Formed: 1986 in Lagos, Nigeria Sounds like: Father Fela Kuti; the soundtrack to the greatest blaxploitation film never made.
For fans of: Fela Kuti, King Sunny Adé, Portland’s Jujuba, hypnotism, shirtlessness.
Latest release: 2008’s Day by Day and the subsequent remix album, Femi Vs. KCRW Soundclash!
Why you care: With the wild Broadway success of Fela!—a musical about the life and times of legendary Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti—raising Afrobeat awareness, eldest son and musical heir Femi has exploded onto the world stage. A brass master who played beside his father before forming the Positive Force, Femi bolsters his family legacy by orchestrating complex, polyrhythmic funk beats over a wall of horns and pulsing bass that stay in the groove before launching into fierce crescendos. But Femi’s his own man, considerably more playful than Dad and overt with his political messages about ending world suffering. He mixes staccato vocals and call-and-response shoutouts into his jams while also embracing jazz and calypso influences. The Kuti legacy is one that has permeated popular music, particularly hip-hop, and Femi’s collaborations with the likes of Mos Def and D’Angelo are further evidence of his crossover appeal. He’s true musical royalty, a Nigerian prince you shouldn’t think twice about paying to see.
SEE IT: Femi Kuti and the Positive Force play the Oregon Zoo on Friday, July 2. 7 pm. All ages.