During the sessions for Rhapsody and Indigo, Questlove suggested that Red Hot do a tribute to Sly Stone. It seemed like a great idea, but we couldn’t clear his publishing and get the album started. Instead, Red Hot suggested doing an album dedicated to Fela Kuti, the great Nigerian musician and activist who died of AIDS-related causes in 1997. The musicians family agreed to the project and his son, Femi Kuti became directly involved; recording “Water Get No Enemy” with Questlove, D’Angelo at an all star session that also included Nile Rodgers and Macy Gray.
That session was recorded at Electric Ladyland, but the heart of the album was created in a studio run by Andres Levin called Fun Machine in the offices of Funny Garbage, the digital design company started by John Carlin, who also co-founded and ran Red Hot. This allowed for a great deal of experimentation, collaboration and layering, which helped make the project one of Jon Pareles’ picks for album of year in the New York Times.
The artists and groups heard here, nearly 40 all told, cover the musical spectrum: hip-hop (Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Roots), jazz (Roy Hargrove, Archie Shepp); soul (Sade, D’Angelo), Afrobeat (Tony Allen, Femi Kuti), world music (Babba Mahl, Jorge Ben), electronic music (Mixmaster Mike, Money Mark) and dance (Nile Rodgers).
Red Hot also created, in conjunction with Funny Garbage, one of the first online documentaries, Red Hot + Africa, which included footage shot in Nigeria and South Africa dealing directly with the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS.