Album Review: Femi Kuti + Made Kuti – Legacy +

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no afrobeat scholar, but there’s something undeniably enticing about a double album calling itself Legacy+ that’s attached to the Kuti name. I don’t even think this is necessarily limited or limiting, either, because the work of Fela Kuti is something that you’re likely aware of even if you’ve never listened to the man’s work, because his influence has been drip fed throughout any and all afro-influenced music, which, at this point? That’s most of it.

If there’s one thing that Legacy+ does showcase, it’s that title point. The two halves of this record, which feels best consumed in full, is almost allegoric of that influence- Fela’s son, Femi, is one layer of separation from Fela on ‘Stop the Hate’, but Femi’s son, Made, shows how much the sound has infiltrated the zeitgeist on ‘For(e)word’. Two degrees of separation. Multigenerational. Whatever.

For the most part, because it’s a double album and because that’s how it feels like it functions logically, this is mostly going to concern the two albums as a single, dynamic release rather than two separate ones. Just as ground rules

What is initially an imposing set of eighteen tracks proves surprisingly manageable. It’s easy to see the two artists in different roles- Femi introduces the listener to the bigger band afrobeat sound, and functions as bandmaster, in the same role as his father, but Made is more of a soloist. It’s also worth looking briefly at what you can accomplish as either, as well, because that’s how this feels like it unfolds.

The role of the bandmaster seems to be one that both commands a band, but also an audience. This is a protestive record, and Femi runs with that in a more conventional call and response fashion that’s palatable due to the carnival atmosphere and more lightweight vibe of his sizeable backing band. Songs like Land Grab are easily contrasted with Blood, from For(e)word, because they approach the same idea from differing perspectives with the same goal in mind.

I really think Blood is the standout, but it also might be the least in line with the traditional perspective you’d find from afrobeat. It also may be a me thing. Happy to admit that. it’s murky, leans into the title, but it makes a point in a compellingly different way, which makes it just outright impressive. It’s the strongest solo performance from Made across the two records, and the one that most exemplifies the difference between what either can achieve through their different styles.

If you’re using this to dip your toe into afrobeat, which I kinda did, then it’s a great spot to start. 18 songs is enough that you can give it differing amounts of your attention, but regardless of how much you’re listening you’ll get the point of it. They’re both a lot of fun. The transitional tracks are fantastic- Femi uses all of his live music expertise to craft a song that makes you leave his record with a lightened heart and Made introduces himself by showing that he’s not the same artist- and it is just… all very impressive and well curated. Hard to really go farther than that.

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