success has not been entirelykind to Femi Kuti.Sure, the Nigerian saxophonist was crowned the new king of Afrobeat on the strength of his propulsive Shoki Shoki disc, banishing memories of the watered-down Afro-pop of his past records and putting him in line with the epic root-downs of his father, Fela. And, yes, the younger Kuti was able finally to rebuild his father's legendary Shrine club in Lagos and turn the compound into a community centre and music school.
On the other hand, though, came rumours that the charismatic bandleader had gone power-mad and fired his massive Positive Force orchestra en masse, building up a new band of hotshot studio musicians from Paris and America. Only half true, Kuti says.
"My band got greedy and arrogant," he spits down the line from New York, en route to a gig at the Phoenix July 3. "People I'd grown up with suddenly believed that I was hiding money all over the world in secret bank accounts, and when I tried to tell them I wasn't, they got pompous and called me a witch doctor.
"They tried to curse me and also tried to take credit for the music that I was making, so I sacked them all.
"It was hard, because they were my friends. Now I have a different perspective on life. This is my music and I am in control, and now I run with an iron fist. Anyone who crosses me will be fired."
Plain enough, but you get the feeling that Kuti can still get anyone he wants in his band. This winter, the saxophonist recorded a cover of his father's classic Water No Get Enemy with D'Angelo, the Roots, Common and Erykah Badu, and he's just dialled up a who's who of the underground hiphop world for his forthcoming new album.
The new disc won't be out until next year, but it already promises to push Kuti's electric Afro thump even further out.
"I was worried because Shoki Shoki got so much press," he concedes. "I feel more comfortable now with the music I play. We have a lot of guests on this record, including Jagwar, Mos Def, Common, Mr. Mentalist and Money Mark.
"Some people have called it a hiphop record, but I can't say that. I've tried to keep my line but also experiment with technology more and put some weird sounds into the music.
"I don't want to say that it's an improvement of Afrobeat or not. I just think it's a funky dance-floor record made by me and some of my friends."
FEMI KUTI & POSITIVE FORCE with MOVEMENT COLLECTIVE at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Tuesday (July 3). $25. 416-870-8000.