Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
Reviewed by Nick Fredman
Hard beats and hard politics are delivered by this San Francisco hip-hop duo. Michael Franti and Rono Tse originate from the very political Bay Area music scene (like radical white rappers Consolidated), previously co-conspiring in The Beatnigs, a band that recorded for Alternative Tentacles, the label of former Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra.
In this incarnation Tse lays down heavy beats using angle grinders, tire rims, chains, break drums, electronic springs, sheet metal and steel drums while Franti raps. Unlike most rap acts, Hiphoprisy uses original music from guest guitarists, drummers and bass players more than sampling to create a sound that is accessible and contemporary but also new and engaging.
Franti takes no prisoners in attacking the shallowness of some rappers ("Holding our crotch was the flavour of the month / Bitch this bitch that was the flavour of the month / Being a thug was the flavour of the month / No to drugs was the flavour of the month" in "Famous and Dandy") and the "methadone metronome" of TV, where "Socialism means unamerican and Apartheid is a new headache remedy" (in "Television, the Drug of the Nation"). He denounces the alienation of capitalism that produces horrors such as gay bashing in "Language of Violence" and the corporate Gulf War machine in "Winter of the Long Hot Summer".
The latter song shows that Hiphoprisy also want to talk about alternatives — "Angela Davis addressed the spectators / and shouting above a rumbling generator said / if they insist on bringing this down / then let's shut the whole country down / Marching through the downtown / A hundred thousand became participants / and we heard the drums of millions off in the distance".
The stand-out track would have to be an updated version of the Dead Kennedy's "California Über Alles", with Governor Pete Wilson saying "Gimme a budget and watch me hack it! / Gimme a beat and I'll show you how to jack it! ... I'll blow environmentalists away / And I'll be the fuhrer some day", and, very relevantly after the Rodney King affair and the Los Angeles uprising, "Close your eyes it can't happen here / Big Brother in a squad car's comin' near".
Hiphoprisy cite musical and political influences as diverse as Consolidated, Jello Biafra (who they call "M.C. Jell-Jell Kool-O B. Afro"), Malcolm X, Noam Chomsky, Billy Bragg, Angela Davis, Gil Scott Heron, Public Enemy, KRS-ONE and Fugazi, which means they can't help being one of the most interesting music acts around.