To most students at Fairmont, the term “hip hop” probably conjures thoughts of deep blaring bass thumping in cars, explicit lyrics and swag. And the term “jazz” might make a student think of black-and-white television shows or cheesy saxophone. And while both of these stereotypes can be accurate, they don’t even begin to encompass the vastness of each style.
Hip hop and jazz have been married since the 1980s. The matrimony has cooled since the beginning of the new century, but it is being revived, as is evident by Robert Glasper Experiment’s 2012 album Black Radio.
This album overall perfectly balances the two genres of jazz and hip hop. Glasper is an acclaimed musician in both streams, so it would make sense. He has collaborated with Kanye West, Q-Tip, and Bilal, to name a few. The members that make up the Experiment are just as prolific musicians as Glasper, all being comfortable in multiple genres. Fender Rhodes operates the vocoder, Casey Benjamin provides the saxophone, Derrick Hodge plays the bass and Chris Dave supplies the drumbeats. And then there are the phenomenal featured artists on every track, including Lupe Fiasco, Bilal, Erykah Badu, Musiq Soulchild and Ledisi.
The two stand-out musicians on this album are Robert Glasper and Chris Dave. Glasper’s chords match no others; his style on the piano is so unique and the chords and voicings he chooses are always great. Dave’s drumbeats are just as unique. There is not one point in this whole 71-minute album that I got bored with his drumming. Every beat is odd but extremely groovy. These two stamp the Robert Glasper Experiment sound on every song.
The entire album is the Experiment raising a subtle middle finger to the state of music today. However, they don’t talk a bunch of crap and then not back it up. Their playing makes their statement for them.
People searching to expand their musical pallet should check out this album. There really isn’t a low point on it. Robert Glasper Experiment’s Black Radio is among my favorite albums because it is consistently great throughout, which is a tough thing to do. Props to everyone involved on this album, and I hope if you’re reading this, you’ll open your ears and give it a listen. It’s clearly one of the best albums of 2012.
For a sample of the album and more info, check out www.robertglasper.com, where clips of certain tracks are featured on the home page for free. Be sure to turn up the bass.