Review: Dele Fadele, NME May 1992
The Beatnigs might have been consigned to the dust of history, but anyone who remembers their 1980 support slots with Billy Bragg must wonder how come the San Francisco group disintegrated under such acrimony. Multi-racila and mulit-textural, their party-piece was to solder harsh industrial funk and alternative guitar suss with clanging, screeching noises generated from applying a circular saw to a re-upholstered Volkswagen bonnet. And now, rising lcarus-like from the debris, come The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, with a startling benchmark of a debut LP, featuring two former Beatnigs.
God knows what’s been happening in the interim, but Michael Franti and Rono Tse have finally honed down their art to escape the shackles of the alternative and wage language-wars on a global scale. The latter has re-invented himself as a master percussionist and purveyor of massive rhythms, while the former has learnt the use of seismic bass and taught himself to rap.
In times when few rappers bar Public Enemy and some would-be clones possess a political agenda-being too involved in neighbourhood concerns to observe the outside world – Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy are rather heartening to behold. With a bedrock of solid, muscular playing and well-adapted samples, their organic backing tracks, electronically enhances as they are, stick out in the crowd, forming a solid base for Michael Franti to vent his spleen at a disparate array of pertinent topics.
From the movement ‘Satanic Reverse’ drops in, with an apocalyptic overview of current global changes, to the decidedly melancholic closer ‘Water Pistol Man, where Franti turns on issues, the battle rages and new frontiers are breached. In fact, apart from the slightly inferior re-work of The Beatnigs’ ‘Television’ and the seemingly paranoid tendency to cover all bases at all times, Michael and Rono in conjunction with Consolidate’s Mark Pistel on the mixing deck hold all the aces.
Can you seriously see The Geto Boyz and their ilk writing a diatribe against homophobia (‘Language of Violence’)? Or NWA putting their career on the line by pointing the finger at California’s governor in a resuscitation and hip-hop overhaul of The Dead Kennedys’ ‘California Uber Alles’?
Michael Franti even examines his own mixed-race heritage in ‘Socio-Genetic Experiment’., which is harrowing, and takes swipes at compromised black American in the satirical ‘Amos And Andy’. And did I mention the way ‘the Winter Of The Long Hot Summer’ puts the Gulf War into bitter perspective?
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy are master ironists and emotional pugilists cutting across America’s imposed boundaries. Let’s hope other rappers aren’t too entrenched in being real and having limited viewpoints to take up the gauntlet they’ve thrown down and say a prayer for change.