A conversation with Amayo, the lead singer and percussionist for Antibalas — a New York City band that has led the international revival of Afrobeat in the likeness of Fela Kuti's Africa 70 band. A second-wave ensemble that formed in 1998, Antibalas combines elements of Funk, Jazz, Cuban and West African music, along with spontaneous grooves and chanted vocals. Amayo invited us into his Brooklyn home to talk about the future of Afrobeat music, his upcoming solo debut album and the suggestion that he might just be the living embodiment of Fela Kuti. He also performed a new song for us that will be featured on a future solo release.

NOTE: Big thanks to Ariana Hellerman of Ariana's List (a wonderful resource of free cultural events in NYC) for introducing us to Amayo. We appreciate you!

#1 // ALBUMS OF THE YEAR // 2013

People hate Kanye West. Whether it's his wild self-comparisons to Steve Jobs, Andy Warhol, Walt Disney and Michelangelo, his flaunting declarations — “My greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live”; “God chose me”; ”I’m a creative genius and there's no other way to word it" — or his hypersensitive, psychotic persona that regularly turns up in interviews and awards shows, Kanye is undisputedly a genius in at least one department: self-alienation. He believes he is better than everyone. And not just his musical peers. No, he’s the greatest living creative force on the planet. He’s the messiah of everything — politics, fashion, food, art, finance and sport. Like John Lennon before him, he’s bigger than God because, as he says, "I Am a God." And he won’t apologize for saying it: “I don’t think there’s much more explanation. I’m not going to sit here and defend shit…I am a god. Now what?" Of course, he’s gone on television numerous times to passionately argue his case, to lament the woes of hitting a glass ceiling because of perceived classism (“racism’s cousin”) and because, like Michael Jackson, he is a deeply misunderstood wunderkind that the world does not appreciate. He does not respect anything, especially the establishment and he will kowtow to almost no one to get what he wants. So, people hate Kanye West. He’s even exchanged jabs with President Barack Obama. Even George Zimmerman, who everyone universally admonishes, has said publicly he hates Kanye West and wants to fight him — and laughably, most of the public might have the accused murderers back. But it would be a mistake to overlook Kanye West because of his ego or the way he handles his celebrity, because when you consider his output — now spanning seven albums (including Watch The Throne with Jay Z) — no one, in any genre of music, is harnessing their creative powers in a more ferocious, visionary and populist method. Yeezus is proof of that. On every track Kanye West produces acid-drenched mayhem that jolts listeners with industrial-powered noise. He lyrically assaults his self-created opponents with such a tantalizing bloodthirstiness that each bar of every song can elicit hilarity and bewilderment:

"Yeezy season approaching / Fuck whatever y'all been hearing / Fuck what, fuck whatever y'all been wearing / A monster about to come alive again / Soon as I pull up and park the Benz / We get this bitch shaking like Parkinsons." – "On Sight"

“Real nigga back in the house again / Black Timbs all on your couch again / Black dick all in your spouse again / And I know she like chocolate men / She got more niggas off than Cochran, huh?!?” – “On Sight”

"Pardon, I'm getting my scream on / Enter the kingdom / But watch who you bring home / They see a black man with a white woman / At the top floor they gone come to kill King Kong / Middle America packed in / Came to see me in my black skin / Number one question they're asking / Fuck every question you asking." – "Black Skinhead"

"What you want, a Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain? / All you blacks want all the same things." – "New Slaves"

“Pink-ass Polo’s with a fucking backpack / But everybody know you brought real rap back.” – “I Am A God”

“I am a God / So hurry up with my damn massage / In a French-ass restaurant / HURRY UP WITH MY DAMN CROISSANTS!” – “I Am A God”

“You see there’s leaders and there’s followers / But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower.” – “New Slaves”

“Uh, black girl sippin’ white wine / Put my fist in her like a Civil Rights sign / And grabbed it with a slight grind / And held it ‘til the right time / Then she came like AAAAAAHHH!” – “I’m In It”

In the middle of the album's opener, "On Sight," after a blitzkrieg of noise and hypnotic braggadocio that ends with the MC asking, "How much do I not give a fuck?," Kanye kills the beat and cues a children's choir to come in and despondently chant: "He'll give us what we need / It may not be what we want." The only thing that comes close to matching this breed of lyricism is the venom spoken in the 1971 film Caligula, where Malcolm McDowell, the film’s viciously insane title character spews: “I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night…I am all men as I am no man and therefore I am a God,” and then “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.” Kanye dramatically echoes those sentiments repeatedly on Yeezus, which makes one wonder if the entire album is just an allegorical device instead of a direct monograph of Kanye’s true persona. Whatever his intention, the provocatively packaged message the album delivers is clear: Kanye is a depraved, sexually aggressive deity who is here to be served — and to force his will, at any cost, upon the masses. Overall, Yeezus is partially a result of his electro tinkering on 808s & Heartbreak and all of that's album's overwrought gushes of desperation. But it's also a break from his last solo effort, 2010's elaborately produced My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which despite garnering critical acclaim and platinum status, has ultimately become Kanye West's worst-selling album — one that also failed to produce a Top 10 single (As of January 2014, Yeezus is now his weakest album as a commercial performer with U.S. sales at 600,000 units). But Kanye has always thrived in adversity. His entire music career has been an uphill battle, whether it was trying to prove to his mentor Jay Z that he could be more than a producer in the early 2000s, bucking fashion trends by wearing brightly colored polo shirts or tackling human rights issues in his music. He’s always proved himself to be correct. And much like his debut, 2004’s The College Dropout, Kanye is still hungry to prove himself on Yeezus — albeit in a much more aggressive tone. And despite his blasphemous grandiosity, and those mesmerizing, havoc-wreaking beats, the soul of Kanye is still very much intact. He is still searching for answers. He is searching for a rival to challenge the throne. He is setting the bar higher and higher — to heights never reached by any hip hop artist. For now, Kanye is alone in a dark place mulling his next move, tweaking the knobs on his production equipment, dreaming of new possibilities in music and beyond. But isn’t that what all geniuses do? — MFB