With "Fight to Win," due Oct. 16 from MCA, Femi Kuti strives in earnest to educate and enlighten the world about the problems of his African homeland. "We are in crisis right now," he says. "I want to

With "Fight to Win," due Oct. 16 from MCA, Femi Kuti strives in earnest to educate and enlighten the world about the problems of his African homeland. "We are in crisis right now," he says. "I want to bring more attention to these issues."

Kuti is following the example set by his father, the late Nigerian musical/political pioneer Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who once said, "Afro-beat is not a music for entertainment; it is to spread a message."

"Do Your Best" is a call to end political apathy, while the title track speaks of the failures of the African government and its blindness toward a coming revolution. "Stop AIDS" warns Africans to practice safe sex and to be aware of the threat of the HIV virus.

Recorded in France, "Fight to Win" was produced by French producer Sodi, and it shows the artist backed by Positive Force -- a new incarnation of a band Kuti started in 1986. He wrote, composed and arranged all of the set's songs.

This album differs from 1998's "Shoki Shoki" in that it offers guest appearances by American musicians. MCA labelmates Mos Def, Common, and Jaguar each collaborated with Kuti on a song. Although the tunes carry the undeniable influence of such modern sounds as hip-hop, funk, and house music, they're rooted in traditional African music that is passed on through the Yoruba Diaspora. African slaves took this traditional music with them when they settled in Cuba, Haiti, Brazil, and the U.S. Kuti says that this influence will always be with him. "I compose from the inside, and I believe African music is inside me. This music is part of who I am."

Known for his compelling live shows, MCA believes that by touring extensively, Kuti's messages will be delivered to a diverse audience. "We hope [Femi's live shows] will create mainstream awareness," notes MCA's director of marketing, Sig Sigworth.

Kuti was recently recruited by Perry Farrell to open Jane's Addiction's tour this October along with Live. He will also perform that month at the Groundwork 2001 benefit concert, joining a roster that includes R.E.M and Pearl Jam. (The Groundwork organization aims to empower people to grow their own food.)

At retail, this should translate into a broad audience. Shawn Schwartz, owner of Brooklyn, N.Y., indie store Halcyon, says that "Shoki Shoki" was a top-seller. "It has amazingly wide appeal to fans of everything from house to world music to jam bands. We expect the same of 'Fight to Win.'"

Adding to Kuti's visibility and political activism is his participation in the forthcoming "Red Hot + Riot," a Fela tribute album under the aegis of the venerable Red Hot AIDS relief/awareness organization. Kuti has completed a track that features Macy Gray and was produced by D'Angelo and ?uestlove of the Roots. The tribute will also be issued by MCA, which just released the latest batch in its exhaustive Fela reissue program.