Micahel Franti and Spearhead: Stay Human

On Michael Franti’s, Stay Human (recorded with his chameleonlike band, Spearhead), the alternative rapper and social activist tackles two hot buttons: the death penalty and medical marijuana. Wrapping a stylistic mix of retro grooves around a faux-Pacifica radio show that’s covering the fictitious trials of Sister Fatima, a social activist who’s headed for the gas chamber because of some trumped-up murder charges, Franti sings and raps passionately and pointedly, making up for his less-than-stellar rapping skills. And even though he often spits out simplistic rhetoric for complicated issues and the storyline gets a little too convoluted to swallow, it’s one of the best politically charged hip-hop albums of the year.