"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.