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Fight To Win
Being the child of a legendary musician makes forging a name for yourself as an artist difficult. In the case of Nigerian Femi Kuti, it's a particularly difficult challenge.
His father, Fela Kuti, literally invented the genre in which Femi works a style known as afrobeat, which incorporates elements of traditional African music, funk and jazz into a potent musical gumbo.
With the release of his second album, Fight To Win, the younger Kuti proves he is every bit as talented as his late father.
An incendiary collection of complex, polyrhythmic jams, Kuti strikes hard with the deftly arranged, "Do Your Best" which boasts a guest appearance from hip-hop notable Mos Def and doesn't let up until the album's conclusion an hour later.
While other forms of music may flirt with politics, afrobeat has always focused on political reform. Kuti senior was imprisoned several times during his life for nothing more than the message contained in his music. While Femi has yet to receive such a reaction, he continues the political tradition.
Songs such as "Traitors Of Africa," "The Choice Is Yours" and the title track stand out with their particularly vehement lyrics. Kuti's music calls for revolution and indicts the regime that has left the citizens of Nigeria in poverty for far too long. By comparison, North American protest music sounds entirely complacent.
The hostility of Kuti's verbal attacks are equally backed by music on Fight To Win.
The dense, churning grooves feature razor sharp guitars, remarkably viscous basslines and swinging horn sections, highlighted by Kuti's sax work.
Particularly effective is the relatively laidback "'97," a lament for lost family members and the relentless "Missing Link," a lengthy number with a swirling organ and a cameo from another conscious hip-hop star, Common.
The sound of man reaching the boiling point, Fight To Win is a remarkable accomplishment in that it manages to make you groove while at the same time informing the listener about some of the injustices of the world.
Femi Kuti deserves to be heard.
Aaron St. John