This is the second volume that the AIDS- and HIV-combatting Red Hot Organization has dedicated to the music of Fela Kuti, the late Nigerian creator of Afrobeat, fearless militant political and liberation activist, and cultural icon. The first, Red Hot + Riot, appeared in 2002 and juxtaposed Fela's music with hip-hop, neo-soul, and African folk styles. This 13-track set, compiled by Anthony Demby and Paul Heck, employs the root sounds of Afrobeat more explicitly. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly the success of the musical Fela! Another is that on the African continent, AIDS and HIV remain massive problems that have taken their toll on families, populations, and national economies. (Fela died of complications due to AIDS.) The set kicks off with "Buy Africa" by Congolese rapper Baloji with L'Orchestre de la Katube and Yoruban singer and songwriter Kuku. The propulsive beats meet the punchy brass and confrontational lyrics head-on in a dazzling rhythm and rhyme collision. Drummer Tony Allen, a bandmate of Féla's and an Afrobeat pioneer in his own right, collaborates with Baloji and rapper M1 on the bubbling "Afrodisco Beat 2013," that weaves funk, hip-hop, Afrobeat, and dub together with lyrics in French and English. "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am" is performed nearly straightforwardly by Jim James and My Morning Jacket, with Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs. The vibe is slow, snaky, and hypnotic, though at over 14 minutes, it's too much of a good thing. tUnE-yArDs and ?uestlove back Beninoise vocalist Angelique Kidjo and poet Akua Naru in funking up "Lady." Driven by furious breaks and roiling basslines, they turn the original sexist lyric on its head. The labyrinthine, bass matrix dubstep treatment of "Zombie," by producer Spoek Mathambo with Cerebral Cortex and Frown, is the set's most adventurous selection. Nigerian singer Nneka- born Antibalas vocalist Amayo, all front the manic seven-piece unit Superhuman Happiness in a pumped up, four-on-the-floor reading of on "No Buredi (No Bread)," complete with distorted kalimbas, zigzagging, squiggly synths, and popping basslines. Red Hot + Fela's unique yet nearly seamless-sounding collaborations offer a deeper hearing of Afrobeat in light of its wide-ranging implications trans-culturally, both in the present era and as it points toward the future.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek