Throughout his career, Femi Kuti, eldest son of Fela, has sought to establish his own musical identity while being the torchbearer (along with his younger brother Seun) of his late father's legacy. That truth can be easily envisaged on the cover of No Place for My Dream, where a woman is walking with a basket on her head through an enormous field of garbage. Recorded in Paris, the album sticks close to the heart of Afro-beat, but Kuti, infuses the music with Latin, African-American, and Caribbean sounds as well.
When you sing about government corruption, cultural imperialism and corporate irresponsibility, you never run out of things to say. But on No Place for My Dream, Femi Kuti doesn't just reinforce the message; he beefs-up the whole damn medium. Delivering 11 tightly packaged fire starters, the sixth full-length from the prince of Afrobeat comes off as some of the silkiest and most euphonious solo work of his 20-year career.
Both Femi Kuti and his legendary father Fela Kuti operated in distinctly different ages musically, culturally and socially. Yet there are similarities in their music and outlook that transcend generations. Both artists’ music is very much informed by social and political themes. When you boil it down there is very little difference between Fela’s world of government fostered corruption and oppression and the world Femi currently performs in.
The Kuti family will never be mistaken for dwelling on the bright side. Even the track listing for Femi Kuti’s 2013 album No Place for My Dream reads like a laundry list of grievances; “Nothing to Show for It”, “The World is Changing”, “No Work No Job No Money”, “Politics Na Big Business”, “Wey Our Money”, and, of course, the title track. “No Place for My Dream”? Just look at the cover of the album—there’s no place for that lady to walk, let alone dream.
On the cover there's a striking photo of an African woman walking past a vast garbage heap, while on the album itself there are 10 new songs (and an instrumental) in which Femi Kuti continues his musical attacks on corruption, oppression and squandered wealth in Nigeria. Fela Kuiti's oldest son is now in his 50s, and surely knows that he will never achieve the legendary status of his dad, but continues to fight the same causes. And he's still worth checking out, though more for the musical experiment than the admirable, though now predictable, message, which veers towards easy sloganeering at times.
To an older generation, Femi Kuti is the eldest son of Fela Kuti, the fiery Nigerian bandleader and activist whose life story was told in the hit Broadway musical, “Fela!” To a younger generation, Femi is featured in the video game “Grand Theft Auto IV,” where he plays the host of a radio station. Regardless of age, Femi is a worthy successor to his dad’s intoxicating Afro-beat rhythms and explosive lyrics that target political abuse in Nigeria and other African countries, as well as in Haiti and the Middle East. Femi’s urgent, rallying-cry vocals find him living dangerously in the title track (where he fears ending up a “dead hero,” a likely reference to his dad) and the desperate pleas of “No Money No Job No Money” and “Action Time.