Michael Franti
Michael Franti in 2008
Michael Franti in 2008
Background information
Born April 21, 1966 (1966-04-21) (age 51)
Oakland, California, U.S.
Origin San Francisco, California, U.S.
Genres Hip hop, funk, reggae, jazz, reggae fusion, folk, jam band, dancehall
Occupations Composer, musician, poet Rapper
Years active 1986–present
Labels Alternative Tentacles
Island Records
Capitol records
Boo Boo Wax
Six Degrees
Associated acts Radioactive
Carl Young

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


Personal lifeEdit

Michael Franti was born in Oakland, California to an Irish-German-French mother and an African-American and Native American father. However, his mother made an adoption plan for him because she was afraid her family would not accept him.[1][2] He was adopted by Carole Wisti and Charles Franti, a Finnish American couple in Oakland, who had three biological children and one other adopted African American son.[2] 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 siblings are named Rebecca, Sara, Dan, and Matthew.[3] Michael attended Davis Senior High School and graduated from the University of San Francisco. He has two sons: Ade with his wife Tara Franti-Rye, and Cappy from a previous relationship. At the fourth annual Mountain Jam Festival, he brought Cappy on stage to sing a song.[4]

Inspired by his son, Michael became a vegan.[5]

In 2000, Franti decided not to wear any shoes, initially for three days. Since then, Franti has been walking through life barefoot except for occasionally wearing flip-flops as required to board an airplane or to be served in a restaurant.[6] Franti prefers to go barefoot.[7]

Beatnigs (1986–1990) Edit

Franti began his music career in 1986 as part of the industrial punk 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;[8] 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.

Disposable Heroes (1991–1993) Edit

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). 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 (on Island Records),[8] won plaudits for its social commentary, and they were chosen by U2 to open for their Zoo TV Tour.

Franti and the Disposable Heroes put together another record of music accompanying novelist William Burroughs' readings for an album entitled Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales. This album diverged greatly from the style of the band's previous work, as they were largely providing musical background and accompaniment to Burroughs' spoken readings from several of his books.

Michael Franti & Spearhead (1994–present) Edit


File:MFat Waka.jpg

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", also from the album Home, appeared on the "Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool" project album.

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 (reportedly prompted by the label's repeated urging to perform with other artists like Will Smith).[9] 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."

In 1999, Franti began a deeper exploration of his music and politics. He returned the following year as an organizer and cultural worker tied to several intensifying political movements of the time, voicing his observations through his music. His song "Sometimes" was included on the soundtrack to the 1999 film, Mystery Men, as well as the soundtrack to the 2006 film, Last Holiday.

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.

In an interview, Franti talked about the message of Stay Human: "Half the record is songs about what's happening in the world right now, and the other half is about how we cope with it as people who are concerned about what's going on", he said. "This specter of war, intimidation, this nation vs. the rest of the world, it wears us out. Half the record is a healthy dose of venting anger about that, and the other half is about how do we hold on to our spirituality, our community and our connectedness to each other."[8] Franti left Six Degrees due to the labels' inability to properly promote the project, for poor record sales and frequent disagreements with the labels' founder Pat Berry.[citation needed]

Everyone Deserves Music was released in 2003. Franti composed many of the songs from his guitar and, like fellow 21st century cultural globalists Manu Chao and Ozomatli, continues 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. The song "We Don't Stop" (featuring Gift of Gab from Blackalicious and Spearhead's rapper/beatbox technician Radioactive) bridges the two sounds in a "Magnificent Seven" style mash-up. And on "Love Why Did You Go Away" and "What I Be", Franti reveals an alluring, sensual singing voice. "Pray For Grace" and "Bomb The World (Armageddon Version)" pair Franti with the reggae/funk giants Sly and Robbie (Grace Jones, Rolling Stones, Black Uhuru, No Doubt).

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.


On July 25, 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.

Michael Franti and Spearhead have taken a highly unconventional route to notoriety for an act with hip hop roots. Largely ignored by the traditional mainstream TV and radio channels of promotion, Franti and Spearhead have gained a passionate worldwide audience through extensive touring and appearances in alternative media like Mother Jones Magazine and Democracy Now.

Franti continues to hit the festival circuit worldwide, in addition to producing the annual Power to the Peaceful festival each year since 1998, with attendance around 50,000 in 2008.[10] The festival originated as a way of supporting American journalist and prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is sometimes perceived as a political prisoner.[11] Michael Franti continues to gain influence in both popular music and social movements largely through extensive touring and word of mouth fan support. Lyrics from his song "Bomb The World", written in the dark aftermath of September 11 such as "You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace" have found their way onto protest signs and t-shirts all over the world from Los Angeles to Berlin, San Francisco to CNN, at demonstrations for peace large and small.[citation needed]

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 group's newest album All Rebel Rockers was released on September 9, 2008, which was largely recorded in Jamaica at the Anchor studio in St Andrew. The band worked with ubiquitous rhythm team Sly and Robbie and featured multi-talented vocalist Cherine Anderson on the set which entered the Billboard 200 pop chart in September at number 38. Michael Franti was featured on's show Volume where he spoke about U.S. politics and his efforts to make the world a better place.[12]

Franti played three different events to commemorate President Barack Obama's inauguration: The Green Ball, The Peace Ball and the Rock the Vote Party.

Franti announced[13] in November 2009 that he would be joining musician John Mayer on the Battle Studies Tour in spring 2010.

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.[1]

Franti announced the release of "The Sound of Sunshine" on his official website in July 2010. The original release date was August 2010 but was later pushed back until September. It will feature 12 tracks including two versions of the title track, the new hit single, "Shake It," and staples of his recent live performances including "Hey Hey Hey," "Anytime You Need Me," "The Thing That Helps Me Get Through," and the anthemic arena-rock ballad "I'll Be Waiting." The album originally was set to be released on August 24, but has currently been pushed back to September 21 [14] to give the album "more runway." [15]


Franti is also an advocate for peace in the Middle East. His film I Know I'm Not Alone features footage of Iraq, the Palestinian territories, and Israel. Franti decided to embark on this three week journey with friends to view the cost of war in the Middle East first-hand. Franti states, "This film came out of my frustration with watching the nightly news and hearing generals, politicians, and pundits explaining the political and economic cost of the war in the Middle East, without ever mentioning the human cost. I wanted to hear about the war by the people affected by it most: doctors, nurses, poets, artists, soldiers, and my personal favorite, musicians."[16] In 2006, he was invited by Australian MP Jenny Macklin to show the film at Australia's Parliament House, Canberra.[17]


Solo Edit

  • 2000: Live at the Baobab
  • 2003: Songs from the Front Porch

Spearhead Edit

Studio albums Edit


  • 1994: "Of course you can" UK #74
  • 1995: "Hole in the bucket" UK #55
  • 1995: "People in tha middle" UK #49
  • 1995: "Positive"
  • 1997: "U can't sing R song"
  • 1997: "Why Oh Why" UK #45
  • 1997: "Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Roadblock)" (feat. Stephen Marley) (promo-only)
  • 1997: "Keep Me Lifted"
  • 2001: "Rock the Nation"
  • 2001: "Sometimes"
  • 2002: "Soulshine" (Australia-only EP)
  • 2003: "Bomb the World"
  • 2003: "Everyone Deserves Music"
  • 2009: "Obama Song" (feat. SoliLaquists of Sound, Cherine Anderson & Anthony B) (Digital Only)
  • 2009: "Say Hey (I Love You)" #18 US[19]

Live albums and compilations Edit

Collaborations Edit

The Beatnigs Edit

The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy Edit

Appearances in mediaEdit

Franti's music was featured twice on HBO's critically acclaimed urban drama The Wire. "Oh My God" and "Rock The Nation", both from the album Stay Human were used in two different episodes during the series' first season.[20] Michael's song "Everybody Ona Move" was featured in the pilot episode of Priveleged on CW in 2008 and also in a 2009 PlayStation 3 commercial. "Yell Fire" was used to promote the hit FX channel series Rescue Me and was also used in the closing credits of the pilot episode of Virtuality on Fox. Showtime's Weeds featured Franti's song "Ganja Babe" in its first season, his interpretation of the Weeds theme song "Little Boxes" in Season 3, and "Say Hey" during a Flash Mob scene in the premier episode of Season 5. Philadelphia Phillies Centerfielder Shane Victorino uses the song "Light up Ya Lighter" as his batter walk up music. "Say Hey (I Love You)" was used on the 3rd episode of NBC's new series Mercy, as well as in the opening scene of the 2010 film, Valentine's Day. The same song, "Say Hey (I Love You)" was also used in 2010 in a beer commercial (Corona Light). The song is also featured on the soundtrack of the game 2010 World Cup South Africa.

He appeared as himself in the 2010 music documentary Sounds Like A Revolution.


  1. 1.0 1.1
  2. 2.0 2.1 Conscious Choice: We Don’t Stop
  3. RootsWeb: CAYOLO-L [CAYolo] Charles E. FRANTI (1933-2003) (obit.)
  4. Michael Franti & Spearhead - Gig Reviews - Music - Entertainment
  5. YouTube - michael franti on veganism
  6. "Michael Franti: Barefoot Bodhisattva". College Crier. Retrieved May 5, 2008.
  7. Gabler, Jay. "Nine questions for Michael Franti | Twin Cities Daily Planet | Minneapolis - St. Paul". Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Michael Franti and Spearhead. Michael Franti: Vocals / Guitar
  10. Pop Matters. Review. Greg M. Schwartz. Power to the Peaceful Festival
  11. Bowen, Rebecca (7 September 2007). "Power to the Peaceful Festival begins tomorrow". Paste. Retrieved 12 April 2010. 
  12. "Aux | Artists | MichaelFranti". Retrieved 2009-09-03. 
  17. Jacqueline Maley & Alexa Moses (2006-09-04). "Bare Foot Forward". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  18. 18.0 18.1
  20. "The Ten Thousand Things". 2005-07-29. Retrieved 2009-09-03. 

External linksEdit

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