By Travis Drageset (allmusic.com) Since his days as a member of the Beatnigs while in his early twenties, Michael Franti grew from an angry young hip-hopper with a political, socially conscious bent (the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Spearhead) to a man who channeled his seriousness, social unease, and desire for change and merged them with his love of music, particularly old-school R&B, soul, and hip-hop. What he left behind in brash, make-some-noise aesthetic, he gained in compassion. And through his use of his own raw power — charisma, sex appeal, sense of social injustice — he carried out in his music a community-generated passion in much the same way as Gil Scott-Heron or Marvin Gaye.
Franti was adopted at birth by white parents in the predominantly black community of Oakland, California. That set of contradictory circumstances instilled in him a hyper-awareness of his own cultural identity, as did the sobering fact that his more thoughtful, less provocative style of expression was not accepted by the African-American audience that had embraced a harsher, more combative faction of the hip-hop movement. In 1986, Franti formed the drum’n’bass/industrial duo the Beatnigs with turntablist Rono Tse, disbanding after one album. He then formed the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, whose combination of jazz-influenced heavy rap set out to challenge the materialism and misogyny of what had become mainstream rap.