HSPVA's Robert Glasper: Jazz's Newest Hip-Hop Star
If you're looking for homegrown musical success stories of 2012, you could do a lot worse than Robert Glasper. True, technically he lives in New York, where he became such an in-demand session player he called his 2009 album Double Booked, but now the Missouri City native and HSPVA grad is on the verge of becoming a full-fledged star.
Photos by Mike Schreiber/courtesy of EMI North America The Robert Glasper Experiment
In February, he released Black Radio (Blue Note), a dense, collaborator-heavy album that plays more like a mixtape and seamlessly fuses hip-hop, jazz and R&B until Glasper throws one final curveball with a ruminative, seven-minute cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Circling Glasper's quartet the Experiment (Casey Benjamin, Derrick Hodge and Mark Colenburg) is a constellation of stars including Erykah Badu, Chrisette Michele, Lupe Fiasco and his old friend Bilal.
Critics immediately adored the record, including in a lengthy Sunday New York Times article, and it was also a hit at the cash register, spending most of the spring lodged near the top of iTunes' Jazz and R&B charts. More recently came the Black Radio Recovered EP, which opens a few Black Radio songs to producers like Pete Rock and the Roots' Questlove, but Glasper concludes it himself by producing a nine-minute tribute to the late J. Dilla that earns a congratulatory voicemail message from Dilla's mom.
Rocks Off spoke with Glasper, who brings the Experiment to a special free HSPVA concert at Discovery Green Friday night, by phone last week as the group was crossing into Canada, dreaming of a vacation.
Rocks Off: It sounds like you've had quite a year. Have you had much time to reflect on it?
Robert Glasper: Not at all (laughs). I'm still waiting on a vacation so I can be like, "Ahhhh.... that was fun." But it's been moving since the day the album dropped. We did a record release the day it dropped. The very next day we did David Letterman, and then the very next day we went out on a three-month tour.
It's been crazy after that, kinda nonstop. Luckily I did have August off, kind of.
RG: Oh yeah. We went everywhere.
RO: I know Black Radio was greeted very well by the critics, and it looks like it did well on iTunes. Do you have any idea how it fared on actual radio?
RG: I know when it was added, it was like No. 7 added to adult-contemporary radio. So far it's been great. It's sold over 100,000 copies. I think we're at 115,000 copies sold now. That's an amazing feat in these days and times.
RO: Was there always a plan to release this brand-new Recovered EP?
RG: No. Actually this is something we thought of in like June, and then we put it in motion really fast and got it done by July. On Black Radio I have a lot of guest artists, but at the same time I know a lot of producers, so I was like, "Oh, it would be cool to do a remix EP so I can feature some of my favorite producers and a producer or two that maybe not many people know that well." This was a perfect opportunity for that. And people definitely wanted something. After living with Black Radio for five or six months, it's cool to have another take on it.