About Michael Franti & Spearhead
Michael Franti is an American rapper, musician, poet, activist, documentarian, and singer-songwriter. Michael Franti is known for having participated in many musical projects , including the Beatnigs and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. He is the creator and lead vocalist of his current independent project, Michael Franti & Spearhead, a band that blends hip hop with a variety of other styles including funk, reggae, jazz, folk, and rock. He is also an outspoken supporter for a wide spectrum of peace and social justice issues, and he is especially an advocate for peace in the Middle East.
Michael Franti was born in Oakland, California. His mother, Mary Lofy, had Irish, German, and Belgian ancestry, and his father, Thomas Hopkins, was of African-American and Native American descent. However, his mother put him up for adoption because she was afraid that her racist family would not accept him. He was adopted by Carole Wisti and Charles Franti, a Finnish American couple in Oakland, who at the time had three biological children and one adopted African American son. Charles Franti was a professor in the department of epidemiology and preventive medicine of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and died in 2003. Michael's four adoptive siblings are named Rebecca, Sara, Dan, and Matthew. Michael spent his grade 9 school year at Highland Junior High School in Edmonton, Alberta. He then attended Davis Senior High School and University of San Francisco on a full basketball scholarship.
During his time at school there he met a priest who taught him how to tell a story on paper, and soon he was writing poetry. He purchased a bass at a pawn shop and started creating music inspired by hip hop, punk, and reggae that was being played on the campus radio station, KUSF. Franti also has four half siblings, Thea, Thomas, Charles and Arthur Hopkins.
Franti began his music career in 1986 as part of the industrial punk/spoken word band The Beatnigs. While attending the University of San Francisco and living above KUSF he developed a fascination with music and decided to start a band. The Beatnigs included dancer and percussionist Rono Tse; the band released a self-titled LP and an EP Television on Alternative Tentacles records. The records received some critical acclaim but little fame beyond the San Francisco Bay Area.
The 1988 LP release The Beatnigs was recorded at Dancin' Dog Studio in Emeryville and distributed by Alternative Tentacles. In addition to Michael Franti and Ron Tse, the band included Henry Flood on percussion, Andre Flores on keyboards, and Kevin Carnes on vocals. All of the band members made multiple instrumental contributions, including industrial percussion.
His next project, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, found Franti continuing his collaboration with Tse, and working with jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter, and electronic musicians Mark Pistel and Jack Dangers . The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy wrote politically charged lyrics that railed against the injustices of the world, set to a fusion of industrial music and hip hop. Their first album, Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury , won plaudits for its social commentary, and they were chosen by U2 to open for their Zoo TV Tour.
It is important to note that this album is one of Franti's remarkable works as an artist activist. The first song of the album Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury is 'Satanic Reverses', a song which criticizes the oil and fossil fuel industry and speaks directly to the company Exxon. Another notable work of rebel art in Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury is 'Television The Drug of The Nation' which as the title implies, blame television for a political numbing of the people of the United States and this point becomes explicit in the lyrics: "T.V., it satellite links, our United States of unconsciousness, apathetic therapeutic and extremely addictive". This track consists of spoken word type lyrics backed up by heavy, bright and strong percussive timbres, which express the upfront exclamation that urges one to wake up from the trance set upon by T.V. The song had been previously recorded by Franti's former project, The Beatnigs and received wide airplay on alternative and college radio stations.
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