Michael Franti and Spearhead Stay Human

Ever since his days in the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Michael Franti has searched for the best way to get his message of resistance and awareness to the people. Perhaps realising the blunt messages and the industrial sound of DHOH may not have been the best way, Franti moved on to create Spearhead, fusing soul and political consciousness, and on their third effort, Stay Human, Franti seems to have finally made the record he always wanted to. Over the years Franti has diversified his voice from sounding a little too much like Chuck D to heartfelt singing, scatting and the occasional rap developing it into a mellower, mature instrument. This change is important as it serves to make Franti's deconstructions of the fallacies of democracy palatable and less didactic. It also helps that here Franti humanises issues instead of talking them in abstract terms. Stay Human takes on the form of a play following a community radio station, with hosts conveying the saga of the fictional case of Sister Fatima, a community activist on Death Row who is being used as a pawn in an upcoming election by an ultra right-wing politician. These segments are inserted between the sincere songs that draw on gritty soul, P-Funk and hip-hop. Franti's voice is coaxing, angry and, most importantly, heartfelt and fearlessly articulate in exposing criminal injustice, race and class schisms. Although the case woven in between the songs is fictional and does have a little bit of melodrama, its proximity to reality is quite chilling. In the wake of recent increasing political agency, Spearhead's righteous message proves to be right on beat and time. (Six Degrees)