Filed Under:

Robert Glasper: A Unified Field Theory For Black Music

Play associated audio

When some of the biggest names in R&B and hip-hop are clamoring to be on a jazz record, you know you're dealing with a special kind of jazz musician.

Pianist Robert Glasper has worked in the traditional jazz-trio format before. But these days, he's incorporating all the sounds he grew up with in Houston: soul, rap, rock ... whatever feels good goes into the mix. He's brought a lot of chart-topping friends with him, including Erykah Badu, Ledisi and Lupe Fiasco. His band is the Robert Glasper Experiment, and its new album is Black Radio.

The liner notes for the record are a kind of manifesto, lamenting the stagnation and "collective dumbing down" of black popular music. That's the sentiment that inspired the title track, a song Glasper co-wrote with Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def).

"The black box is the only thing that survives in a plane crash," Glasper tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "So [Bey] names this song 'Black Radio' — the only thing that survives. It made sense to name the album that. When music is crashing around us, when you hear the same five songs on the radio that aren't really saying much, we can always go back to great music. Great music always lives on."

Black Radio takes as its premise a kind of natural lineage among jazz, hip-hop, R&B and rock music, and explores each style in equal measure.

"This is my lifetime. I can't speak on 1960 or 1964 — that's not my era," Glasper says. "The music is going to die if you don't tap into something that people today can relate to. People say that I'm selling out, but I'm doing what John Coltrane and Miles Davis were doing."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Costume Designer Colleen Atwood Took Unlikely Path To Hollywood Royalty

Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood knows tough times. A single mom at 17 who once worked at a French fry factory to make ends meet is Hollywood royalty today. A favorite of director Tim Burton, Atwood is now costume designer for his adaptation of the darkly comic, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children and the upcoming Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
NPR

Carnegie Deli Says It Is Closing Down Its Landmark NYC Restaurant

As news of the closing rippled far beyond the deli's home turf in Manhattan Friday, hundreds of people responded with sadness and disbelief.
NPR

The VA Will Now Pay For Fertility Treatment For Wounded Vets

Congress has reversed a law passed in 1992 that prohibited the Department of Veterans Affairs from paying for IVF for veterans and their families, after mounting political pressure.
NPR

The United Nations Is Launching A Space Mission

The U.N. is planning to send its first spacecraft into orbit, packed with scientific experiments from countries that can't afford their own space programs.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.