Only a few months before naming the Kalakuta Republic, in 1974, Lemi became friends with the Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti.
‘It’s been pre-ordained that my path would cross with Fela’s for the purpose of celebrating Africa’
They shared Pan-Africanist views about the unity of African people and Black consciousness, and Lemi started frequenting the Republic, working there and attending the shows at the Shrine. He knew Fela’s tracks inside out because they were performed live months before they were recorded, so he grasped the concept of the albums and designed a ‘translation’ of them through his own point of view when designing the covers. He received guidance from Fela only on two of them: Johnny Just Drop and Sorrow, Tears and Blood .
Lemi describes Fela in the following way:
‘He had a very strong character, very radical, but also a soft and human side. I was using different techinques to express the different character sensitivities: ink and pencil for Sorrow, Tears and Blood, oil when I wanted some more fleshy and realistic colours.’
Lemi comments on the deterioration of his relationship with Fela, explaining it by the difference in their characters:
‘Fela is a genius, an iconoclast, a humanist, a liberator, a maverick, many things rolled into one. Creative geniuses, when they get to their heights, they are eccentric in nature.’