March 11 2014
The shadow Fela Kuti looms large in the genre he helped create, not only in the work of modern afrobeat bands, but in the lives and music of his talented sons Femi and Seun. While Femi recieves the bulk of America's attention, Seun is easily as active and esteemed in the rest of the West. It doesn't hurt that Seun is the spitting image of his father in both look and energy; or that before his passing of AIDS in 1997 Fela essentially gave his band, Egypt 80 to his then 15 yer-old son Seun.
Following in the footsteps of a legend is no easy feat however, and for a time Seun struggled with the expectations and even dabbled in other styles until he stopped copping out and embraced the challenge. Since then, Seun has released two excellent albums and is poised to strike again on an album titled A Long Way To The Beginning. Seun's other releases, 2008's Many Things and 2011's From Africa With Fury are both excellent. on Many Things, Seun does an admirable job recreating the structure that made Fela's songs great while on From Africa With Fury: Rise, Seun got the alchemy right and made an album that Fela might have made himself had he lived.
On the new one, Seun really seems to be finding his own signature within the sound. For lovers of Fela and the orthodoxy they often project on artists who slip the mold, this might not be the album that one would expect. Change is tricky, but Seun is doing it right. While A Long Way To The Beginning sounds like Fela's afrobeat, this one has Seun's markings all over it. From the scathing opening cut "IMF" to the slow simmer of "Black Woman," Seun stikes much harder and much faster than Fela ever really did and in the process sounds like the Kuti he was meant to be.
Seun enlisted Grammy-winner Robert Glasper to produce the album and A Long Way To The Beginning sounds stronger for it as Glasper seems to have put Seun's vocals farther in to the mix balancing the excellent instrumentation of Egypt 80 with Seun's delivery. The lead single "IMF" is decidedly radio un-friendly and features M1 from Dead Prez rapping about the IMF's neo-colonial ways...