Recordings

The dominant midtempo grooves are pleasant enough, but most of them meander. You may not notice if you're stoned, but it's annoying if you're not. There are nice touches throughout--the loose swing of "Madness in the Hood (Free Ride)," the sitar on "Comin' to Gitcha"--but not enough of them. The cover of Bob Marley's "Rebel Music" feels rote rather than revolutionary, and "Wayfaring Stranger" is simply bizarre. While Joan Osborne tries to imitate Emmylou Harris singing gospel, Franti offers a ghetto-ized version of the Old Testament: "You can take my life, but there's no escape/'Cause you can't shoot yer way through the Pearly Gates/So swing low pink Cadillac/Coming for to carry me home."

It used to be that Franti was one of the few hip-hop artists willing to speak out when his peers indulged themselves in blunted reality or unrepentant misogyny. Now he's more interested in easy solidarity than hard truths. In "Gag Gauge," the guy who gets gunned down by racist cops while reaching for his wallet sounds more like a cartoon than a real-life casualty. The only time Franti completely connects is on the sweet soul closer, "Water Pistol Man." It's about a revolution that begins--and maybe ends--in a backyard, proving that sometimes a squirt gun is more powerful than a Tek-9.

--Keith Moerer

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