We Before Me

By David DacksWe Before Me is a compilation of three of Lagbaja's Nigeria-only releases. Arguably the brightest hope for Afrobeat at present, Lagbaja is a sax player who is never seen unmasked in public. He refuses to term his music Afrobeat, but he fuses funky rhythms, call and response vocals, big horn sections and Yoruban percussion in much the same way as Fela did. Perhaps even more so than Fela, Lagbaja's use of percussion is integral to his sound and his music features more defined roles for talking drums and bata, as in Nigerian Fuji music. Each track here features elaborate interplay between the lead and supporting vocals, slowly spinning out his well-considered and original subjects - his method is to question rather than preach. The name of the compilation, We Before Me, aptly sums up his views on the individual and society. Lagbaja has a far broader understanding of gender relations than Fela ever did, and he also explores themes in Yoruban society and governmental corruption. Unfortunately, not even this distillation of three albums can hide the fact that his production technique needs work. Most of the programmed beats sounds like B-level Teddy Riley, and the synth sounds are equally '80s-esque. These sounds overwhelm certain tunes to the point of embarrassment. Lagbaja definitely has the substance to make a great record, but someone needs to give greater gravity to da funk in order for him to be taken seriously on the dance floor.
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