album's bookends "Oh My God" and "Skin on the Drum" are two stand-outs and "Listener Supported" is my favorite with its props to low power radio. The muscular flexibility of Spearhead keeps the music on par with the vocalist's magnetism. It's music that moves your hips and your brain at the same time. My favorite kind.

Rating: 8


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