For the love of the real stars, the producers, we created #Beatsmith — a series that focuses on the connections and inspirations that led to the creation of that hit song or album.
Over the weekend, Falz’s fourth studio album, Moral Instruction — a socially conscious body of work that was greatly inspired by the legendary Fela Kuti — pulled off a surprise upset, beating out Burna Boy’s acclaimed mixtape, Outside to take home the Headies award for ‘Album of the Year’.
While the album’s ballsy concept got the most attention, the true star of the project was undoubtedly Falz’s go-to beatsmith, Sess, who produced five of the LP’s nine tracks. So, we at Zikoko decided to sit down with him to find out how the ‘Album of the Year’ came to be.
On meeting Falz:
I met Falz through my manager/business partner back in 2014. We had reached out to his team about collaborating, and he invited us to the studio. It was at that point we started working on his sophomore album, Stories That Touch.
On first discussing ‘Moral Instruction’:
The first conversation we had about Moral Instruction
I then came up with the idea of using Fela as a springboard, kind of like continuing the conversation he started. We agreed to sample various Fela songs that touched on the issues we were tackling. Later on, we realised the project was too big to be an EP, so he decided to make it an album.
On main inspiration:
Fela totally inspired the project. We were privileged to get permission to sample his music, so there were no limits to where we could push it sonically. We were going for a perfect blend of classic Afrobeat & hip-hop. We were basically listening to Fela’s albums while working on the project.
On the difficulty level:
Definitely the most tasking thing I’ve ever worked on, because, as I said earlier, we were trying to use Fela as a springboard. So, we needed to find how to bring that classic Afrobeat to the present, creating a perfect fusion that would not diminish the integrity of the message.
Luckily for us, we had support and direction from Rikki Stein [— a British music industry executive known for being Fela’s manager from 1983 until the icon’s death in 1997]. So, we were very well-grounded on how to approach it.
On the most surprising influence:
The most surprising inspiration was my childhood. Growing up, my dad would play Fela in the car during road trips. I remember singing all the words, and it used to freak him out. I never imagined I would eventually be sampling and recreating an original Fela song. It’s still surreal.