Robert Glasper Talks 'ArtScience,' The Latest From His Adventurous Jazz Crew

Sep 10, 2016

Robert Glasper is always making music. Solo or with his quartet, the Robert Glasper Experiment, he's released 9 albums and collaborated with everyone from Herbie Hancock to Kendrick Lamar, investigating the sounds and rhythms of jazz and hip-hop in equal measure,

The Robert Glasper Experiment includes Casey Benjamin on sax, Derrick Hodge on bass, and Mark Colenburg on drums — with occasional cameos on record from Glasper's young song Riley. Their new album is ArtScience, out next week, and Glasper joined NPR's Scott Simon to talk about it. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

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Robert Glasper is always making music, solo or with his quartet, the Robert Glasper Experiment. He's released nine albums. And he's collaborated with everyone from Herbie Hancock to Kendrick Lamar.

The Robert Glasper Experiment includes Casey Benjamin on sax, Derrick Hodge on bass and Mark Colenburg on the drums. Their new album is "ArtScience." It's out next week. And Robert Glasper joins us now from the studios of Chicago Public Radio. Thanks very much for being with us.

ROBERT GLASPER: No problem. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: This album opens with a song called "This Is Not Fear." And let's hear a bit, if we could.


GLASPER: Originally, it was called Not Fear because we chopped up this little sentence that Mos Def said. Recently, he was held up in South Africa at the airport. And they tried to detain him and all these things. And he put out this statement.

In the statement, he said, this is not fear. This is just to make things clear. So originally, I had that on there. I had Mos Def's voice on there, saying, this is not fear. This is just to make things clear. And it kind of told the story of kind of what we're doing.

The feeling of the first part, the jazz part, ties into just, like, the anger and frustration of what's happening right now with all the police shootings and, you know, things of that nature. So it just - it had a lot to do with a lot of things.

SIMON: Can you sometimes say things more clearly without words?

GLASPER: Totally, you can. And then sometimes, you need words to make things clearly. So it depends, you know? But I felt like the way we came in and how frantic it was - and then with the voices coming kind of in a Negro spiritual kind of way. It kind of bridged it together.


SIMON: There's an interlude in another song we want to ask about. Let's listen to a little bit of "Find You."


RILEY: Let's try to make the polices (ph) better. Let's try to make them like real polices that help. No gun shooting. I got to tell you, if I see on the news next Friday or next Sunday or next Monday, I'll be very angry. We stand up for freedom. Nothing like this - nobody wants this like this. And if the polices stand up for freedom, I'm going to be proud - very proud.

SIMON: I gather you know that young artist.

GLASPER: I do. That's my son Riley (laughter). He was 5 at the time.

SIMON: Yeah.

GLASPER: He's very emotional in general. And he speaks his mind. So when the Michael Brown case hit the news, he was watching the news. And we tend to - in the house, either me or his mom will, like, just randomly tape him when he just starts going off on a rant without him knowing.

We'll just take our phones out and just tape him. And so I just edited it. I made it shorter because he talked for like 30 minutes. So that's literally all his words. Nothing was coached. Nothing - she just recorded it. And, you know, he's on, like, my last four albums (laughter).

SIMON: You're an incredibly prolific artist. We noted that you've been in recent albums with Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak and Maxwell. And I gather you've got collaborations coming up with Herbie Hancock and Common.

GLASPER: Yes. Yes.

SIMON: How do you get that all scheduled and then make time for your own music and your own life?

GLASPER: Yeah. You know what? I so love what I'm doing that it doesn't really feel like work. You know what I mean? So, like, you know, when I'm in the studio with Herbie, I mean, hell, he has to kick me out of his house. I got to say I love my life right now. It's great.

You know, it has its struggles 'cause, you know, I have a 7-year-old son now. So, you know, kind of hates it, you know (laughter)? So I'm like, but Dad's got to make money. He's like - love it - he said, but Dad, there's a bank across the street from the house. You could just go there and get money.


SIMON: The Robert Glasper Experiment is a quartet. And I understand this album came together in just a couple of weeks in New Orleans?

GLASPER: Yes. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to just kind of go away somewhere - that we really didn't know many people - and kind of lock ourselves in a studio.

SIMON: Was there something to be said for the intensity of those two weeks, I mean, knowing you had that time together?

GLASPER: We chilled most of the time. It was great (laughter). We were in New Orleans. We ate, had a lot to drink, had a lot to eat, you know? And it was cool because the way we did it, it wasn't like we all got up at the same time and rolled to the studio. It was really loose. So we kind of planned it out to where we didn't have to rush. And, you know, I hate rushing in the studio.


GLASPER: Hearing a song, there's so many different ways that music accompanies our life. I feel like everybody's life literally has a soundtrack because we love music so much and there are so many songs that people love. Everybody has a favorite song. Everybody has a few favorite songs. You know, and even if you're not hearing the song, you're thinking about the song a lot of times.


GLASPER: (Singing) Can't explain what you do, how you do - some kind of mystery.

You know, music is probably why I'm sitting in this chair right now. A lot of us are probably born from a certain song being played (laughter) When our mothers - we're like, no. But the song played. And it was like, yeah (laughter). And now we're here. You know, so music is powerful, Jack (laughter).

SIMON: Robert Glasper of the Robert Glasper Experiment. Their new album, "ArtScience" is out. Thanks so much for being with us.

GLASPER: Thank you so much. This was awesome.


GLASPER: (Singing) There is no better you and me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.