Hood: Houston, TX USA
Title: Black Radio 2
Label: Blue Note Records
Genre: Jazz, R&B
Released: October 29, 2013
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The genius of African culture is surely its repetition. But the key to such repetition was that new elements were added each go round; every round goes higher and higher
So Michael Eric Dyson is quoted on The Robert Glasper Experiments new album Black Radio 2. And so is the case of this, their latest offering. The Robert Glasper Experiment has returned, building off moment of their previous album Black Radio. Not even a full two years since winning the GRAMMY award for Best R&B album, this new entry of theirs proudly displays the work of a musical vanguard, looking to permanently and powerfully disrupt the trends of the time.
This album is not just a mere follow up to the success of Black Radio, but is a tour de force in its own right. This album is an anthology of brilliant Black singers, rhymers, musicians, and soothsayers. With the various artists and styles present, Black Radio 2 acts as a clearinghouse for Black culture. And the chief architect of this masterpiece is Glasper himself. Glasper, as pianist and bandleader, has arranged music that is jazz to its truest definition- vibrant, spontaneous, and alive.
Much like its predecessor, Black Radio 2 takes traditional R&B stylings and colors it with the bands musicality. Due credit must be given to the stellar guest artists who are themselves a sort of new-guard nobility in soul music. Set against the dynamic backdrop of the band, the vocalists bring such vitality to the piece. Jill Scott on Calls is at her best, with a voice rich and sweet, like Tennessee honey. Fans will appreciate Yet to Find, with Anthony Hamilton singing in his gritty, powerful, convicting voice. Wayne Brady infuses humor at the end of Let it Ride, which transitions seamlessly into into Persevere. Not only does Persevere feature rapping spots from the venerable Snoop Dogg and Lupe Fiasco, but it also mines the underutilized voice of New Orleans native Luke James. And for all of the outstanding tracks on the album, the poignant ending- Jesus Children of America- honors the lives of young cut down at a tender age, by combining Lalah Hathaways melodic voice with evocative spoken word by Malcolm Jamal Warner.
For all the force that the singers bring to the album, they are but the accompaniment. All lyrics, words, and meaning orbit around the genre-defying jazz music the Experiment has created. Robert Glasper is a true master on the keys, bending the music to his will, in order to cast emotional shadows and envelope his audience in an auditory experience. When Casey Benjamin is not alluring audience through the vocoder, he is playing his saxophone, subtle and smooth. And the combination of Derrick Hodge on bass and Mark Colenburg on drums makes a dark, flavorful roux for this ingenious project. As a band, The Robert Glasper Experiment has demonstrated that they work and have true lasting power.
In a field crowded with trend-chasers and otherwise lifeless listens, Black Radio 2 produces something unique and enjoyable for both traditional R&B and jazz listeners alike. Continuing in the light of its predecessor, this album is visionary. It elevates R&B, jazz, and neosoul to a new level. In a word, this album is art. The Robert Glasper Experiment is to be highly commended.
Best Tracks: Calls, Yet to Find, Persevere, Jesus Children of America
The Robert Glasper Experiment Black Radio 2 Track 4: Calls
The Robert Glasper Experiment Black Radio 2 Track 10: Persevere
The Robert Glasper Experiment Black Radio 2 Track 12: Jesus Children of America
The Robert Glasper Experiment Black Radio 2 Track 7: Yet to Find