In a world in which most music is corporate-sponsored pap that succeeds only because it's the only thing on the menu, most politically-inspired music falls flat on its ass, much in the same way that a fern cannot survive in the desert. Some acts, however, have been successful either in spite of or even because of their political stance. Much like Christian rock, it's hard to make music that's all about a message that doesn't totally suck, but one person with a positive gift for this is Michael Franti. Today, he tours with a band called Spearhead, but before Spearhead there was The Disposable Heroes of Hiphopracy. Franti rapped over percussion assembled by Rono Tse, and the result was a sort of sublime fusion of political message and imaginative hip-hop that is not only worth listening to due to its message, but also due to its pure, palpable quality.
Those who cannot remember history are condemned to repeat it, and albums like this one are a great reminder of that. In The Winter of the Long Hot Summer for example, we cover U.S. foreign relations:
We tried to remember the history in the region
the French foreign legion, Imperialism,
Peter O'Toole and hate the Ayatollah
were all we learned in school
Not that we gave Hussein five billion
Not of our new bed partner the Syrian
and of course no mention of the Palestine situation
Of course, after creating Hussein, we left him in power when it was clear that he was committing genocide against a subset of his own population, and finally had to go back again. And speaking of giving people money, we effectively created the Taliban as well by not only funding them, but by providing them training, just as we did for Hussein's people before them.
Perhaps this portion of the same song will also look familiar:
On January second the Bush administration
announced a recession had stricken
the Nation the highest quarterly
earnings in ten years were posted
Although they have dropped somewhat since peaking at around $3.20 per gallon, gas prices reached record highs just a few months ago - as oil companies once again posted their highest earnings in years, and in fact their highest profits ever. Meanwhile, people in Europe are paying at least twice what we are for fuel, and often four times as much, which reflects the actual cost of importing fuel.
Not every track on the CD is motivated politically; for example, one of the gems of the album is Music and Politics, a melodic and poignant self-examination. But as you might expect, the best of the album is quite political, just as in Franti's current efforts. In particular, one of the best cuts is Franti's version of California Über Alles, Jello Biafra's seminal track which he has used to attack one political figure after another. Franti chooses to pursue then-governor of California Jerry Brown, who has been long reviled for his role in supporting corporations, increased numbers of prisons and inmates to fill them, and for systematically dismantling the funding for the state's education system at a time when California was ranked forty-fifty in the nation.
Fans of Franti's current material who are also hip-hop fans absolutely must have this album. It provides an interesting insight into what drives Michael Franti today.
|Famous and Dandy (Like Amos and Andy)||Franti||6:34|
|Television, the Drug of the Nation||Franti||6:38|
|Language of Violence||Franti||6:15|
|The Winter of the Long Hot Summer||Franti||7:59|
|Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury||Franti||3:47|
|Everyday Life Has Become a Health Risk||Franti||4:54|
|Ins Greencard A-19 191 500||Franti||1:36|
|Music and Politics||Franti||4:01|
|California Über Alles||Biafra, Dead Kennedys, Greenway||4:13|
|Water Pistol Man||Franti||5:55|