From Soul to Reggae, from Spoken-word hyper political works to catchy pop, Michael Franti has his toes in a lot of different tastes. You might know him best from his song “Say Hey.” But what I know him best from is cannaballad, “Ganja Babe.”
Franti was born in Oakland, California 1966 to a mixed couple. His mother put him up for adoption because she feared her child would never be accepted by her racist family. He was adopted by a couple in Oakland who had four kids, three biological and one adopted. He started writing in 9th grade, and quickly picked up poetry as a lifelong art. Franti picked up music after he purchased a bass from a local pawnshop, taking influence from reggae, punk, and hip-hop.
He started a band in 1986, the Beatnigs, stylized after industrial spoken-word. The band released an album Television that garnered a bit of attention but struggled to break out of the city.
His next move was to form the band The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, a collaboration with Ron Tse, Charlie Hunter, Mark Pistel, and Jack Dangers. They put out an album with Island Records titled Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury. After this signing they eventually opened for U2. The band was very political and championed anti-war messages, took shots at Exxon Mobile, the role of television in our daily lives, homophobia and misogyny, and many other progressive takes. The album even made appearances in a few academic articles. One called Franti’s work, a song that, “promoted treating women fairly in relationships an exception” to the misogyny that pervades mainstream hip-hop.
Franti formed a new band in 1994, Spearhead. The band pushed Franti away from the more politically charged music he made prior, moving into music inspired by Funk and Soul. After two releases the band split with Capitol records, and formed their own label, Boo Boo Wax. Their song “Sometimes” was featured in the movie Mystery Men, their cover of “Roxanne” made an appearance in the movie Good Burger.
Franti moved back to his political roots with the release of their album Stay Human. They covered subjects such as the prison industrial-complex, media monopolization, and corporate globalization.
In 2003 Franti released an album Songs from the Front Porch, primarily acoustic renditions of old works, and a few new songs. This is where today’s Stoner Song to Know comes from. Ganja Babe is a lyrical drag of some top-shelf vibes. I first heard it featured on the TV show “Weeds” (which ran about 6 seasons too long.). Its got a bit of everything that makes Franti lovable: Funk, Reggae, proactive and smooth flowing lyrics, and a fantastic whistling intro. Give it a listen while you are taking a toke!