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Michael Franti Biography

Home > Music > F > Franti, Michael > Biography

Born: 1966/04/21
Birth Place: San Francisco, California, U.S.
Years Active: 1986–present
Genres: Hip Hop, Funk, Reggae, Jazz, Reggae Fusion, Folk, Jam Band, Dancehall

Michael Franti (born April 21, 1966) is an American poet, musician, and composer. He is the founder and lead vocalist of 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 social justice issues.

Franti began his music career in 1986 as part of the industrial punk band The Beatnigs. The Beatnigs included dancer and percussionist Rono Tse. 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 (Consolidated) and Jack Dangers (Meat Beat Manifesto).

In 1994, Franti formed a new band called Spearhead with a few studio musicians, including mainstay Carl Young, and announced the dissolution of Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Their first release, “Home,” in September 1994, was a departure from the politically charged rap of the Disposable Heroes and drew more from funk and soul music. The song "Positive," from the album “Home,” appeared on the “Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool “compilation album by the Red Hot Organization. In 1998, Spearhead recorded "I Got Plenty 'o Nuthin" with Ernest Ranglin for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album “Red Hot + Rhapsody.”

Their follow up album “Chocolate Supa Highway” was released in March 1997, with several changes in band members between releases. This album featured a return to hip hop elements and a pronounced reggae influence and included guest appearances by notables like Stephen Marley and Joan Osborne.

After releasing the two albums, the band split with Capitol Records. The band instead decided to create its own record label, Boo Boo Wax. Since Capitol Records owned the rights to the name "Spearhead," subsequent albums were all released as "Michael Franti & Spearhead."

Michael Franti & Spearhead released “Stay Human” in 2000 under their own label Boo Boo Wax in alignment with indie music label Six Degrees Records. The album's central theme was the unjust nature of the death penalty and other major themes included mass media monopolization, the prison-industrial complex and corporate globalization.

“Everyone Deserves Music” was released in 2003. Franti composed many of the songs from his guitar and, continued to synthesize his eclectic influences. In a departure from the industrial sounds of the Beatnigs and Disposable Heroes, and the minimalism of early Spearhead, Franti's affirming lyrics are now set to swelling rock chords, while keeping a 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 1980s rock of The Clash and U2, as well as to classic soul from Stax and Motown.

Also in 2003, Franti released a mostly acoustic album, “Songs from the Front Porch” containing rearranged versions of older songs from “Chocolate Supa Highway,” “Stay Human” and “Everyone Deserves Music” as well as a couple of new tracks.

In July 2006, Michael Franti & Spearhead released “Yell Fire!,” inspired by Franti's trip to Israel, Baghdad, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. In an effort to share his experiences from his trip and to explore the human cost of war, Franti produced a movie entitled “I Know I'm Not Alone,” using the songs from his album “Yell Fire!” as a soundtrack. "One Step Closer To You" from “Yell Fire!” features Pink on backing vocals.

The song "Light Up Ya Lighter" by Michael Franti & Spearhead was included on the soundtrack to “Body of War,” an award-winning documentary about Tomas Young, a paralyzed Iraq War veteran.

The album “All Rebel Rockers” was released in September 2008 and was largely recorded in Jamaica at the Anchor studio in St Andrew. The band worked with the rhythm team Sly and Robbie and featured multi-talented vocalist Cherine Anderson on the set which entered the Billboard 200 Album chart at #38. The album spawned the million-selling reggae/dancehall-flavored single “Say Hey (I Love You),” which peaked at #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart.

“The Sound of Sunshine” was released in September 2010 by Capital Records. The album became Michael Franti & Spearhead’s highest charting album on the Billboard 200 to date, peaking at #17.

As part of the band's commitment to environmentalism, Michael Franti and Spearhead avoid the use of water bottles on national tours and run their tour bus on biodiesel.