Robert Glasper Returns With “Black Radio III”

On February 25th, critically-acclaimed American pianist, record producer, songwriter, and musical arranger Robert Glasper released the third installment in his Black Radio series of albums. The first installment came out ten years ago, and the second came out in late 2013. Of course, Robert Glasper did not lay dormant for these past nine years. He put out four studio albums between Black Radio 2 and the new Black Radio III, including Everything’s Beautiful and Fuck Yo Feelings,  as well as two motion picture soundtracks – one for Miles Ahead and one for The Photograph – and a critically acclaimed EP with Terrace Martin, Kamasi Washington, and 9th Wonder called Dinner Party

Black Radio III Album Artwork

“Like its predecessors, the new studio album celebrates Black joy, love and resilience.” Much like Terrace Martin’s DRONES (which Robert Glasper was on and you can read our review of here), Black Radio III draws from R&B, hip-hop, and jazz fusion, and it also features a laundry list of excellent collaborators. Though the album is Robert Glasper’s, he pulls from “both new and old friends” to help create the celebration. Featuring co-production from none other than Terrace Martin and containing features from artists like Killer Mike, Q-Tip, Esperanza Spalding, Yebba, Jennifer Hudson, PJ Morton, H.E.R., Meshell Ndegeocello, Common, Musiq Soulchild, Posdnuos (from De La Soul), and Ty Dolla $ign (who was also on DRONES), Black Radio III stays fairly consistent in its sonic palette. That doesn’t mean all the songs sound the same. That just means that there are themes and motifs repeated throughout as callbacks while the journey continues. It’s quite extraordinary.

Of course, I could spend hours taking this album song by song. Of course, I could acknowledge how much pain is present in the opening track, “In Tune,” with its incredible spoken word feature from Amir Sulaiman. Of course, I could tell you about the incredible groove on second track “Black Superhero,” with incredible verses from Killer Mike and Big K.R.I.T. and a powerful vocal hook from BJ The Chicago Kid. Of course, I could talk about the reimagining of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” featuring Common and Lalah Hathaway. There’s so much to talk about with this album that, quite frankly, I don’t know where to begin.

So I guess I’ll just explain who Robert Glasper is and why this album is so important. Robert Glasper is originally from Houston, Texas, where he would listen to his mother, professional jazz and blues singer Kim Yvette Glasper, perform at her club dates. She elected to bring her son with rather than leave him at home with babysitters, and this, coupled with her other job as the music director at the East Wind Baptist Church, helped the young Robert Glasper develop his sound. 

While he was studying at The New School in New York, he started touring with Christian McBride, Terence Blanchard, and Roy Hargrove. He also, through his New School friend Bilal, became Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def)’s music director. He was so present in the New York hip-hop, neo-soul, and jazz scenes that it’s hard to imagine them without him.

Fast forward about ten years, and Robert Glasper had won two of his four Grammys, including Best R&B Album for the first installment of Black Radio. He also appeared as pianist and keyboardist on Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus, To Pimp A Butterfly, and won a Grammy for “These Walls.” Black Radio 2 was nominated for Best R&B Album, and 2019’s Fuck Yo Feelings was nominated for Best Progressive R&B Album, only losing to Thundercat’s phenomenal It Is What It Is.

There is nothing Robert Glasper can’t do, and all of this is a long way of saying you definitely have heard some of his work even if you don’t realize who he is. The man is absolutely incredible. As a producer, as a songwriter, as an arranger, and as a musician, Robert Glasper is one of the best and most versatile out there right now. Black Radio III is just the latest installment in not only an incredible trio of albums, but a larger discography that includes amazing crossovers and collaborations.

Check out Black Radio III below, and let us know what you think! Be sure to show Robert Glasper some love and make sure he knows how much you appreciate the greatness he’s putting into the world. The three Black Radio albums, two film scores, work with Kendrick Lamar, and several EPs including Dinner Party… Yeah. This man is astounding.

Andrew Gardner Administrator
Obsessed with all things music. Currently finishing an MFA in Chicago. If you see me at a show, say hey!
Andrew Gardner Administrator
Obsessed with all things music. Currently finishing an MFA in Chicago. If you see me at a show, say hey!

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