Franti's career began in the 80s, when he was a founding member of The Beatnigs a band that blended punk, rock, and a "black industrial" sound. By the early 90s, his spinoff band The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy included acclaimed jazz instrumentalist Charlie Hunter. By the end of the 90s, Franti had become known as a master of contemporary protest music, and an innovative songwriter capable of blending folk, hip hop, punk, rock, and jazz.
Young started playing drums when he was just 11 years old. After that, he picked up just about every other instrument before settling seriously on the bass in the 1980s. In addition to his work with Spearhead, Young has played with Dionne Farris, Jimmy Witherspoon, Cree Summers, Don Cherry, and others.
A Bay Area native, Shul began playing guitar when he was 12 years old. The first bands he was in played ska and funk music. While working in the offices of Secret Studios, he met Carl Young, who recruited him as a guitar player. That was in 1998, and he has been touring with Spearhead ever since.
Born and raised in Ughelli, Nigeria, Itene grew up as a member of the Isoko tribe. He started playing drums when he was quite young with some local church groups, and was soon discovered by The Mandators a rather successful Nigerian reggae group. When the Mandators headed to the US to tour in 1993, Itene stayed in the States. Since then, he's played with Sugar Minott, Inka Inka, Babatunde Olatunji, and Mickey Thomas (Jefferson Starship).
But Spearhead isn't necessarily hip hop. There are a lot of elements of their music that embrace other strong community-based genres, such as black industrial, punk, and various forms of world music.
Their performances can feel like peace rallies, and Franti's lyrics are certainly some of the most socially conscious available in contemporary music.