Tag: Talib Kweli

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.


Throwback: Black History Month: Gil Scott-Heron

Today is February 28, 2021. It’s the last day of February and of Black History Month. Throughout the past month, I’ve featured Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of greens and styles — with the hopes that this series will serve as a sort of primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

While we’re at it, let’s remember the following:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

Gil Scott-Heron is sort of a spiritual godfather to hip-hop and neo-soul — and I can make a fair argument that Public Enemy, Common, Talib Kweli and Mos Def, a.k.a Yasin Bey are indebted to the legend’s work, which threw together spoken word poetry, jazz, the blues and rock in a difficult to pigeonhole mix. And although he hasn’t been with us in about a decade, his work is still an incisive, unnerving look at race in America and globally.

New Video: Clear Soul Forces Return with an Swaggering and Self-Assured New Single Paired with Slick Visuals

The Detroit, MI-based hip-hop quartet Clear Soul Forces, comprised of E-Fav, L.A.Z., Noveliss, and producer/emcee Ilajide, quickly developed a rotation for lyrically and sonically drawing from 70s street poets and boom-bap era hip-hop, adding their name to a list to exceptionally dope artists from the Motor City.  The quartet can trace their origins to a 2009 all-nighter at a Detroit recording studio. The four emcees scraped up the money to record material individually. Coincidentally, Royce Da 5’9″ was finishing work on his album Street Hop in the room next door, and the four emcees jumped at the chance to spit a few rhymes for him. As the story goes, the four young emcees then spent the next nine hours in an epic cypher in which each individual emcee traded bars while an impressed Royce Da 5’9″ intensely listened. Once they finished, the renowned, elder Detroit-based emcee suggested that the young quartet should become a group. 

By the following year, the members of Clear Soul Forces began making a name for themselves in Detroit’s underground hip-hop scene with the release of their debut mixtape Clear Soul Radio. The ended 2010 with the completion of their home studio The Complex, where they recorded The Departure EP. Adding to a growing national profile, the act played sets at A3C Festival, the 35 Denton Festival and SXSW, where they played the the Rappers I Know Showcase with Tanya Morgan, H.I.S.D., Just Blaze, The Alchemist, Talib Kweli and Freeway, and followed it up with videos for “The Greatest” and “Strangers In The Night.”

2012 saw the release of the Detroit-based quartet’s full-length debut Detroit Revolution(s), which was reportedly influenced by a large mural on the side of a local apartment building — and by the end of the year, they were selected by Red Bull as a featured artist in the beverage company’s Sound Select program. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve personally written about the act, but if you’re a true hip-hop head, you’d know that the members spent some time working on individual creative pursuits; in fact, you may recall that I wrote about a single off L.A.Z’s solo effort No Paperwork, “Celestial Vibes.” But interestingly enough, the act announced two things — their return and that they’d be releasing a new album, Still slated for a February 22, 2019 release. “They Shootin,'” the first single manages to be a bit of a return to form for the act as its centered around a warm 90s inspired hip hop production featuring a smooth and jazzy organ line and thumping beats that’s roomy enough for each individual emcee to trade bars. And while each emcee has a different flow and vocal range, they all manage to self-assuredly display incredibly dexterous wordplay and rhyme schemes. 

Directed by Xerox Vision, the recently released video for “They Shootin'” serves as a visual re-introduction to the group while effortlessly blending real-life violence with actual consequences with video game mayhem. As the act’s Ilajide explains in press notes, “The inspiration came from the stigma that when it gets hot the murder rate goes up,” he says. “Couple that with the fact that they always shootin’ in Detroit, it was perfect to spin it like a respawn in an online match on multiplayer video games.” His ba ndmates share the sentiment while noting that for all of them, it was natural reference video games and gaming. As children of the 90s, they all owned various consoles, played a ton of games — and were aware of the fact that crime was high and rampant, making the video and track an organic result of their shared experiences.