American singer and rapper, Wyclef Jean names his first single off his forthcoming album after Nigerian Afrobeat Legend, Fela Kuti.
Jean explained that he picked the name as title, because he wants young ones to know about the legendary progenitor of Afrobeat.
Afrobeat was essentially invented by Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Kuti’s experimentations with various pan-African sounds and exploration of African-American music led to his creation (along with substantial input from the members of his enormous backing band) of the genre, leading to a massive Afrobeat craze in the city of Lagos, and throughout Nigeria and West Africa. Kuti’s lyrical message was unquestionably political, and was viewed for many years as a threat by the authorities in Nigeria and other African countries. The anti-corruption and pro-civil rights messages in Kuti’s music tend to be present in the music of most modern Afrobeat groups as well.
“I decided to name it Fela Kuti because for me, I feel like we be thinking of Bob Marley, we give a lot of people from our past props, so when the kids hear Fela Kuti, I really want them to Google it,” he told XXL.
“Fela Kuti studied jazz in England. Wyclef studied jazz at Vailsburg High School. Fela Kuti then went back to his country and tried to help his country by running for president. Wyclef, you know, did the same thing.
“Then, Fela, through all his obstacles and all that, his music is what pillared him right back to the top. He understood the strongest way to help politically was to make sure the music was bangin.
“So for me, the same way kids can have songs called “Wyclef Jean” who are influenced by me, I want kids to know who Fela is and what he means.”
The influence of Afrobeat on current Western music is subtle but noteworthy: seminal and influential artists like Paul Simon, Brian Eno, David Byrne, and Peter Gabriel have all used demonstrable Afrobeat elements in their music, as have more modern bands, such as Vampire Weekend.
Fela Kuti himself might be the most name-dropped non-rapper in hip-hop history, and his songs continue to be sampled by producers, MCs, and DJs. Notable figures like The Roots and Lupe Fiasco have written whole songs about him, and still others cite him as an influence.