It proves a tough task to follow a Grammy-winning album but Robert Glasper Experiment have created another record worthy of the attention gained for the album’s featured artists.
Jazz pianist Glasper has distanced his work from the hip hop that has been frowned upon recently and reframed a dulcet-sounding take on the genre with his trademark beats flowing in a mellifluous manner, whilst still leaving space for the legendary featured vocalists.
The mouth-watering list of featured artists for this album include Common, Brandy, Jill Scott, Dwele, Faith Evans, Norah Jones, Snoop Dogg, Lupe Fiasco and Emeli Sande, perhaps trumping the still jaw-dropping list of artists on Black Radio.
With Black Radio 2, the band still successfully incorporate the featured artists into a project that synthesises a combination of hip hop and jazz and the production is still of an excellent standard. However, the new album sounds like a collection of pop/R&B songs, as opposed to a groundbreaking musical experiment, contrasting the band’s very ethos. Moving through the tracks, the listener is introduced to a list of well-produced R&B songs, that churn out the similar Grammy-winning formula heard on the previous record. For this reason the album falls slightly short of Black Radio.
Standout tracks on the album include I Stand Alone , Calls and You Own Me. The first of the trio features Common and Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy and whilst conscious-rap legend Common portrays an image of growing up in Chicago, the refrain by fellow Illinois-artist Stump breaks up the rap verses well and works excellently on the beat. The addictive Jill Scott track Calls welcomes the listener into a surreal, dream-like world of synths and repetitive angelic vocals and proves a great choice for the record’s first single. The third of the trio You Own Me features a beat that really accentuates the importance of the whole band, with great work from Benjamin and Colenburg, creating a beautifully honest neo-soul track, with vocals provided by Faith Evans.
In what can be regarded as a return to his musical roots, Robert Glasper explores a church-influenced sound on his version of Stevie wonder’s Jesus Children of America, perhaps recalling Sunday visits to church with his mother, where he was first inspired to combine Jazz and Gospel harmonies. An important track on the album, it also features a tribute to the twenty young victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Overall, the album provides an easy-listening, well-made sequel to Black Radio but doesn’t quite make the groundbreaking, versatile statement of its predecessor.
Watch the single ‘Calls’ featuring Jill Scott below and buy the album here.