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The Beatnigs

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San Francisco Bay Area

The Beatnigs was a late 80’s industrial/political hip-hop performance collaboration featuring Michael Franti and fellow San Francisco Bay Area artists Rono Tse, Kevin Carnes, Andre Flores and Henry Flood. The band’s stage performance utilized agit prop slogans, tapes, and included the use of power tools such as a rotary saw on a metal bar to create industrial noise and pyrotechnics.

They released material on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label and toured Europe with Billy Bragg. Early venues for the band included Berkeley’s infamous Barrington Hall and Gilman St Project. They had a regular weekly gig at San Francisco’s Firehouse on 16th St ( now the Kilowatt).

Eventually circa 1990, Franti & Tse split off to form The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy, recutting the Beatnigs’ song “Television, Drug of The Nation” for Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. Flood & Carnes formed The Broun Fellinis, an avant jazz band.


Radical politics and even more radical musical ideas come together on the Beatnigs’ 1988 debut. Crediting all five members with “industrial percussion” — i.e. circular saws, tire rims, chains and buzzers — the Beatnigs’ trademark sound is a collage of tape edits, TV clips, samples and voices which congeals to touch base with traditional musical styles like rock, rap, funk, dub and jazz. The band’s lyrical targets are as wide-ranging, taking on racism, television, poverty, and the CIA.

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