Fela Kuti

The Underground Spiritual Game

This is something of a wet dream for us Bay Area folk, a captivating mix CD of songs by the late Nigerian Afrobeat bandleader Fela Kuti put together in an ultimate DJ set by Chief Xcel of our own home-grown hip hop act extraordinaire Blackalicious. Artists given a monumental task such as this normally use it as an opportunity to showboat, but with Xcel the opposite is true. His presence throughout the mix is subtle -- you might have to keep your eyes glued to the digital display to notice the smooth transitions. He doesn't try to turn it into a hip hop mix. Instead he shows proper reverence to the material by not inciting a scratchfest or something similarly distracting. He takes care to move from one song to another by matching their keys or simply their moods, displaying a real technical ear in addition to an emotional one. Xcel has said that he hopes to curate future Fela Kuti projects, which is great, though this is enough of a masterpiece to stand alone.

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