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Black Radio Recovered: The Remix EP (2012)

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Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper's Black Radio received justifiable critical acclaim for its seamless, accessible, groundbreaking blur of jazz, hip-hop, neo-soul, and rock, and achieved a level of marketplace success that even the artist couldn't anticipate. By contrast, Black Radio Recovered: The Remix EP goes boldly into more exploratory terrain. Glasper isn't afraid to get sonic. These six tracks -- five remixes from the album and an unreleased track from the BR sessions -- dig deeper into beats, synthetic soundscapes, samples, and the more outré regions of the Robert Glasper Experiment's musical world. Things don't sound that weird from the jump, however. First up is 9th Wonder's remix of "Afro Blue," with Phonte's rap complementing Erykah Badu's vocal; the production has a very Foreign Exchange kind of feel. The title track moves things along with Pete Rock stripping it dubwise; bass and beats rumble amid samples, the Experiment shifts in and further in, while Yasiin Bey's rapid-fire rap is pushed right up front for crunch. This is jazzed-up hip-hop with teeth. ?uestlove's remix of Little Dragon's "Twice," with Solange Knowles and the Roots, is a real highlight. The addition of stringed instruments, bells, and layered effects under Glasper's crystalline piano melds spiritual jazz and cosmic soul into a glorious spacy whole. Glasper and Jewels' take on "Letter to Hermione" adds Black Milk's off-meter rhyme to Bilal's vocal. The shimmering repetitive piano atop the snare and hi-hat rhythm track underscores the refrain and gradually morphs into a complex coda. The big treat here is the nine-plus-minute "Dillalude #2," a tribute to J Dilla (complete with Ma Dukes' intro via voicemail for authenticity). While the track has made its way into the RGE's live set, its recorded version is chock-full of tidbits from Dilla's various productions. Glasper even goes so far as to offer his own insertions of Bobby Caldwell's "Open Your Eyes" (which Dilla sampled for Common's "The Light" from 2000's Like Water for Chocolate) before quoting from the melody of Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love" and then moving back. Chris Dave's read of Dilla's trademark drum shuffle slow cooks it throughout. Black Radio Recovered, with its nocturnal, hall-of-mirrors vibe, exponentially extends the reach of the original album's source material without losing its heart. ~ Thom Jurek