Wrap Up And Watch Out: Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper has long been a big name in the jazz circuit, but in the mainstream world he is the new kid on the block who everybody wants to play with. Robert’s latest album ‘Black Radio’ features Lupe Fiasco and Erykah Badu amongst other great names, making his fourth LP some of his most diverse material to date. As Robert arrived in London to perform his latest hits, The Wrap Up’s Line Rindvig met up with the Texas born super-talent to talk jazz, hip-hop and Nirvana...
The Wrap Up: Hi Robert! Can you describe your music in seven single words for the new listeners?
Robert: Fun and sexy – that’s what the ladies say! [Laughs] Head-nod-ish; I think I just made that word up? Flexible, complex, simple and relevant.
TWU: Relevant is a perfect word! ‘Black Radio’ sounds like it was specially catered to a mainstream audience as opposed to your previous material – was that your intention?
Robert: There is a method to the madness, you know? The truth of the matter is not everybody likes jazz solos; not everybody is not going to understand it and not everybody will want to hear it. So I purposely made this record more about the soul, R&B and hip-hop, although the jazz is still present, of course.
TWU: I am with you – with that in mind; how did you pick the vocalists for your album?
Robert: I wanted to showcase what I was doing in real life – for example, I’ll be on tour with Maxwell, other days I’ll play with the Experiment band, then I’ll be on tour with Yasiin Bey. I wanted to put people I work with in everyday life on one album, which is hard to do; but I tried to get as close to real life as possible.
TWU: Sounds dope! How did your Experiment band come together then?
Robert: Chris Dave and I are from the same hometown. When Chris became a music conductor alongside Yasiin Bey we got in contact and worked together. We love to play together – I mean all the time – it’s a privilege. Casey and I also went to college together in New York, that’s where I met Bilal and Mark too. My boy Mark Kelly used to play in my band too; he is now the bass player for The Roots. We went to high school together – we are best friends.
TWU: You covered Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ - were you nervous?
Robert: No! It is a big song, but I have heard many versions of it that I didn’t like. It is one of those songs where you either leave it alone, or you just completely change it. So even if it is wack, at least it’s totally different! I hate it when people try to sound like the original, because it will never be the same. I had a lot of faith in this version; we came up with the idea on the spot during one of our rehearsals and it happened naturally and randomly. I have always loved that song since junior high school; the lyrics are dope!
TWU: Jazz has been called the father of hip-hop. When do you think hip-hop overtook jazz and why?
Robert: Jazz IS the father of hip-hop. When hip-hop started, jazz was already dead, not dead for real, but its future was uncertain. There was no jazz in 1979-80, so it was already missing when hip-hop really developed – but people searched record stores and used old jazz to make hip-hop beats. That gave jazz more shine.
TWU: When I saw you live, I noticed that there is a lot of interaction between you and the guys on stage. Can you describe that connection?
Robert: Most of the communication is really intuitive and comes from within the instruments. So I might play something and Derrick will play something to compliment it. We can have full conversations through our instruments! We’re all listening so much. Listening is a number one priority in this band; we have to listen to each other because that is what the Experiment Band is built up around.
Stay up to date with Robert by following him on Twitter.
Words: Line Rindvig (@Rindvig)