A favourite single of mine in the early 90s (and one that I bought on a music paper’s recommendation) was The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy’s Language Of Violence (FF 1992 #30), an invective condemning homophobia (‘this is a tale of rough justice/in a land where there’s no justice’). I had heard Gil Scott-Heron and his mumbled rap over a jazz backdrop, and Chuck D of Public Enemy haranguing his audience in memorable fashion, but this added scratching and samples to the mix: at the time, it was the new kid on the block. A growling backbeat sets the tone for a sombre tale of a 15 year-old beaten to death for being gay, only for one of his murderers to suffer in an ironic way in prison.
The band was basically a vehicle for Michael Franti and Rono Tse, with guitarist Charlie Hunter contributing telling, punching refrains. It highlighted Franti’s political agenda, and thus seemed a natural choice to open for U2 on their Zoo tour. The first (and last) album, Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury was co-produced by Mark Pistel of Consolidated, and Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto assisted with mixing. The resultant crtical plaudits unfortunately did not translate into sales, and the band soon moved on to other projects. Perhaps the reason lies in the fact that the band purvey music that is ‘closer to accompanied lectures than hip-hop songs’. [New York Times]
Televsion: The Drug Of A Nation (FF 1992 #38) is one such example. It’s clear that Franti is literate, thoughtful and has valid opinions: but this takes on She Watches Channel Zero and bashes you over the head until you realise that it comes off a poor second to Public Enemy’s masterwork. Nevertheless, thoughtful and considered rap is hard to come by, and this is a notch above the puerile sexism purveyed in recent years.