Let me be honest. When Black Radio came out earlier this year, I didn’t really dig it. Yes, I appreciate that it was among the most significant releases of the year across any of the many genres it spanned. And I understand that it featured musicians from (and at) the very top of their game and was championed by a huge amount of people I respect (and pretty much everyone who visits this site). But somehow it felt more like an album to be admired rather than adored.
Well, some seven months later after it was released, we’ve got a chance to reassess the original album in the form of Black Radio Recovered. Incredibly, the new guests here are arguably even more impressive than last time around: Pete Rock, ?uestlove, 9th Wonder, Georgia Anne Muldrow. That’s Robert Glasper for you, always moving onwards and upwards. And for this EP he’s wisely chosen the choicest cuts to be remixed – “Afro Blue” (featuring Erkyah Badu) and “Black Radio” (featuring Yasiin Bey) amongst others – and added two brand new tracks.
The first is an all-star cover of Little Dragon’s “Twice” (Solange backed by The Roots), the second is a new track “Dillalude,” seemingly inspired/commissioned by Ma Dukes herself if the voicemail at the start of the track is anything to go by. Both tracks, like the whole Black Radio project, are hugely ambitious, and both tracks, like the EP, work. “Dillatude” weaves elements from “E=Mc2” and “The Light” to create a stunning tribute to another innovator who took up the baton of African-American music and ran with it. “Twice” also works very nicely indeed, and in a way reinvents and turns the song into something that manages to blend all the best bits of soul, jazz and hip-hop, while somehow retaining something of the sparse beauty of the original.
As is the majority of Black Radio Recovered (despite Black Milk’s best efforts, “Letter To Hermione” is just a little too smooth). Maybe it works so well because it works just like that place where Glasper’s has always excelled, the live arena. Jazz, with its free-flowing nature and love of improvisation, lends itself naturally to remixes and reinterpretations – in some ways every performance is a new take on the original number – and at its best this EP feels like a jam at an intimate club where Glasper has invited some friends along to do their thing and see what happens. And whether it’s because of the magic the guests bring or the absence of Black Radio from my player for six months, everything sounds fresher here. “Black Radio” still bangs, just a touch snappier, “Afro Blue” feels tighter (with Phonte dropping a lovely verse or two on it), Georgia Anne Muldrow brings lashings of attitude to “The Consequences of Jealousy”, while “Twice” and “Dillalude” are worth the price of admission alone.
Above all, the reason why Black Radio Recovered is a resounding success is because it makes me want to check out the original album again. A record that just as most of the folks here, I’d already made my mind up about, but that I’m going back to with renewed enthusiasm. And if the remixes give more doubters or newbies a reason to check out The Robert Glasper Experiment, well, the world will be a slightly better place.
- Will Georgi