Lagbaja

We Before Me

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Fans of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti looking to find the rightful heir to his throne have been pointed in the direction of his son, Femi Kuti, who is developing a formidable sound of his own. But even more impressive is this mysterious performer, Nigeria's Artist of the Year, who performs in a mask to hide his identity and whose Yoruba language name literally means "somebody, anybody, nobody in particular." As the title of this album seems to indicate, Lágbájá believes that the needs of the many come before the needs of the few, and the sociopolitical messages in much of his music speak to this theme. With the mystery man on vocals and saxophone, backed by an incredibly tight 11-piece band, We Before Me is a compilation of cuts from Lágbájá's last three Nigerian albums. This is deeply funky stuff, combining Afropop grooves with Western jazz, R&B, and hip-hop influences to create an infectious, wholly modern African sound. From the One Love message of unity on the opening "Me & You No' Be Enemy (We Be Family)" to the hopeful visions of Nigeria's future presented on the closing "Suuru Lere," Lágbájá comes across like a cross between Fela and Bob Marley -- a spokesman for the people who's passionate about inciting positive change. And through his imagined conversation about Yoruba pride with Kuti (who appears via samples) on the lively "Vernacular," Lágbájá makes it clear that he understands the importance of the legacy that now rests on his very capable shoulders.

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