Seun Kuti & Egypt 80: Black Times

Bill Murphy on March 7, 2018

As the youngest son of a great man, Seun Kuti is intimately familiar with the pressures of shouldering a legacy (and if he likes, he can always call Damian Marley to compare notes). When he took up the reins to lead his late father Fela’s band Egypt 80 back in 1997, he was still a gruff teenager, but he’d been playing saxophone and singing since his childhood and had soaked up the sweat and electricity of the music until it was in his bones. Quite unlike his older brother Femi, who set his own consciousness-raising brand of Afrobeat in motion with his band Positive Force, Seun hews closer to the revolutionary fervor of his father, and funnels that angry heat into a churning, driving and thoroughly modern update of the sound that put Nigeria on the musical map. Fittingly, his fourth album Black Times jumps off with “Last Revolutionary,” a callto- arms (“I be the tip of the Zulu spear/the beat of the drums you hear”) that ripples with a barn-burning groove and staccato horn lines that recall Fela’s toughest jams. Carlos Santana steps out on the loping, rock-inflected title track, his guitar licks cascading and careening in a lively call-and-response with Seun’s exhortations of “Black people time coming up.” The venerable Egypt 80 players also get to flex their muscles, especially on “Theory of Goat and Yam,” a dynamic workout that could have made the cut on a latter-day Fela classic like Beasts of No Nation or O.D.O.O. Sometimes it’s uncanny how easily Seun can channel his father’s spirit, but he’s also his own man with his own vision, and at 35, he still has plenty more to give.

Artist: Seun Kuti & Egypt 80
Album: Black Times
Label: STRUT