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Famous Like Me > Composer > F > Michael Franti

Profile of Michael Franti on Famous Like Me

Name: Michael Franti  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 21st April 1967
Place of Birth: Oakland, California, USA
Profession: Composer
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Michael Franti (born 1967) is an African-American poet, musician, and composer. Franti is currently the singer/songwriter for Spearhead, a band that mixes hip-hop with a wide variety of other styles including funk, reggae, folk, and rock.

Michael and his surfboard

Franti was part of the industrial punk band, The Beatnigs with DJ Rono Tse. His next project, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy found him working with jazz guitarist, Charlie Hunter. The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy wrote biting, progressive lyrics that railed against the injustice of the world and yearned for democratic reform. Everything Franti wrote about, from violence in hip hop, to racism and homophobia, were and still are politically relevant to this day.

At the time, some in the rap community attempted to dismiss Michael Franti's critique of the rampant, overt violence present in gangsta rap by ridiculing Franti's white parents who had adopted him as a child. In some ways, this attack pushed Franti even harder to discover and remain true to his roots as an African-American. Franti's supporters note that he pushes for peace and justice, regardless of race, and attempts to address contemporary social issues in America such as AIDS, homelessness, kidnappings, police brutality and the death penalty. They also note that he is a tireless crusader for peace in the Middle East, having recently returned from a visit to several countries in the region. Franti is also an ethical vegan.

In 1999, Franti retreated from the major-label grind to explore his music and politics. He returned the following year as an organizer and cultural worker tied to the rising movements against the death penalty, the prison-industrial complex and corporate globalization, voicing his observations through his music.

Stay Human was released in 2000 on his own indie label Boo Boo Wax and Six Degrees. The themes are about justice and survival, touching on issues like media monopolization and incarceration. On songs like "Never Too Late", Franti reflects on fatherhood, life and even death in a voice warm enough to carry his message. In an interview he talks about what his message is now, "Half the record is songs about what's happening in the world right now, and the other half is about how we cope with it as people who are concerned about what's going on," he says. "This spectre of war, intimidation, this nation vs. the rest of the world, it wears us out. Half the record is a healthy dose of venting anger about that, and the other half is about how do we hold on to our spirituality, our community and our connectedness to each other."

Everyone Deserves Music was released in 2003 and may represent the most connected, developed work he has ever done. He composed many of the songs from the guitar up, and, like fellow 21st century cultural globalists Manu Chao and Ozomatli, continues to synthesize his eclectic influences. In a departure from the noise of the Beatnigs and Disposable Heroes and the minimalism of early Spearhead, Franti's affirming lyrics are now set to appropriately swelling rock chords, while keeping a 21st century world-wise groove, nodding towards reggae, dancehall, bossa nova, Afrobeat, and funk. Anthems like the title track "Everyone Deserves Music", "Yes I Will" and "Bomb The World" are constructed with a nod to the '80s rock of The Clash and U2, as well as classic soul from Stax and Motown. The wicked "We Don't Stop" (featuring the Gift of Gab from Blackalicious and Spearhead's rapper/beatbox technician Radioactive) even manages to bridge the two sounds in a "Magnificent Seven" style mash-up. And on "Love Why Did You Go Away" and "What I Be", Franti's reveals an alluring, sensual singing voice. Two gems, "Pray For Grace" and "Bomb The World (Armageddon Version)"pair Franti with the reggae/funk giants Sly and Robbie (Grace Jones, Rolling Stones, Black Uhuru No Doubt), collaborations designed to move minds and bodies.Indeed, Everyone Deserves Music might be called a movement record dedicated to the preservation of "the motion of the hips." Franti's revolution has never been this funky.

Since the release of Stay Human in 2000 Michael Franti and Spearhead have toured relentlessly, headlining hundreds of shows for their legions of devoted fans as well as sharing the stage with acts as diverse as Dave Matthews, Ani Di Franco, Trey Anastasio (Phish) and KRS-One.

They continue to hit the festival circuit worldwide, in addition to producing the annual "Power to the Peaceful" festival which has drawn over 20,000 people to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco over the past seven years. In both popular music and the peace movement, Franti has never been more relevant and influential than now. Lyrics from his song, "Bomb The World", written in the dark aftermath of September 11, have found their way onto protest signs and T-shirts all over the world from Los Angeles to Berlin, San Francisco Chronicle to CNN as millions have marched for peace. "You can bomb the world to pieces," he sings, "but you can't bomb it into peace."

"Right now, people ask me, 'What can one person do to change what's going on with the world?' I don't know what one person can do except to connect with other people. In doing that, each of us play our roles," he says. "My role is as a storyteller and a songwriter. I'm somebody who is trying to keep the spirits of other people up, despite all the chaos and fear around us"

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Michael Franti