Pop reviews: Robert Glasper’s ‘Black Radio 2' sequel mines solid-gold R&B

Black Radio 2
“Black Radio 2" [Deluxe Edition], by Robert Glasper Experiment.
(Blue Note)

Robert Glasper is clearly familiar with Hollywood’s rule for sequels.

Following in the footsteps of 2012’s genre-mashing “Black Radio,” which blended jazz and hip-hop into a distinct, Grammy-winning mix (in the R&B category), Glasper aims for bigger and better in his follow-up. There are fewer covers, Casey Benjamin’s vocoder is mostly sidelined and Glasper’s twisty piano filigrees — a magnetic underpinning of the first album — are scarce. Make no mistake: This is an R&B record, and a solid one.

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So if you weren’t already on board with Glasper’s venture beyond jazz, you aren’t going to be any happier. The hooks are stronger too, as heard on “Calls” led by a near-hypnotic Jill Scott, and “I Stand Alone,” which soars atop Glasper’s cascading piano and a stadium-sized chorus by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump. Anthony Hamilton adds a gospel surge to “Yet to Find,” and the crackling drum and bass behind Glasper’s restless piano deftly counterbalances a breathy Norah Jones on “Let It Ride.”


In the album’s lone cover track, Lalah Hathaway takes on Stevie Wonder’s “Jesus Children,” which features an affecting spoken-word interlude by Malcolm Jamal Warner. The appearance draws a dotted line to Wonder’s appearance on “The Cosby Show,” which exposed a generation to the building blocks of hip-hop. Those echoes shaped Glasper, and they carry equal weight as those from Miles and Herbie as he moves his experiments forward.


The Robert Glasper Experiment

“Black Radio 2"


(Blue Note)

3 stars

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