Tag: Dead Prez

Red Hot has been producing great music to promote diversity and equal access to health care since 1990. The first project was the Cole Porter tribute Red Hot + Blue, quickly followed by Red Hot + DanceNo AlternativeStolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, and Red Hot + Rio. Over the past 15 years Red Hot produced two successful projects with Aaron and Bryce Dessner – Dark Was The Night and Day of the Dead – along with a tribute to Arthur Russell and several other projects. 

Yesterday, was World AIDS Day. And to commemorate the occasion, Red Hot reissued their acclaimed Fela Kuti tribute, Red Hot + Riot, which featured contributions from D’Angelo, Questlove, Femi Kuti, Talib Kweli, Sade, the late Tony Allen, Macy Gray, Nile Rodgers, Jorge Ben Jor, Baaba Maal, Meshell Ndegeocello, Dead Prez, Kelis, the late Roy Hargrove, Archie Shepp and many others 20 years after the compilation’s original release. (On a personal note, 20 years ago I was interning at FHM Magazine. I received a press copy of Red Hot + Riot Fela Kuti tribute, and that album was my introduction to both Fela and to Afrobeat.)

The 20th anniversary reissue is remastered and features two hours of bonus material, including a previously unreleased cover of “Sorrow Tears & Blood” by Bilal, an acoustic version of “Trouble Sleep” with Baaba Maal accompanied by the late and legendary kora player Kaouding Cissoko, and an extended version of Sade’s “By Your Side” by Stuart Matthewman. The original release had to be heavily edited to fit the time limit of a physical CD, and the reissue also features a wealth of bonus material, including extended versions of many album tracks, along with early mixes, acapallas, instrumentals, and much more.

And lastly, the folks at Red Hot have released the album on digital streaming platforms for the first time ever.

Just to refresh your memories a bit: Fela Kuti was — and still is — one of the most important African musicians, bandleaders and activists of his time. Sadly, Kuti died at age 58 in 1997 of causes related to HIV/AIDS, two years before Red Hot began the project.

The idea for the Red Hot Fela tribute came from Questlove during sessions for Red Hot’s Gershwin tribute compilation, which featured a collaboration between The Roots and the late and legendary Bobby Womack. Questlove suggested that Red Hot do a cover of Sly Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin On but they couldn’t secure the rights.

The ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa, along with a love of Fela Kuti’s work transformed the project into what we now know. Red Hot secured the rights to Fela’s music, as well as his master recordings, which allowed for both covers and sampling. Questlove kicked things off with a superstar session at Electric Lady Studios covering “Water Get No Enemy,” with a band led by D’Angelo and Fela’s son Femi Kuti, along with members of the Soultronics — James Posner, Pino Pallodino and the aforementioned D’Angelo and Questlove — and Femi’s backing band Positive Force. Nile Rodgers, Macy Gray and Erykah Badu joined the session, although Badu’s vocal didn’t make the final mix. Red Hot producer Beco Dranoff brought in legendary Brazilian artist Jorge Ben Jor to the session a bit too late to join in, but he recorded the basic track of what would become “Shuffering and Shmiling” in another room at Electric Lady overseen by producer Andres Levin.

Red Hot spent the the next two years recording material around the world and at the Fun Machine studio that Andres Levin built in the SoHo office of Funny Garbage, the digital design company co-founded and run by Red Hot’s co-founder and creative director John Carlin. Coincidentally, the Baaba Maal session for Trouble Sleep,” the first session at Fun Machine was on September 10, 2001. 24 hours later, the World Trade Center, which could be seen from the studio windows was attacked. It was a tragic and tumultuous time, but the recordings continued and by the end of the year, there was a joyous celebration of Fela’s music and life about to be released.


The 20th anniversary of Red Hot + Riot is a cause for celebration, but also a sober reflection on the continued devastation of HIV/AIDS, particularly as Sub-Saharan Africa is disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic: Sub-Saharan Africa currently accounts for 71% of people living with HIV, a devastating reality where 75% of global HIV-related deaths and 65% of new infections occur. I think these numbers will give you a better sense of HIVs impact on Sub-Saharan Africa: Of the 38.3 million people living with HIV worldwide, 27.3 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa. 7.8 million of the 27.3 million infected people are in South Africa, including 6,.3 million young adults and children. 11% of the global population is in Africa but it accounts for over 71% of the global impact in terms of infections and mortality.

The stigma around men who have sex with other men, women’s lack of resources and agency and the vilification of sex workers and drug addicts halt all progress that can be made to aid the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Frequently, ignorance is used to distance the culture from undesirable and uncomfortable topics like intimate partner violence, sex education, the LGBQT+ community and women’s lack of agency and access to proper care.

Tragically, young women and girls bear the brunt of the impact from cultural silence and their pain and misfortune is passed onto future generations. The HIV/AIDS epidemic’s root is the intersection of structural and cultural setbacks in awareness, acceptance, understanding and treatment. 

Red Hot celebrates the 20th anniversary reissue by sharing the expanded album’s first single, “Sorrow Tears and Blood,” off the bonus material, a joyous yet righteous, pan-African Diasporic take on the original that sees its talented crew of collaborators — Bilal, Zap Mama and Common — seamlessly meshing elements of jazz, neo-soul, hip-hop and Afrobeat. As Black folk — hell, as people — we need to be concerned with what’s going on in the Motherland, the very cradle of all of us.


New Video: Genesis Owusu’s Shimmering and Brooding “Gold Chains”

With the release of his debut, 2017’s Cardrive EP, the rapidly rising Ghanian-born, Canberra, Australia-based, 20-something artist Genesis Owusu — born Kofi Owusu-Anash — quickly established himself as a perpetually restless, genre-blurring chameleon with a defiant, difficult to pigeonhole sound an approach and an ability to conjure powerful and deeply personal storytelling in diverse forms. Cardrive eventually garnered an ARIA Award nomination for Best R&B/Soul Release and praise from Sir Elton John (!), NME, i-D, mixmag and others. And adding to a growing profile, Owusu has opened for the likes of Dead Prez, Col3trane, Sampa The Great, Cosmo’s Midnight, Noname, Animé, Ruel and others in Australia.

Last year, the rising Ghanian-born, Aussie-based artist released a handful of highly-celebrated singles including the fiery mosh-pit friendly banger “Whip Cracker” and the ARIA Award-nominated smash hit “Don’t Need You,” which quickly became the #1 most played song on triple J radio — and since then has received airplay in the UK on both BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 and here in the States on KCRW, KUTX, The Current and Alt98.

“Whip Cracker” and “Don’t Need You” will be on Owusu-Anash’s forthcoming 15 song Andrew Klippel-produced full-length debut Smiling With No Teeth. Slated for a March 5, 2021 release through House Anxiety/Ourness, Smiling With No Teeth reportedly sees the rising Ghanian-born, Aussie artist further honing and developing his genre-confounding sound and approach while charting the epic peaks and troughs of mental health struggles and his experience as a black man in a very white world that hates him — often for no particular reason. Much of the album’s material is centered round raw punk rock-like and hip-hop-like energy while routinely veering into industrial, punk, funk, trip hop and pop, sometimes within the same song. And as a result. the album’s brash and defiant material is seemingly dedicated to those who boldly refused to be boxed into stereotypes or cultural norms, and those who fit in everywhere and nowhere.

“Smiling With No Teeth is performing what the world wants to see, even if you don’t have the capacity to do so honestly,” Owusu explains in press notes. “Slathering honey on your demons to make them palatable to people who only want to know if you’re okay if the answer is yes. That’s the idea, turned into beautiful, youthful, ugly, timeless and strange music.” Each of the album’s 15 tracks can trace their origins back to studio jam sessions with a backing band that features Kirin J. Callinan, Touch Sensitive’s Michael DiFrancesco, World Champion‘s Julian Sudek and the album’s producer Andrew Klippel.

Late last year, I wrote about “The Other Black Dog,” a mind-bending production that meshed alternative hip-hop, industrial clang, clatter, rattle and stomp, off-kilter stuttering beats and wobbling synth arpeggios that was roomy enough for Owusu-Anash’s breathless, rapid-fire and dense flow. Managing to balance club friendliness with sweaty, mosh pit energy, the song is a full-throttled nosedive into madness that reminds me of the drug and booze fueled chaos of ODB, and the menace of DMX.

“Gold Chains,” Smiling With No Teeth’s fourth and latest single is a brooding and seamless synthesis of old school soul, strutting and swaggering G Funk and Massive Attack-like trip hop. Centered around shimmering and atmospheric synths, a sinuous bass line, stuttering boom bap beats and squiggling blasts of guitar, “Gold Chains” finds the rising Ghanian-born, Canberra-based artist adopting a sort of Mos Def/Yasiin Bey-like delivery, alternating between spitting dense and dexterous bars and crooning with an achingly tender falsetto. “‘Gold Chains’ got me thinking about the flaws of being in a profession where, more and more, you have to be the product, rather than just the provider of the product, and public misconceptions about how luxurious that is,” Owusu-Anash explains in press notes. “Lyrically, it set the tone for the rest of the album.”

Directed by frequent visual collaborator Riley Blakeway, the recently released video for “Gold Chains” alternates between luxurious and glossy, 70s inspired glam, glitter and commodities and a behind-the-scenes look at desperation and loneliness. The cars, gold, money and fame are empty and phony — and ironically only add to the protagonist’s increasing dissatisfaction with everything, including himself. “The video is about the hollowness of a lot of the things we hold as idols,” the rising Ghanian-born, Canberra-based artist told The Fader. “The shiny things that get made to look like goals from the outside looking in, but in reality won’t be the source of happiness that we’d hoped for. The gold chains become shackles.”

New Video: Rising Ghanian-born Aussie-based Artist Genesis Owusu Peers into Madness

With the releases of his debut effort, 2017’s Cardrive EP, which garnered an ARIA Award nomination for Best R&B/Soul Release and praise from Sir Elton John (!), NME, i-D, mixmag and others, the rapidly rising Ghanian-born, Canberra, Australia-based, , 20-something artist Genesis Owusu — born Kofi Owusu-Anash — quickly developed a reputation for being a maverick presence with an ability to conjure powerful and deeply personal storytelling in diverse forms, centered around a genre-defying sound and approach that’s uniquely his own. Adding to a growing profile, Owusu has opened for the likes of Dead Prez, Col3trane, Sampa The Great, Cosmo’s Midnight, Noname, Animé, Ruel and others in Australia.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Owusu-Anash has released a handful of highly-celebrated singles over the past year, which have included “Whip Cracker,” and the ARIA Award-nominated smash hit “Don’t Need You,” which quickly became the #1 most played song on triple J radio — and since then has received airplay in the UK on both BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 and recently here in the States on KCRW, KUTX, The Current and Alt98.

“Whip Cracker” and “Don’t Need You” will be prominently featured on Owusu-Anash’s forthcoming 15 song Andrew Klippel-produced full-length debut Smiling With No Teeth. Slated for a March 5, 2021 release through House Anxiety/Ourness, Smiling With No Teeth reportedly sees the rising Ghanian-born, Aussie artist further honing and developing his genre-confounding sound and approach while charting the epic peaks of troughs of mental health struggles and his experience as a black man in a very white world. Centered around raw hip-hop energy, the material routinely veers into industrial, punk, funk and pop, sometimes within the same song. And as a result, the album’s brash and defiant material is dedicated to those who boldly refuse to be boxed in by stereotypes or cultural norms, or at the very least, don’t feel that they fit in anywhere.

“Smiling With No Teeth is performing what the world wants to see, even if you don’t have the capacity to do so honestly,” Owusu explains in press notes. “Slathering honey on your demons to make them palatable to people who only want to know if you’re okay if the answer is yes. That’s the idea, turned into beautiful, youthful, ugly, timeless and strange music.” Each of the album’s 15 tracks can trace their origins back to studio jam sessions with a backing band that features Kirin J. Callinan, Touch Sensitive’s Michael DiFrancesco, World Champion’s Julian Sudek and the album’s producer Andrew Klippel.

“The Other Black Dog,” Smiling With No Teeth’s third and latest single is a cinematic take on contemporary alternative hip-hop, industrial music and pop centered around Owusu-Anash’s breathlessly rapid-fire delivery and barking, and an industrial stomp featuring off-kilter, stuttering beats and wobbling synth arpeggios. Somehow managing to balance dance floor friendliness with a sweaty mosh-pit energy, the song is a full-throttled nosedive into the hell of madness that brings the drug and booze fueled chaos of ODB, and the fury and menace of DMX to mind. Thematically, the single finds the rising Canberra-based artist giving the fearsome inner and outer demons he lives with and informs his life, the “black dogs,” a name. “The track explores the internal struggle between a hopeful spirit of endurance, and a gnashing black hole of ugliness,” Owusu-Anash explains. “One is me, and the other is also me.”

Directed by Riley Blakeway, the recently released video for “The Other Black Dog” brings the track’s kinetic and forceful menace to vividly nightmarish life: the video finds the rising Aussie artist running for his life along a deserted, night time road, desperately trying to outrun a relentless and evil version of himself and the demons that feed off his fear and insecurities. The video suggests something deeply fearful and disconcerting that we all know but don’t want to admit: there’s no escape from the devils that torment our hearts and souls — and there’s no escape from the devils that torment us in our daily lives. You can run but you can never hide.

F.Y.I,’s musical career began in the middle part of this past decade as the co-founder of Los Angeles-based rap act Those Chosen, with whom he recorded over 100 songs, a number of mixtapes and a critically praised EP, 5IVE, which was produced by Grammy winner IZ Avila best known for his work with Usher, Janet Jackson, and Gwen Stefani. And with the release of his debut solo effort, Yo! The Places You’ll Go, which featured a collaboration with Rass Kass and Ab-Soul, the Los Angeles-based emcee’s album landed at #1 on WPTS, which won an MTVu Woodie Award for Best College Radio Station. And as a result of sharing stages with renowned artists including The Game, B.O.B., Big Sean, Curren$y, Slick Rick, De La Soul, Pac Div, Dead Prez, Little Brother, Black Milk, Pete Rock and CL Smooth and Boot Camp Clik and playing at music festivals such as CMJ, A3C and the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, F.Y.I. has quietly developed a national reputation as an emcee to pay attention to.

The Los Angeles-based emcee’s debut sophomore effort, Age/Sex/Location was released earlier today and the EP’s latest single, EP opening track “One Thang” pairs F.Y.I.’s confident and dexterous flow, rhyming lyrics about looking bravely forward and striving and accomplishing your goals without fear and without doubt. And he does so over
over a glitchy and soulful production consisting of boom bap beats, distorted vocal samples, whirring electronics. It’s swaggering yet upbeat hip-hop which shows how influential Kanye West, Outkast and Common have been to contemporary hip-hop.