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Do Not Dispose: Spearhead, led by Michael Franti of the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, incorporates a fine mix of funk, Latin jazz and soul in its sound.

Pointed Spear

Spearhead makes social change through its music

By David Espinoza

WITH THE '90s now two months in the past, the votes are in. And the winner for most definitive and influential genre of the decade goes not to grunge, not to techno (though a close second) but to hip-hop. Don't look so surprised. Stop for a minute and consider all the artists and bands who have benefited from the distinct rhythm and rhyming style that characterizes hip-hop. Not just the obvious ones like the Dr. Snoop T's and Biggie Puff BMXs, but the Becks and Rage Against the Machines. Hip-hop has infiltrated and more importantly reinvigorated American music at a time when just about everything has been done to the point of exhaustion. And while the last few years or so have seen suburban white boys try to mix heavy metal and rap, the most potent hybrids have come from the roots of soul, jazz, and funk. It is a mix that has laid the groundwork for a band like Spearhead.

Longtime heroes of folks who like their groove served with a social conscience, Spearhead forge a sound that is as danceable as it is lyrically moving. Based in San Francisco, where street signs are written in three different languages, Spearhead plays music that is the result of various cultures and music crossing paths. The band itself, composed of musicians from all walks of life, stands out as a prime example of tolerance and diversity. But looks are meaningless without music, and Spearhead rightfully incorporate a fine mix of funk, Latin jazz and soul in its sound.

At the center of the band is the towering vocalist Michael Franti--the onetime frontman for the highly acclaimed Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. While DHH never got past the college radio scene and burned out by 1993, Spearhead is still going strong. Franti, who walks the line between rapping and singing, has settled into a more consumer-friendly beat, illustrated by the diverse age groups that attend his concerts. Making social change through music is what Franti has always been about, and it's a mentality that more bands out there could stand to try.

Spearhead plays Wednesday (Feb. 23) at 8pm at the Usual, 400 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $10. (408.535.0330)

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From the February 17-23, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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