The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy weren’t around with us for all that long, nor did they make all that much in the way of music. A group that aimed to fuse the rap of Public Enemy and the beat poetry of Gil Scott-Heron was an exciting concept to consider and indeed for a while it really did seem they were going to be the ones who really took rap to a wider audience, thanks in part to the fact that they were happy enough to go on the road and play support to the likes of U2, Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine among others.
They emerged out of San Francisco, coming to the fore at a time when America was pursuing an increasingly right-wing agenda that was creating and alienating a far larger underclass whose responses were threatening to get increasingly violent. Indeed the greatest awareness of the band coincided with the period just after the extensive rioting in Los Angeles with their debut (and only) LP Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury being released that same year of 1992. It was an album that addressed many social issues, including racism, homophobia, sexism and urban poverty. It also, rather timely, included a blistering cover version of California Über Alles, the Dead Kennedys song which many media commentators had referred to in their analysis of what had caused things to go so badly wrong in LA and the wider state.
The band was really two individuals, Michael Franti (vocals, production, misc. instruments) and Rono Tse (drums, percussion, programming), assisted on stage and in the studio by a range of talents. But Franti was on whom most attention was focussed. For one, he was a striking looking individual, standing at six-foot six inches. His life story was genuinely fascinating. He was incredibly intelligent, articulate and frank in his opinions, all of which made him a great interviewee no matter the media. His anger was a quiet, simmering and seemingly non-threatening type – where others rapped hard about injustices shouting and demanding action, Michael Franti preferred to ensure his words could be heard, understood and, above all, to be thought about by those doing the listening.
The DHOH album is an extraordinary piece of work made possible by a wide number of contributory elements including sampling and scratching amidst playing that incorporated jazz, soul, AOR rock and pop. Franti made great use of his rich baritone singing voice but sometimes his words were softly spoken in a resigned sort of way, with more than a hint of cynicism in the tone of delivery.
Their best and most enduring song was released as a single and deployed as the opening track. It’s an unparalleled attack on mass-media brainwashing, written and delivered in a pre-internet age, but whose message still resonates 25 years on. Possibly more so in an era of so-called fake news and alternative facts:-
mp3 : Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – Television, the Drug of the Nation
The heading for today’s posting is taken from a line in that song.
But as I mentioned earlier, there were all sorts of social issues addressed within the album whose release was timely as it came at a time when many music journalists and media commentators were questioning whether rap should be taken seriously when so many of its exponents were proud of their homophobic and/or misogynist lyrics and whose view of all issues, literally, came down to black and white. Franti, while not ignoring race issues, was much more focussed on class divisions across American society, and again this seemed new and fresh in rap music, albeit he was merely the latest a what was already a long line of highly aware political protest singers.
mp3 : Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – Satanic Reverses
mp3 : Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – Language of Violence
mp3 : Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – Music and Politics
mp3 : Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – California Über Alles
The album is more essential than disposable and one that I feel every music fan should have either a copy of or access to. The duo, realising that they would probably never be able to top the debut, went their separate ways in 1994, with Franti forming Spearhead with whom he still records and performs to this day. Rono Tse, judging by a lack of product on Discogs post-DHOH, appears to have drifted quickly out of the music industry.