Femi Kuti — Stop the Hate
Qobuz new release review (February 2021)
It’s wild to think that, back in the ’90s, when Femi Kuti first made an impact on the international music scene, the eldest son of Fela was seen as a modernist bent on re-molding his father’s afrobeat sound with an unapologetically contemporary approach. His arrival was bracing. Even though Femi’s career kicked off at basically the same moment his father’s recording career had stopped (but a few years before Fela’s death), it was during a time when Fela’s prime ’70s work was undergoing a broad reassessment and revival of interest; Femi’s work seemed like more of a sharp break from his father’s than the more gradual evolution that it actually was. Of course, in the three decades since, Femi’s approach has gotten more and more “classicist,” reveling in backward glances and legacy preservation, and the passage of time has allowed a more reasonable perspective on that father-son succession.
That makes a work like Stop The Hate that much more interesting. While it absolutely sounds like the work of a middle-aged man wrestling with the internal struggle between genre fealty and continued creative evolution, it also rests alongside the blossoming of his own son’s career. Stop the Hate is not only being released in tandem with Made Kuti’s debut For(e)ward, but is also being packaged with it as a double album called Legacy+. To be sure, these are very different albums by very different artists, but in the same way that Made will be both aided by and saddled with his family legacy, so was Femi. With Stop the Hate, it’s clear that Femi has made peace with settling into a groove that honors and evokes his father’s work. Tracks like “You Can’t Fight Corruption with Corruption,” “Young Boy / Young Girl,” and album opener “Pà Pá Pà” are exactly the sort of work one would imagine Fela producing in the year 2021; while shorter and possessed of a buffed-out studio sheen, they balance bristling political energy and languid, loping grooves in a classically afrobeat way. Other cuts though — notably the staccato groove of closing track “Set Your Minds and Souls Free” and the frenetic, anthemic “Land Grab” — show Femi’s continued inventiveness and willingness to subvert a genre that is literally his family’s legacy. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz