Spotlight: Robert Glasper Experiment
12mid, Empire Automotive
Although last year's Black Radio (Blue Note) garnered immediate accolades and captured a Grammy for Best R&B album, it was a project Robert Glasper realized with carefully calculated development. The renowned jazz pianist had long collaborated with hip-hop and R&B artists, but it wasn't until 2009's fourth LP, Double Booked, that he debuted the funkier grooves of the Experiment on the backside of an album split with his original trio.
"If I wouldn't have done my trio stuff first, if I would have just come out with Black Radio, I would've gotten some of the backlash," admits Glasper. "But the fact of the matter is we have proven ourselves as players already, so there was no question of whether these guys know the history of the music or anything like that. So no piano player can sit there and say I can't really play piano just because I'm playing a hip-hop groove. I want to innovate and inspire younger people to open their minds and do what's relevant to their lives and not have to live through older people telling them what it should be."
The Robert Glasper Experiment, featuring the Houston native with Casey Benjamin, Derrick Hodge, and Chris Dave, lays an expansive, genre-dissolving background that grooves around Black Radio's cast of all-star collaborators. The album convenes a summit of modern R&B talent redefining the boundaries of the disc's title – everyone from Erykah Badu and Lupe Fiasco to Bilal and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def).
"To me, it got to the point where we could play anything, because I've already appeased my jazz fans. So now I'm making records to appease my R&B audience," says Glasper. "And at the end of they day, they all come to see us play."