Various Red Hot + Riot

Since his death from AIDS in 1997, the legacy of Afro-beat pioneer and Nigerian icon Fela Kuti has truly been in ascendance. Knowledge of his brave and very painful stance against injustice and government corruption, as well as his slow-burning marathon Afro-beat workouts has definitely become better known. Unfortunately, in a parallel reality, the spread of AIDS on the African continent has risen exponentially, so the idea for this CD to benefit that situation is ingenious. A host of intriguing collaborations featuring a truly diasporic mix of musicians from the fields of jazz, soul, hip-hop, blues and of course, Afro-beat are on hand to contribute to this disc. While the list of artists and highlights are far too numerous to mention, special mention should go to the resolute cover of "Water No Get Enemy," featuring Macy Gray, D'Angelo and Roy Hargrove and Fela's son Femi Kuti, and "No Agreement," featuring Fela's own funky drummer Tony Allen, along with Res, Baaba Maal and jazz giant Archie Shepp. The titles of these tracks are instantly familiar to Fela devotees and this project does an excellent job of reworking and reinterpreting his work within a modern context, whether that means Gift of Gab from Blackalicious and Talib Kweli spitting rhymes or Mixmaster Mike's deconstructive turntablism. However, Afro-beat, the genre Fela single-handedly invented, remains the sonic backbone on a project that simultaneously preserves musical history for the future and helps to address a present and urgent reality. (Universal)