Stay Human

If listeners in recent years have castigated hip-hop’s dilution of its original politically charged message in favour of tales of the highlife and gangsters, then celebration is at hand. *Stay Human*, from the former Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy artist, is a fine album that stokes a righteous indignation with a powerfully soulful beat.

Franti, a poet whose lineage is perhaps closer to Gil Scott-Heron or the Lost Poets, uses all his imposing skills towards one aim: political activism in the service of humanity. Spearhead have never dodged social issues – their debut album, _Home_, addressed aids, poverty and racial politics – and with *Stay Human* they are not about to stop. The album’s 13 songs are cut around a radio station keeping watch over a fictional healer, Sister Fatima, who is about to be executed. Programme phone-ins intersperse such driving songs as ‘Oh My God’ and ‘Soulshine’; actor Woody Harrelson guests as the voice of the state governor.

But Franti is nothing if not far-ranging and his references – both musical and political – build into a compelling whole. Rap giant KRS-One is evoked on ‘Rock the Nation’, while Zap Mama’s Marie Daulene adds a honeyed colour to ‘Listener Supported’. *Stay Human* gives music a much-needed blast of activist passion – and, to be sure, politics with some great tunes.

New Internationalist issue 337 magazine cover This article is from the August 2001 issue of New Internationalist.
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