The first I ever heard of Michael Franti was when this song showed up on a compilation disc for some indigenous rights cause in the early 1990s. America was just wrapping up its first successfully televised war in the Persian Gulf, and the homeland’s economy was circling the drain.
The lyrics immediately caught my attention. Although I was not well versed in hip-hop or rap culture (being more inclined toward bluegrass and folk music), I found Franti’s take on the power of the “cathode ray nipple” incredibly astute, the poetry razor sharp and unapologetic. In many ways, Franti appeared—to me at least—to be a kindred spirit of another of my personal heroes: John Trudell.
Both Trudell and Franti opened their wounded, poetic hearts to the world. Both saw the dominant culture’s Narcissistic self-absorption as a troubling landslide. Yet, ultimately, Franti moved through the world’s troubled waters buoyed by hope and a sense of great love for the people of the world, and John Trudell remained a singular voice of one bearing witness—a soul whipped up from the blood soaked dust of Wounded Knee and Sand Creek.
Revisiting this song by Franti’s band, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, nearly two decades later, I find myself horrified at how much more insidious, self involved and insane television has become (along with the culture that feeds at its trough). If Franti had written the song today, he would have such a wealth of material, a treasure trove including such gems as “Jersey Shore” and “Real Housewives”. No doubt, Franti would add the term “reality television” to his list of oxymoronic language.
So, in honor of nearly twenty years of the further devolution of television, I present to you, “Television, the Drug of the Nation”, by Michael Franti and the The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
Photo: Courtesy of Matt Niemi [Flickr] under a Creative Commons 2.0 licence.