I've always had an admiration of artists who attempt to cross the boundaries of their genre and venture out of their comfort zone to indulge in something new and exciting, not only for them but for their audience as well. This admiration is punctuated by the fact that not everyone who does this is successful at it. In fact, in my experience I've seen more failures and mediocre offerings then I have anything else (see The Hip Hop Violinist [Explicit]). That being said, Robert Glasper's Black Radio has definitely taken its place among the ranks of high quality music.
Being new to Robert Glasper, I admit that I was drawn in by the promise of the plethora of guest appearances by familiar faces, such as Musiq Soul Child, Lela Hathaway, Lupe Fiasco, Yassin Bey (aka Mos Def), Erykah Badu, Ledisi, and Bilal. Fortunately, I found that Glasper's ability to tastefully spread out the various talents found on this project is worthy of praise. With twelve different guest artists on an album, it can easily start to feel crowded like there's too much going on at once. Instead, what we're given as the final product is a euphoric blend of Jazz, Neo-Soul and Hip Hop that I can cool out to in the car with my speakers up, or vibe to at a live performance.
Each song seemed to be tailored (and most likely was) to the individual artists that appeared on them, but still making it very clear in its sound that this was Robert Glasper's album, not a compilation of sounds taken from different places. The integrity of Glasper's work is never compromised of overshadowed by any of the guest artists, only accentuated by energy their voices bring to each track. From beginning to end, it feels like listening to a live set that you don't want to leave your seat for.
Being primarily a Hip Hop head, I was particularly interested in how Lupe and Mos Def would be incorporated into the music, since both have stepped into the realms beyond their genre's as well. Thankfully, their presence was utilized well, making their performances sound genuinely organic. I found Mos's track "Black Radio" especially interesting, as he seemed very much at home from what I've heard from him in past works (see New Danger which is full of examples). Staying true to the idea of this being an "experiment," both Mos and the intstrumentation fly off in the the stratosphere playing off each other with varying tempos and vocal play from Mos himself that I find hard to describe in any other way but "interesting." By no means is it a bad thing, just worthy of note, and clearly he makes the track his own.
Overall, Black Radio is a solid body of work, fluid in its composition yet bold enough to make you stay and listen. Robert Glasper, despite being labeled simply as a Jazz musician, has successfully achieved crossing genre's and bringing different elements back to his own realm, giving us new and unique music to enjoy that will not disapoint. Having been thoroughly impressed by his latest work, I'll definitely be checking out his earlier stuff as well, and I'd encourage anyone else to do the same. Enjoy.