Why Black Man Dey Suffer is […] one of a series of early 1970s albums which made the transition between the highlife and jazz blend of [Fela] Kuti and [Tony] Allen’s first band, Koola Lobitos, and the turbulent magnificence of mature Afrobeat. Trumpeter Tunde Williams, baritone saxophonist Lekan Animashaun and first conga player Henry Kofi, from later line-ups including that on Alagbon Close, are also in place. But Afrobeat’s signature tenor guitar has yet to be introduced, and, crucially, Allen didn’t play on the session, making way for Ginger Baker. Baker does a creditable job on Why Black Man Dey Suffer, although Allen’s absence means Africa 70 lacks the singular rhythms that would come to define Afrobeat a couple of years later. But the album is worth hearing, with powerful lyrics and some strong instrumental performances. A valuable snapshot of Africa 70’s fetal stage.
The album was initially recorded for EMI, but EMI refused to release it, so it came out on the Nigerian African Songs label. The cover design is by Remi Olowookere, featuring a painting by Grace Okotie-Eboh Oduro that depicts “the slavery and exploitation of the African (Black Man) by the Europeans and the Arabs.” [Wikipedia]
Like with his design for a later Africa 70 album, Olowookere didn’t worry too much about traditional rules for combining typefaces and instead threw together four different display faces, using whatever appealed to him as appropriate and impactful (and maybe simply what was available to him). Premier Shaded (1970), Stack (1970), Rodeo, and Sunshine (1971) were all released by Letraset for dry-transfer lettering shortly before.
Olowookere further enhanced the catchy faces through color or by adding a long shade to already shadowed letterforms, and introduced innovations like the 7-point ellipsis. This detail reads as a hint that the suffering and oppression of people of color is not a thing of the past, and continues to the present day.