When pianist Robert Glasper scored two nominations for his critically lauded “Black Radio,” it was in R&B, not jazz -- a surprise given his pedigree.
Backstage at the 55th Grammy Awards on Sunday, the Houston-born pianist was quizzed about what he felt bridged the gap between the genres.
“We’re all jazz musicians together and at the same time we all embody all of black music. We embody R&B, hip-hop, jazz, rock, funk, gospel music and we all come up in that,” Glasper said. “We’ve never ignored that side of our thing as far as music goes, so we have no problem infusing all of those things because we are comfortable with all of them. That’s the difference.”
“A lot of people have mixed hip-hop and jazz, but it's like a band with a DJ,” he continued, “but we’re one band that plays everything authentically and really great.”
Glasper’s genre-blending "Black Radio” tapped into his R&B, funk and hip-hop influences and featured cameos from Erykah Badu, Musiq Soulchild, Meshell Ndegeocello, Bilal, Lalah Hathaway, Ledisi, Yasmin Bey (a.k.a. Mos Def) and Lupe Fiasco.
“We just kind of let it happen as it happened. We didn’t overthink it and we let the music take over. The music is smarter than us,” he said of his host of collaborations. “I feel like if we keep the same formula going and let everything do what it's gonna do … we’ll keep being surprised. A lot of stuff happened right there on the spot, but that’s kind of how I wanted it to be, kind of loose.”
While he’s cast a wider net with “Black Radio,” Glasper said he hopes his fan bases continue to appreciate his music, regardless of what genre inspires him.
“A lot of our shows you see the 75-year-old person that comes there because he knows our jazz band, and at the same time you see an 18-year-old person sitting right next to each other,” he said. “We’re giving them something they probably aren’t aware of and at the same time we’re giving them something they are aware of.”