Music News

Femi Kuti

Definitive Collection (Wrasse)

Just ask A.J. Croce (son of Jim), Louise Goffin (Carole King's daughter), or Frank Sinatra Jr. — being compared to a famous parent will haunt you, maybe forever. Take Femi Kuti — his late father, Fela, virtually invented Afrobeat but the younger Kuti is categorically not riding on his dad's coattails. Femi is choosing to build his own legacy incorporating aspects of American R&B and hip-hop while naturally also including the compelling grooves of Afrobeat. Drawn from 1995-2002, Definitive Collection includes tracks with some talented American guest stars. The set kicks off with the bubbling, insistent "Do Your Best" featuring Mos Def, and the sultry, undulating "Water No Get Enemy" includes Macy Gray, D'Angelo, and jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Though big names may help Kuti build an audience in America (he's established in Europe and Africa), he doesn't really need them. With a soulful, Sam Cooke-like elegance, Kuti's plaintive vocals masterfully ride the irresistible rhythm matrix of "Beng Beng Beng," and you can't help but think that "Truth Don Die" is what Sly & the Family Stone might've sounded like had they gone to college in Nigeria. There's also a bonus disc of remixes included, by AVDC, Da Lata, and others, but that's just the cherry on the sundae. As an intro to Kuti and Afrobeat in general, Definitive Collection is stellar.

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Mark Keresman