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Thom Jurek

Just before Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 released 2014's fierce, diverse A Long Way to the Beginning, he and his girlfriend Yetunde George Ademiluyi welcomed a baby girl, Ifafunmike Adara Anikulapo-Kuti. He took the band on tour, but upon returning home, concentrated on being a father while writing music and working with members of Egypt 80 -- the band he has fronted since 1997. Its lineup has remained largely the same since his father Fela formed it. When it was time to record, he re-enlisted Robert Glasper as co-producer, and set about pushing forward his ever-evolving vision of Afrobeat. It retains the basic, driving roots of his father's music, but goes wider, into rock, 21st century soul, Caribbean sounds, and edgy contemporary jazz, without softening the attack. Kuti said of Black Times: "It is an album for anybody who believes in change and understands the duty we have to rise up and come together. The elites always try to divide the working class and the poor people of the world. The same oppression felt by workers in Flint, Michigan is felt by workers in Lagos and Johannesburg."

The set's title track first single and video feature tasteful guitar interplay between guitarist Oluwagbemiga Alade's telegraph key vamping and guest Carlos Santana's leads, guided by Shinan Abiodun's drumming. Kuti's chant is a paean to freedom and defiance. Santana's playing is spiky and wah-wah-drenched, and d ...

Just before Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 released 2014’s fierce, diverse A Long Way to the Beginning, he and his girlfriend Yetunde George Ademiluyi welcomed a baby girl, Ifafunmike Adara Anikulapo-Kuti. He took the band on tour, but upon returning home, concentrated on being a father while writing music and working with members of Egypt 80 — the band he has fronted since 1997. Its lineup has remained largely the same since his father Fela formed it. When it was time to record, he re-enlisted Robert Glasper as co-producer, and set about pushing forward his ever-evolving vision of Afrobeat. It retains the basic, driving roots of his father’s music, but goes wider, into rock, 21st century soul, Caribbean sounds, and edgy contemporary jazz, without softening the attack. Kuti said of Black Times: “It is an album for anybody who believes in change and understands the duty we have to rise up and come together. The elites always try to divide the working class and the poor people of the world. The same oppression felt by workers in Flint, Michigan is felt by workers in Lagos and Johannesburg.”

The set’s title track first single and video feature tasteful guitar interplay between guitarist Oluwagbemiga Alade’s telegraph key vamping and guest Carlos Santana’s leads, guided by Shinan Abiodun’s drumming. Kuti’s chant is a paean to freedom and defiance. Santana’s playing is spiky and wah-wah-drenched, and doesn’t draw attention away from the band. “Kuku Kee Me” is an anthem of resistance to harassment by government forces. Its highlight, however, is its epic-length trumpet solo. “Corporate Public Control Department (C.P.C.D.)” reveals Glasper’s influence, with its jazzy organ, staggered Afrobeat horn attack, and popping guitar and drum duel. It was written during Kuti’s time at home and critically reflects on President Buhari’s first year in office. “African Dreams” finds Kuti improvising jazz-wise over a bubbling, simmering Afrobeat groove, with Glasper punching up his keyboards and stretching both genres until they melt into one another. “Bad Man Lighter” moves in another direction using funky breaks, vamping guitars, and spacy dubwise effects. Its lyrics condemn hypocrisy and defend the right of citizens to smoke “the good weed.” Kuti saves the best for last in the set’s final two cuts: “Struggle Sounds” has burning baritone, tenor, and brass delivering an infectious melody that makes room for improvisation; it ties Kuti to Ornette Coleman and James Brown, while the vocal evokes pre-Thomas Dorsey gospel. The distorted drumming on closer “Theory of Goat and Yam” is astonishing, sounding like a heard of buffalo stampeding as it pushes the trumpet, bassline, and striated, syncopated harmonics. While Black Times clocks in at more than an hour, its incessant drive, appended by lush textures, a diverse sonic palette, rich dynamic, and melodic variations keep it edge-of-your-seat compelling. All told, it’s evidence that the younger Kuti has come into his own with Egypt 80; he is charting his own path from the roots of his father’s music.

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