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Everyone likes Robert Glasper. Including me. Two years ago, I first ran across the Trio (with Chris “Daddy” Dave and Derrick Hodge) watching a video of them at the NY Hip Hop Cultural Center. I became a fan after hearing his unique track “Silly Rabbit” and immediately purchased all three albums through Amazon. No, seriously–literally after hearing this track, I hopped on Amazon.
That was than and this is now. The Robert Glasper Experiment, composed of the same Hodge, sometimes Dave but “officially” Mark Colenburg on drums and Casey Benjamin. This quartet is certainly an experiment, a whole new sound and involves a lot of vocalists from Benjamin on his vocoder, Bilal (who appeared on the trio album also), Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Chrisette Michelle and a myriad of others, including rappers like Lupe Fiasco and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def). The Experiment in a nutshell is more mainstream and friendly.
Initially, I was excited to hear the Experiment, especially jamming with rappers like Q-Tip, Mos Def, Common, Fiasco, remaking J-Dilla classics. Finally, I thought, a rebirth of Hip Hop lyricism over jazz. Then when I discovered the Experiment was making an album, I didn’t know what to expect. The single “Always Shine” featuring Fiasco and Bilal is simply amazing. The other more popular song is “Afro Blue,” a jazz standard, featuring Erykah Badu’s colorful lyrics. Both verses are the same 16 bars, but the imagery (Dream of a land my soul is from/I hear a hand stroke on the drum) and ambiguity (They gently sway/Then slip away/To some secluded place) is nothing less to expected from an underrated lyricist such as Badu.
With all of this praise for the album, one may think I am looking forward to Black Radio 2. I’m not.
I’m not a big fan of the shift in Glasper’s music. The aforementioned artists are not mainstream per se but they are pop(ular). BR1 is predominantly a neo-soul then jazz album. A fancier and different sounding neo-soul, if you will.
I love he is potentially converting neo-soul fans to jazz by exposing its jazz roots. But, unlike jazz, the music lacks spontaneity. Too safe. Doesn’t overly challenge neo-soul standards. One can’t listen to “Silly Rabbit” or “Jelly Da Beener” and tell me it doesn’t challenge jazz. I can’t think of any such track on BR1.
The new single “Calls” featuring Jill Scott could be a cut off of BR1. In fact, many other tracks on BR1 sound too similar and don’t venture out into what would constitute as an “experiment.” Glasper is capable of much more than that and it’s frustrating because I expected more; I believe he purposely went the safe route for appeal. After hearing “Calls” I am not rushing to hear BR2 but will during the week.
For R&B or neo-soul standards, the Experiment is amazing. For jazz standards, which I hold him to, it’s a let down. But holding him to jazz standards may be my mistake.
2 Chainz is the epitome of the rap game right now. He is the perfect reason I don’t turn on the radio or take the rap game seriously any more.
His stage name, for one, is spelled foolishly. We seem to have an embrace (and worship) for nonsense, basic-ness, and ignorance. What does 2 Chainz mean? In what state of mind did he develop this name?
I don’t think I want to know the answer.
The hit single “Spend It,” is all over the airwaves, the TV screen, and in the clubs. Why not? 9 bars of “I’m riding round I’m gettin it/It’s mine, I spend it.”is catchy. But like Herman Cain’s tax slogan “9-9-9″ tax plan, “Spend It”lacks substance. Also, like “-9-9,” 2 Chainz single will crash the economy. No really.
Let me explain.
2 Chainz claims he’s “the perfect definition of something you’ve never seen” but he’s wrong. I do see people like him everyday. Criminals do ‘Shoot your ass down…;” I do see people “ridin around stuntin, smoking loud in public, talking loud in public yeah my entourage is bucking.”
I do see people like him everyday – and that’s the problem. Art (I guess if we want to call it art) is to reflect reality, not vice versa. But of course since his subject matter, no matter how detrimental, is deemed cool or makes him “the man,”reality will continue to reflect art.
Like I always say, if you’re going to have a negative subject matter, at least spit poetically. 2 Chainz takes no interest in it. A.B.C. raps are so 2011 I thought!
2 Chainz isn’t here or take interest in challenging the sad status quo. Oh no. He’s profiting from the Black stereotypes of criminality, illiteracy and illegitimacy.
“I’m allergic to the hater type, I’ll take your wife, give her back nine months after that, similac.”
Our dollars, views, and clicks are Hip Hop’s gatekeeper; we must block out wack rappers and support the good ones. Day by day entertainers like 2 Chainz dilute the rap game and make us look like fools. Call me what you will but if reminiscing over 8Ball and MJG’s classic album On Top of the World makes me the old, grumpy uncle, I will gladly embrace the title. ATLiens; Back For the First Time; Too Hard Too Swallow; Southern Hip Hop classics like these should be the bar.
Both 2Chainz and Herman Cain make Black people look bad. They are also both Atlanta natives.
In his book, Cain wrote that while in high school he did not get involved with the Civil Rights Movement because his father told him to “stay out of trouble.” Then he appeared on MSNBC and said “if i had been a college student, I probably would have been participating.” OK, he was under 18 so maybe I’m being unfair.
Upon further examination, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out that Cain attended Morehouse College in 1963 and sat on the sidelines while Blacks were being murdered and abused.
Yesterday Herman Cain reared his ugly head and made some comments on the Iowa caucus race and I couldn’t help but to cringe for I thought Cain was gone for good; like Herman Cain, I wish 2 Chainz will just disappear forever and for good.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bab Adetiba. Check out his politcial and social commentary blog MindsAlike.