There's a reason why Seun Kuti looks so confident on the cover of Black Times. Released four years since his last LP, 2014's robust A Long Way to the Beginning, the Nigerian vocalist and saxophonist seems committed to crafting his own version of Afrobeat, while paying homage to the jazz-inspired, rhythmic genre invented by his late father, Fela Kuti.
Joined by Egypt 80 (the band his dad helped form in the late '70s and which Seun fronted as a youth), while bringing soul keyboardist Robert Glasper back into the producer's chair, this eight-track/63-minute LP blends in neo-soul and rock (best exemplified on the title track, featuring surprisingly low-key guitar work from Carlos Santana) with his regular funk, jazz and scorching lyrics.
Although the call-and-response of "Last Revolutionary" and the epic sax intro of "Kuku Kee Me" deliver on Afrobeat's blazing energy, Seun also adds a new flavour to tracks like the dance-y, dub-inspired "Bad Man Lighter," smoother edges to "African Dreams" and a James Brown-like charm to "Struggle Sounds."
But it's Seun's lyrics that make his third LP such an engaging listen, as issues like commercialism ("African Dreams") and corrupt politics ("Corporate Public Control Department (C.P.C.D.)") seem both contemporary and timeless. On Black Times, Seun Kuti continues to be one of the most important voices in music, by simply reinforcing to us what we already know. (Strut)