Michael Franti drops beats not bombs

Trouble never rests, which is one reason to be thankful for Michael Franti's tireless activism. The only thing that's changed since he burst onto the scene in '92 with the polemic "Television, the Drug of the Nation" is the size of his audience, and his acclimation to it.

"I was kind of like, 'Damn, I don't want to be doing something this size, I want to be doing my own indie punk-rock kind of thing,'" Franti says. "Looking back, I really appreciate every moment of it. That fans are willing to stand in line in the rain, and that people come up afterwards and say that my music has somehow meant something in some part of their lives."

Franti's 2006 release Yell Fire! came about after he took a trip to the Middle East in '04 to visit Iraq, Gaza, Israel and Palestine. "I'm on the side of the peacemakers," he says. "In each of those countries you find people who are willing to go enormous lengths to create social justice so peace can exist." He's currently supporting his latest release, All Rebel Rockers, recorded with legendary producers Sly & Robbie. Steeped in reggae and dancehall, the album's tone dovetails with Franti's rebellious spirit. It may be his best yet, with its irresistible island rhythms, sharp hooks and incisive lyrics. "Sly & Robbie have always been heroes of mine, dating back to their work with Black Uhuru," Franti says. "It's great working with them. You can just show up with a song and say, 'Here's the tune,' and they'll give you a beat that always fits it."