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Album review: Robert Glasper Experiment's 'Black Radio'

Robert Glasper Experiment

The Robert Glasper Experiment’s “Black Radio” is a who’s who of modern black singers and rappers. “Black Radio” — an imagining of what radio might sound like if it weren’t for constricted notions of race, art and commercial viability — takes a page from classic Quincy Jones albums (“Sounds … and Stuff Like That”; “The Dude”) as well as the Jazzmatazz collections helmed by the late hip-hop legend Guru.

Anchored by Glasper’s masterful, hypnotic work on piano and Rhodes, and filled with cameos by the likes of Bilal, Lalah Hathaway, Yasmin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def), Lupe Fiasco and more, it’s a sensuous and smoky affair. Its participants are jazz in essence, if not always in practice. Erykah Badu nimbly covers the Mongo Santamaria classic “Afro Blue;” Stokely channels Stevie Wonder on the propulsive “Why Do We Try,” and Ledisi’s crystal-clear voice soars on “Gonna Be Alright.” Social protest easily co-mingles with smoldering boudoir jams (Meshell Ndegeocello’s “The Consequence of Jealousy” is pure sex set to a groove) and the collection is marred only by a spoken interlude rant about the masses being too dumb to appreciate good music.

— Ernest Hardy

“Black Radio”
Robert Glasper Experiment
Blue Note / EMI
Three and a half stars (out of four)

 
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