Artist: Robert Glasper
Album: Black Radio 2
Five out of Five stars
Although considered more mainstream R&B than its kaleidoscopic, jazzy predecessor Black Radio, The Robert Glasper Experiment’s Black Radio 2 is unquestionably a worthy addition to the group’s catalogue. Glasper had every right to sit comfortably on the Grammy-award winning formula of Black Radio. He chose to challenge himself instead. “This record was a little different,” explains the Houston, Texas native. “I didn’t want to make the same record twice. I wanted to make a conscious effort to keep the vibe and the spirit of the first one without it sounding the same.” (http://www.robertglasper.com/bio/)
Black Radio 2 is ambitious in that it delves deeply into the vast musical elements of black radio. The R&B, the gospel, the hip hop. This gamut of black American expression blends admirably with Glasper’s jazz sensibilities. The outcome brings the genres into a more cohesive whole, reminiscent of black radio stations of old that had something for everyone in the community.
Hip hop gets love with “I Stand Alone,” (featuring Common) is a smooth anthem for anyone having to go their own way to achieve. Common nails it when he declares, “Alone is not always wrong.” Dr. Michael Eric Dyson’s stirring monologue at the end is something every aspiring artist should recite before entering the studio. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_kS5P8XIu0&index=4&list=RDEJKlTEdWAfU
R&B enjoys a viability here not seen since its neo-soul heyday with songs like “What Are We Doing” (featuring Brandy). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXXHhINXqas Brandy is clearly in step here with a musical direction that matches her maturity and much slept-on soulfulness. Glasper then summons the inimitable Jill Scott for the whimsical and haunting “Calls.” Again, he sets up the ideal composition with Scott, who sings as a woman wise enough to appreciate a man who is always there for her in her times of need. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6NjqujEy1o
Glasper goes to the modern day heir of southern, Otis Redding soul with Anthony Hamilton for the pensive “Yet to Find.” The calming organ and piano refrain makes this the song to listen to while riding along highways to embark on new chapters in one’s life. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq1Nti0LuEM
After an astounding performance in Black Radio, Lalah Hathaway returns in Black Radio 2 with “Jesus Children of America.” The low notes Hathaway settles into makes this gospel ode smooth and deceptively infectious by the time spoken word artist Malcolm-Jamal Warner (that’s right, Theo from The Cosby Show) gives light to the “soothsayers” and “spiritual players” of today’s generation, a generation many have written off as lost to consumerism, violence and lack of direction. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moATz842lhU
Other standout compositions include “Persevere” (featuring Snoop Dog, Lupe Fiasco and underrated R&B sensation Luke James) as well as exquisite percussion work on “Let It Ride” (featuring Norah Jones). The Robert Glasper Experiment works with the who’s who of black music, making Glasper the next Quincy Jones of our time without question. The results are intriguing, have amazing depth and remind us, sonically, that there was once a time when black folks were more of a community and not corporate-sponsored, segregated entities pitted against each other through the media.
About Dr. William Hobbs
William Hobbs (aka William Ashanti Hobbs, III) is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. by way of Atlanta, Ga. While attending Florida A&M University (FAMU), the college junior was inspired to publish Pseudonymous, a collection of short stories and poems and the novel “The Chosen People: Africa’s Lost Tale of Meroe”, all in the same year. Sales allowed Hobbs to publish ”Unconditionally ” in 1996 as he graduated from FAMU. His passion for writing and won him a McKnight Fellowship, which allowed him to pursue a masters and doctorate degree in creative writing from Florida State University (FSU).
Hobbs graduated from FSU in 2004 and now teaches Creative Writing at Florida Memorial University. Hobbs has published an essay and poem in Journey into a Brother’s Soul by Kimani Press. Hobbs is married to Dr. Tameka Hobbs and has two sons, Ashanti and Amiri. He has recently published an experimental novel entitled “North of the Grove.”
EM Music Review – Black Radio 2, Robert Glasper