Red Hot + Riot

Red Hot + Riot

4.3 6

It took long enough, but the long-rumored Red Hot Fela Kuti tribute shatters even the highest expectations. For years, neo-soulsters and jazzbos alike have been talking up the music of Nigeria's Afrobeat architect. But Red Hot + Riot! at last makes a visceral connection. Producers AndrésSee more details below


It took long enough, but the long-rumored Red Hot Fela Kuti tribute shatters even the highest expectations. For years, neo-soulsters and jazzbos alike have been talking up the music of Nigeria's Afrobeat architect. But Red Hot + Riot! at last makes a visceral connection. Producers Andrés Levin, John Carlin, and Paul Heck turn an illustrious roster of rappers, bluesmen, African troubadours, jazz masters, and more loose on covers and music inspired by Fela's loping funk, and the results are extraordinary. Where previous Red Hot compilations aimed for high-minded science experiments and daring juxtapositions, this tribute feels like a family reunion. Not even the famous Red Hot + Cool sessions, which fairly birthed acid jazz, offered such a simpatico meeting of jazz and hip-hop. Inside the rich tapestry of Fela's Afrobeat, there's plenty of room for turntables, rappers, jazz solos, African drumming, chants, praises, blessings, and -- this is Fela, after all -- curses. Righteous anger pours from inner-city voices: Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, and Meshell Ndegeocello, who memorably asks, "Did your mind write a check that your soul can't cash?" Others pay tribute to the rebel leader's African roots, including his son Femi, Baaba Maal, and Senegal's Chieck Lo, who changes Fela's critical "African Lady" into a celebration, with help from Manu Dibango's saxophone. Where Fela's monumental jams -- and equally lengthy harangues -- demand a certain patience, Red Hot + Riot! keeps the action coming, thanks to deft sampling, electronic interludes, varied textures, and effects. To hear the shimmering rhythmic chops of Nile Rodgers's guitar frame the percolating funk of "Water Get No Enemy," then cede to the feathery vocals of Macy Gray in her best Lady Marmalade creole, and wrap up with Roy Hargrove's horn and vocal adlibs from D'Angelo is to witness the smartest and most soulful collaboration in many a moon. What shouldn't get lost in the music is the Red Hot raison d'être: Proceeds from the album support awareness and prevention of AIDS, the disease that conquered the Black President in 1997. More fitting memorials are rare indeed.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Chris Nickson
Good records work; great records have an organic unity. By their nature, tributes can rarely be more than good records, but somehow Red Hot + Riot manages to transcend that. In part it's because it moves into uncharted territory, mixing African and African-American artists in ways that haven't happened before, all in tribute to the late Fela Kuti (an apt subject for an AIDS fundraiser, since he died of the disease). And so there's rapping over Afro-beat grooves (a refreshing change from lame hip-hop beats), jazz, and R&B, African musicians playing Afro-beat, and a whole lot more, plus some of the most conscious words you'll hear in many a year. Mix Master Mike mashes up some Fela cuts for the interludes, which makes for perfect breaks, especially the opener, which leads into the powerful "Kalakuta Show" from two members of Blackalicious. It's a record of highlights, such as the groove jam on "Water Get No Enemy," with D'Angelo, Macy Gray, Nile Rodgers, and jazzer Roy Hargrove (who blows up a storm everywhere he appears on the disc) along with Femi Kuti, or the scathing "Shuffering and Shmiling," featuring Femi's band, Positive Force, behind Dead Prez and Talib Kweli, with Brazilian star Jorge Ben adding rhythm guitar and some sublime scat singing. Djali Madi Tounkara and Common team up for a lovely "Years of Tears and Sorrow," before Senegalese star Cheikh Lô unleashes a fearsome "Shankara/Lady," a song he played as a teen, adding talking drum and a thick sound. On "Gentleman," Me'Shell NdegéOcello and saxophonist Ron Blake work with Yerba Buena to create a piece that sounds like the song Talking Heads really wanted to do with "Life During Wartime." The mood slows toward the end of the album after "No Agreement," where Fela alumnus Tony Allen powers through the song, leading Baaba Maal, Ray Lema, and African rappers Positive Black Soul. It leads into two non-Fela songs, Kelis on "So Be It," which is pure Fela in feel if not execution, and a dreamy, dubby mix of Sade's "By Your Side" -- a fair inclusion since, like Fela, she's from Nigeria. It all ends with "Trouble Sleep," really Fela's only non-Afro-beat song, with Baaba Maal and Taj Mahal singing over Kaouding Cissoko's lulling kora, to close a record that's the perfect tribute to Fela's revolutionary spirit.
Entertainment Weekly - Rob Brunner
With grooves this delicately monstrous and a line-up this well-chosen and eclectic, it's the best sort of sensory overload. (A-)

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Product Details

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Related Subjects


  1. (Intro) Fela Mentality  - Mix Master Mike
  2. Kalakuta Show  -  Gift of Gab
  3. (Interlude) Live at Kalakuta
  4. Shuffering + Shmiling  -  Positive Force
  5. (Interlude) Gimme Sh*T
  6. Water No Get Enemy (Intro)  -  Soultronics
  7. Water No Get Enemy  -  Soultronics
  8. Gentleman  - MeShell NdegeOcello
  9. Tears + Sorrow  -  Common
  10. Shakara/Lady, Pt. 1  - Cheikh Lô
  11. Shakara/Lady, Pt. 2  -  Chateau Flight
  12. (Interlude) Don't Worry About My Mouth-O
  13. Zombie, Pt. 1
  14. Zombie, Pt. 2  - Nile Rodgers
  15. No Agreement  - Tony Allen
  16. So Be It
  17. (Interlude) This Is an Ashanti Proverb
  18. By Your Side  -  Sade
  19. Colonial Mentality
  20. Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am  -  Antibalas

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Mix Master Mike   Track Performer
Blackalicious   Track Performer
Dead Prez   Track Performer
Jorge Ben   Track Performer
Bilal   Track Performer
Talib Kweli   Track Performer
D'Angelo   Track Performer
Femi Kuti   Track Performer
Macy Gray   Track Performer
Roy Hargrove   Track Performer
Nile Rodgers   Track Performer
Meshell Ndegeocello   Track Performer
Common   Track Performer
Djelimady Tounkara   Track Performer
Cheikh Lô   Track Performer
Nubians   Track Performer
Wunmi   Track Performer
Money Mark   Track Performer
Baaba Maal   Track Performer
Tony Allen   Track Performer
Manu Dibango   Track Performer
RES   Track Performer
Kelis   Track Performer
Sade   Track Performer
Taj Mahal   Track Performer
Antibalas   Track Performer

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