I can still remember the pleasure I had in first listening to Robert Glasper's concept album Double-Booked back in '09. Since then I've kept my eyes and ears open for more of his work, as well as delving into his back catalog. My appreciation of the man and his music has not waned since. His artistry is ever widening, and it's clear that the rigid boundaries which have previously defined genres have no hold on him.
His latest album Black Radio, which dropped this last week, takes the exploration he's always espoused and multiplies it ten fold. Honestly, while I first introduced him on the pages of this blog under the label of jazz, Glasper has left that feeble container in the dust. His latest work, while having a toe or two still touching ground in the jazz realm, goes so much farther, expanding into hip hop (something he's clearly shown an affinity for before in the 2nd half of Double-Booked as well as his work with Pete Rock and appreciation of the late great J Dilla, which I talked about back here, but unfortunately is no longer available), neo-soul, contemporary R&B, and even a dash of rock here and there.
Besides the keyboards of Glasper and his accompanying band (the additional elements that compose the Robert Glasper Experiment), there is a veritable treasure trove of guest musicians providing their unique tastes, including Sa-Ra's Shafiq Husayn, Erykah Badu, Lalah Hathaway, Lupe Fiasco, Bilal, King, Musiq (Soulchild), Chrisette Michele, Me'Shell Ndégeocello, Mos Def (now going by Yasiin Bay), and Ledisi. There is such a wide range of sounds represented on the album (although skillfully rooted together through the presence of Glasper and his band) that it almost feels like a compilation as opposed to a singular entity of its own, and it pushes boundaries of what "black radio" is in multiple directions. If this doesn't get Glasper noticed and on the map of contemporary popular music, then we are in a shit ton of trouble. To put his stamp on his disdain for borders, Glasper closes the album with a truly original take on Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit.
For "Jazz" to remain a viable art form that grows and doesn't altogether disappear into musical history books, it needs more Glaspers in its pocket. Order your copy of Black Radio HERE.