Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Don't Any Producers Sample Afro-Beat?

"Go a slow, go a slow..." - Fela Anikulapo Kuti

It confounds me why more hip-hop producers don't mine sounds from Africa. Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate the difficulty of finding music from that part of the world. I discovered Fela Kuti pretty much by accident, a month or so after my boy turned me onto Napster in '99 before it blew up and went to a pay service.

I didn't have the capability at the time, but now that I'm making beats and remixes all the time, I'm just waiting for the right moment to break out the Afrobeat and find some sick samples. The opening rhythms alone that open Kuti's songs, as well as Tony Allen, the Daktaris, Lafayette Afro Rock Band and even modern groups like Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, have some great chops, and the horn lines are KILLER.

More than that, though, it's just plain old great music. It doesn't get more danceable, unless you're a disco freak, and the party don't stop: most of Fela's songs are about 15 minutes long.

And while I prefer the heady syncopated funk of central Africa for the most part, there's even more to be found in the northwest part of the continent. Up there you get the same heavy reliance on rhythm, but with more of an Arabic influence in the scales and melodies. I stumbled across some traditional songs from Algeria, Morocco, Mali, places like that... some very interesting stuff, good material for vocal samples and what-not. And if you're just looking for some flat-out great music to listen to, groups like Tartit and Tinariwen that are blending those northern African rhythms with modern blues (and using electric guitars to do it! The shit is sick!) are creating some even cooler music.

Afrobeat. It's the shit.


  1. Agree 100%. If/when I teach myself to make beats, Afrobeat will be my first go to source. Just so you know, The Roots sampled a Fela Kuti track called "Mr. Grammarticalogylisationalism Is the Boss" for "I Will Not Apologize" on Rising Down. A part of Canibus' "Poet Laureate II" also samples the same song.

  2. I did NOT know that... thanks, brother. I just can't think of a single part of it that WOULDN'T work well... the basslines are complex and bangin', the polyrhythms are all over the place. It's great.

  3. Oh, another thing I should've mentioned; there's this compilation called "Red, Hot, & Riot" that has people like Gift of Gab, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, etc. rapping over Fela breakbeats. I haven't listened to the whole thing, but I've liked the bits and pieces I've heard. I'm looking at the playlist, and you also have singers like D'Angelo and Les Nubians on it. Probably worth checking out.

  4. I think I remember that title... have to check that out.

  5. Agreed. The afro beat horns are killer.

    Aside from the Roots track, the only other tracks I can remember that utlized this was these two Afro-beat-laced joints that Fam-lay went in on: http://www.cocaineblunts.com/blunts/?p=962

  6. you should check out some of the work of pete rock.. i recall he used a sample of fela's water no get enemy in 'grown man sport' from INI


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