Some musicians treat their family name as a thorn in their side, a shadow that hangs over them throughout their career.
Seun Kuti wears his surname on his sleeve, a badge of honour across his homeland of Africa and all over the globe thanks to the ground-breaking artistry of his father, Fela. Black Times finds Kuti building upon the foundations his father left behind, producing an album constructed from activism, power and good vibrations.
The spirit of afrobeat wasn’t the only thing Fela left to his son - he also inherited a group of some of the tightest musicians on the planet: Egypt 80. With this posse of talent backing him up, Kuti is given the freedom to broadcast his message of pain, injustice and revolution over eight tracks of punchy, percussive rhythms. “African Dreams” begins with a meandering instrumental, giving Kuti space to lament the loss of African ideals for the seemingly glamourous ‘American Dream’.
“Too many of my youts believe in the hype / living in a stereotype / tell me who they leave?”
As the instruments come to an abrupt halt, the musicians kick back-in and the record begins to show its true colours. “Bad Man Lighter” is a no-holds barred party anthem, dedicated to Kuti’s favourite herb. What this track lacks in lyrical depth, it makes up for in grooves. The album gets into deeper territory with the help of Carlos Santana on “Black Times”. The guitar solos can get slightly self-indulgent, but Kuti is in no rush as he continues to spread the message of black power.
Each song is drenched in rich horns, tight percussion and melodic licks. “Corporate Public Control Department” and “Struggle Sound” instantly make it almost impossible to keep your body from moving. If you listen to this album with your head, it is a politically charged rally to the people, but if you listen with your body, it is an album designed to make you dance – the hallmark of any release bearing the Kuti name.