It didn’t take long for the Robert Glasper Experiment to return with the second round of what will hopefully become a series. Only 20 months after the first one dropped and a year since the remix EP came out, Black Radio 2 offers a new lineup of songs featuring some of the most talented musicians in the last couple of decades. The quartet returns as Derrick Hodge and Casey Benjamin join Robert once again, with one roster change: Mark Colenburg replaces Chris “Daddy” Dave this time around. Today we’re walking you through the record one song at a time to get at the heart of what makes Black Radio 2 one of the most exciting releases of this year.
1. Baby Tonight (Black Radio 2 Theme) / Mic Check 2
A smoother intro from the first go around sets the tone for this offering. Fans of the Experiment will be delighted to hear Casey Benjamin provides his vocoder flavor to the theme. Then for the second Mic Check, listeners get a dose of everyone who appears on the album, with all of the musicians proclaiming who they are and sounding amped for the album. It prepares you for the ride coming.
2. I Stand Alone (Featuring Common, Patrick Stump and Michael Eric Dyson)
Things get underway with an anthem celebrating staying true to who you are, which sums up what the Experiment has always been doing. Scheduling conflicts prevented Common from being on the first album, but he makes it up by dropping solid rhymes here while fellow Chicago native Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy fills in the hook. The words from scholar Michael Eric Dyson provides an interpretation of the title, and completes the picture painted by everyone on the track.
3. What Are We Doing (Featuring Brandy)
It’s great to see one of the biggest names of the ’90s mixing it up genre-wise here. As Brandy sings about a relationship that is on the rocks, big drums provide some bounce to give the song a ’90s R&B feel. Claude Kelly contributes to the songwriting here.
4. Calls (Featuring Jill Scott)
Fans of Jill and Robert really wanted to see them come together, and after years of running into each other it finally happened. The first single from the album is lyrically straightforward, but the music video directed by Ace Norton is definitely open to interpretation. Be sure to watch it below and see if you have your own take on it. We bet it will be the first of many collaborations between them as Jill sounds right at home with the group.
5. No Worries (Featuring Dwele)
No Worries is a love song about a man consoling a woman, and Dwele does the tender piece justice. Robert was introduced to Dwele’s singing on J. Dilla’s Welcome to Detroit album, and wanted to collaborate with him at some point. Snappy drums liven this up as Robert adds subtle touches on keyboard here and there. PJ Morton also adds to the lyrical content as a writer.
6. Trust (Featuring Marsha Ambrosius)
As the halfway point of the album comes, things slow down a bit for Marsha Ambrosius’ appearance. Though, be prepared for the hypnotic chorus with Marsha’s infectious singing bound to stir up feelings within you. Gospel singer and preacher John P. Kee provides a few words at the end.
7. Yet To Find (Featuring Anthony Hamilton)
Giving Anthony Hamilton the seventh track on the album only seems fitting. His singing stands out here, with additional credit for the lyrics going to Andrea Martin. The vibe here points to where all of the influences on this album originate from: the church. As both Anthony and Robert are from the south, this number in a way is reflective of their roots.
8. You Own Me (Featuring Faith Evans)
Faith was on Robert’s wish list for this go-around, and fortunately he got what he asked for. Co-written by Muhammad Ayers and Artia Lockett, this tune fits perfectly with the feel of the middle section of the album. Just when you think the song is over though, an interlude comes on with Robert doing a solo over Faith’s vocals, while Mark Colenburg adds a nice touch as well.
9. Let It Ride (Featuring Norah Jones and Wayne Brady)
The label mates and Texans make for a good paring on this adventurous outing. Even though they appeared on a song together on Q-Tip’s Renaissance album, this is the first time the two of them have worked together. The drum ‘n’ bass rhythm set the tone for Norah’s singing, with Muhsinah adding to the songwriting process. Be sure to check out Wayne Brady’s part as he gets in touch with his musical side, providing some edgy “is Wayne Brady gonna hafta choke a…” humor.
10. Persevere (Featuring Snoop Dogg, Lupe Fiasco, and Luke James)
How’s this for a team-up? Snoop sounds mysterious here with an upbeat rhyme to nod your head to, and Lupe comes in with bars as solid as his appearance on the first Black Radio album. Luke James handles the chorus while Casey Benjamin backs him on vocoder, and Anu~Sun is also a co-writer on the song. This does not disappoint.
11. Somebody Else (Featuring Emeli Sande)
This collaboration from the U.K. to the U.S. shines. Emeli sings about trying to forget the past as the spacey keyboard notes from Robert sucks you into the mood, and a classic breakbeat provides strength to the song. What’s also amazing is Emeli rewrote the original lyrics to the song and cut her vocals within two hours. A great track for the home stretch of the album.
12. Jesus Children of America (Featuring Lalah Hathaway and Malcolm Jamal Warner)
For the only cover song on the album, it’s hard to go wrong with a Stevie Wonder classic. Lalah returns from the first album to handle the lyrics, and Malcolm Jamal Warner reads a heartfelt poem in this song dedicated to the victims of Sandy Hook. It’s a meaningful way to end Black Radio 2.
Be sure to get the deluxe version with extra tracks featuring Macy Gray, Jazmine Sullivan, Bilal, and a few words from the legendary Bill Withers!
Words by Seve Chambers (@SChambersBK)