Monday, 24 March 2014
Fela Kuti: The Man Every Rapper Wants To Be
The man was Muhammad Ali, Che Guevara, and James Brown rolled into a tightly packed spliff that constantly burned with fiery inspiration. One million people, as in six zeros, attended his funeral. Most rappers don’t see six zeros until IRS rolls up with a bill. He was laid to rest in a glass casket with a joint in his hand (he was a notorious toker and was said to smoke cigar-sized joints ). A$AP would get shrinkage from just trying to live up to that.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti. His name as instantly electrifying as the 20-minute bizarre rides, not so much songs, he’d piece together with a band that put James Brown’s posse to shame. William Collins himself, Brown’s bassist and member of Parliament-Funkadelic, said “we were telling them they’re the funkiest cats we ever heard in our life. I mean, this is the James Brown band, but we were totally wiped out!” Some cat named Paul McCartney called Fela Kuti and his backing band Africa ‘70 the best band he’d ever seen live. Would the man with 60 gold discs say the same thing about The Roots?
Dude not only was asked by Sir Beatle himself to make music together, which Kuti denied based on principal (more on that later), but he made Paul weep at one of his concerts. Like “what 95% of the people on this planet do when they hear ‘Hey Jude’” weep. The kind of weeping Maejor Ali must have done when Justin Bieber agreed to “rap” on “Lolly.”
In many ways, Fela Kuti was the man every rapper has tried to become in their own ill-fated way.