20 minutes with ROBERT GLASPER

Robert-Glasper-Experiment-wall-new

Originally published in Beat Magazine.

 

Tired of the same old repetitive and disposable anthems that seem to pollute contemporary black radio, the Robert Glasper Experiment utilised their background in Jazz and recruited a number of R&B vocalists and rappers to create a fusion record. This album was used as a vessel to transcend Genre and perpetuate a singular vision of black consciousness. The said vessel was titled Black Radio – referencing the indestructible black box in an airplane – and went on to win a Grammy in 2013 for best R&B album. I caught up with Robert Glasper himself for a chat about the success of Black Radio and its follow-up Black Radio 2, his Grammy win and his buddies on the east coast.

“When I lived in Texas, I didn’t really know much about hip-hop music. But when I moved to New York in ’97, I immediately met so many people. I was meeting guys like Q-Tip, Mos Def and Talib Kweli. I got to see the hip-hop movement first hand and it became a community that I was a part of.”

Robert Glasper – a trained Jazz pianist – grew up in Houston, Texas and regularly performed at Church with his mother. After moving to New York to study music at the New School University in Manhattan, he met and began collaborating with rapper Mos Def. In 2005, he signed to Blue Note Records and released several jazz albums. His first jazz-fusion record Double Booked (2007) was an innovative album split into two distinctive styles. The first half is populated by his post-bop trio, while the latter half introduces his new fusion band, the Robert Glasper Experiment. It was this quartet – Glasper on electronic keyboards, Derrick Hodge on electric bass, Mark Colenburg on acoustic and electric drums and Casey Benjamin on vocoder and sax – that enabled Glasper to pursue an investment in hip-hop that had enticed him since moving to the east coast.

“When I moved to the east coast, I got the chance to befriend and work with a lot of artists, so by the time I signed to Blue Note, one of the guys at the label told me ‘You know, you could do a record with all the people that you know’ and I was like ‘yeah, let’s wait for that.'”

Well, the wait was certainly worth it, allowing Glasper to recruit a number of talented friends he’d made since leaving Texas. Black Radio features collaborations with Erykah Badu, Lupe Fiasco and yasiin bey (Mos Def).

After the unprecedented success of the first Black Radio, Glasper was more than ready to make a volume 2, finding it much easier to get people on board that he wasn’t particularly acquainted with. “A lot of people on part 2 I didn’t know personally. On the first record I literally knew everyone. It was easier on the second to get people I didn’t necessarily know because we won the Grammy for the first one. They knew who I was. Cause otherwise, if you try and call up Snoop Dogg’s people they’d be like ‘What? Jazz?'”

Even though Black Radio 2 – released in October last year – featured a much wider range of vocalists (Jill Scott, Common, Snoop Dogg, Norah Jones, Patrick Stump, Faith Evans), Glasper still has a soft spot for the first volume. “It was the first one of that particular sound and I got to work with my friends. The fact that we even made it to the Grammys and then the album’s inclusion in the R&B category kicked off this whole Black Radio movement. We were representing a whole community because we weren’t doing what’s popular.”

Keeping the subject on the Grammys and although acknowledging a win as an unquestionable honour, I wanted to ask Glasper if he considered his inclusion in the R&B category as a slap in the face due to Black Radio‘s deliberate swerve away from mainstream urban music. “Not at all,” he answered to my surprise. “You always have to be in some sort of category. There’s no category for artists like me, because there aren’t many artists like me. What a lot of people don’t know about the Grammys is that the artist will always choose what category they want to be nominated in. I chose to be nominated for R&B album of the year, as opposed to Jazz album of the year.

“Most of the Jazz world didn’t really understand Black Radio. Anyway, a lot of it is not straight up Jazz, it has more of an R&B/Hip-hop sound. If you’re in the R&B category, you’re on a bigger platform, no one knows or cares about the Jazz Grammy except the Jazz community. I wanted to make this album on a bigger platform with a bigger message.”

With the message being that versatile and alternative black music is both alive and successful, it makes sense that Glasper chose the most accessible category, using it as a means of inspiring the younger generation by showing them a different shade of black music.

I asked Glasper if he’s heard his buddy Q-Tip’s new collaborative mixtape with Busta Rhymes yet. “I haven’t. However people have been texting and tweeting me asking if I’m playing piano on this one song. I’ve worked with Q-Tip for years and I’ve done a lot of stuff at his house studio wise, so I wouldn’t be surprised if  he chopped some shit I did up and put it on the record.”

 

The ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT will hit up the Forum on Friday March 7, featuring the legendary jazz-fusion icons Roy Ayers and Lonnie Liston Smith as supports. Black Radio and Black Radio 2 are available now.

Advertisements

FILM REVIEW: HER (2013)

her-movie-wide-560x282.jpg w=600

More than simply a tale about an alienated man who falls in love with his computer operating system, Spike Jonze’s Her is a thought-provoking and prophetic film about the future of relationships. Set in a futuristic sterile LA, the science fiction film is beautifully sick in its almost dystopian representation of human relationships. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a lonely man struggling with the ghost of his married past. After purchasing a new operating system – which he initially uses as an email organiser – he quickly forms a friendship with it; a strong mental bond that is not dependent on physicality. Unable to sustain healthy relationships with real women, Theodore finds himself falling in love with Samantha (OS), played by Scarlett Johansson.

Theodore and Samantha’s relationship begins to emulate all the positive and negative aspects of a physical relationship. Samantha’s high-tech programming enables her to feel human emotions such as jealousy, lust and love.  A particularly disturbing scene involves Samantha hiring  a surrogate body to fulfill what she can’t physically with Theodore – the surrogate female being used as a means to an end in the same way a surrogate parent would be used today. Samantha is incredibly intelligent and communicative and consequently, their love grows into something even more genuine than other various physical relationships displayed throughout the film.

Her is prophetic in its depiction of the growing sterility of human relationships and our increasing dependence on computers. Our relationships with our operating systems is extrapolated as a means of hypothesising the extreme possibilities of technology. Instead of perpetuating new physical connections, we are hiding behind our screens, seeking solace in the virtual world and making friends with multiple avatars. Spike Jonze’s original screenplay creates a world in which operating systems are everyone’s best friends and intimate lovers, perfectly imperfect and available.

Both Phoenix and Johansson play the sweetest roles in their careers yet. While Johansson usually plays the ice queen in her physical roles, it is ironic to hear nothing but warmth in her vocal performance. The film also features Amy Adams as Theodore’s best friend, who like Scarlett has proved her versatility in both art house and blockbuster films (The Master, American Hustle, Man Of Steel).

The women in the film are hardly wearing any make-up and all look quite haggard, a nuance that only serves to reinforce the enigmatic Samantha. These female bodies are not objects of lust for Theodore anymore, as he has become completely fixated with the mind, voice and spirit of Samantha. So on the one hand, the film is magnifying the successful absence of physical importance and on the other, it is amplifying the unsuccessful relationships between real human bodies, i.e. between Theodore and his wife and between Amy (Adams) and her husband. Incredibly positive in one sense, it is still technically a dystopia in its disheartening portrayal of human connections.

A realistic insight into the inevitable (Yes, I am a cynic), Her is my pick for the Oscars.

5/5

ALBUM REVIEW: BUSTA RHYMES & Q-TIP, The Abstract and The Dragon

Busta-Rhymes-Q-Tip-Abstract-Dragon

Originally published in Beat Magazine.

 

A few weeks before the new year, Bussa Bus and Q-Tip released The Abstract And The Dragon, a self-righteous excuse to revive “original rap,” the boom-bap golden era of the ’90s. The 28-track mixtape boasts a collection of classics and remixes, with only a handful of originals. Vivrant thing is re-worked, along with Scenario and Tip’s Gettin Up. Busta Rhymes (The Dragon) and Q-Tip (The Abstract) simultaneously revive and validate the legendary golden era of hip hop, “the real hip hop” as The Dragon calls it and he’s right. This is the real hip-hop; the authentic unpolished “boom bap boom boom bap,” beat of the game, the game that both veterans accuse contemporary rappers of disrespecting.

I’ve listened to this record a lot; I’m in double digits here and I can honestly say that this could be the best hip-hop mixtape since Dilla’s Donuts in 2006. It’s all ego and pride, and rightly so. These guys were at the front of the boom-bap movement, the original shit and they should be proud. There’s nothing modest about this album. Busta is all up in your grill, huffing and puffing over rhymes like “You can’t erase me..somehow I’m never done” and “Here I am, RUN.” In the intro track, he also boasts “This is where it all started.” Tip is a little more humble, embodying the role of a minimalist artist as opposed to one who sprays red all over the canvas. The contrast is effective, however it does end up sounding more like Buss’ record by the end of it.

The boys are brothers and it’s represented and re-enforced throughout the entire album, but especially in the intro and Butch and Sundance. They’re a duel force to be reckoned with and new age players won’t be able to ignore the palpable criticism in You Can’t Hold The Torch, a track written like a letter of criticism. “These niggers in the game don’t sound the same” and “You’re hurting the game when your shit sounds off” are only a few rhymes from that heavy complaint. I’ll let you enjoy the rest of it.

Review Score: 9.0 out of 10

ALBUM REVIEW: WARPAINT, Warpaint

warpaint new

Originally published in The AU Review.

 

Hours before writing up this review, I shared Warpaint’s latest SoundCloud activity on my blog. Titled ‘Biggie’ and taken from their upcoming eponymous release, Warpaint’s new track is one that Portishead never wrote. No doubt influenced by the trip hop craze of the 90s, ‘Biggie’ is only one example of the new Warpaint.

Yes, there is still the mild post-punk and indie rock flavours thrown into the mix, but Warpaint feels, sounds and tastes a lot more synthetic. Mostly keys and percussion driven, the new record boasts a tighter production and a darker aesthetic. Engineered by Grammy-award winning rock producer Mark “Flood” Ellis (U2, Nick Cave, Nine Inch Nails), Warpaint also became the focus of an upcoming documentary by extremist videographer Chris Cunningham. The documentary is an artistic and abstract video diary of the making of the album, pushing the girls’ music further into the paradigm of art rock.

I love this new record. Arriving nearly four years after its predecessor, Warpaint is fresh and morose, taking all the original aspects of the debut and reshaping them. The Fool was undeniably good, but it was too safe, avoiding a stretch beyond the girls’ take on indie rock. The follow up manages to sound both risky and appropriate, simultaneously evoking a sense of integrity and reinvention. The girls have kept their ghostly riffs, eerie vocals and collective harmonies, but they’ve added percussive breaks and synth-laden keys and atmospherics. Stella Mozgawa is as versatile as ever on the drums and drum machines, transitioning smoothly from a bombastic rhythm into a minimalist one. You never know what’s coming up next, as each track is different to the one before it. There’s an indie folk track (‘Teese’), then a trip-hop one (‘Hi’) and then a punchy punk-rock Kills-esque piece (‘Disco//very’). Its consistent versatility prevents it from becoming dull and its sonic exploration indicates an inevitable evolutionary growth for Warpaint.

Like The Fool, the lyrics are as sombre and enigmatic as ever. “Love Is To Die” says it all in its title and other tracks spit “Eat you alive/rip you up and tear you in two” (‘Disco//very’) and whisper “All you see/you don’t want to see/but can’t seem to avoid” (‘Teese’). In ‘CC’, the girls sing “Give me more/I haven’t heard this before/been holding out for this one.” Mmm, sounds a lot like my reaction to the new album.

Fans unfamiliar with Warpaint will still recognise it as Warpaint. It’s one of those few sophomore releases to deliver something both original and familiar and on top of that, to deliver it well.

Review Score: 8.4 out of 10.

TV SERIES REVIEW: DEREK (2013)

derek-2013

Originally published in the AU Review.

 

In a recent photo shoot for The Hollywood Reporter, Ricky Gervais is captured flipping the bird to the camera, whilst burning money with the smoke of his cigar. Say what you will about him, but I think he’s brilliant. His aptitude in developing comic relief which showcase the raw reality of banal existence is spot on. Where shows like The Office and Idiot Abroad were particularly cringe-worthy – focusing on mockery, dehumanisation and cruelty – Derek takes Gervais out of his comfort zone and into a brand new territory: sentimentality.

Successfully re-commissioned for a second series, Derek is a dramedy set in a nursing home. Parodying the documentary form, the series explores the interrelationships between residents and workers and ultimately, their relationship with the outside world. Derek –played by Gervais – is the nicest protagonist the latter has created, the polar opposite of David Brent and Andy Millman. When you see Derek for the first time in the nursing home, you automatically shift in your seat. He is slightly simple, socially awkward, meticulous and a hunchback. Immediately you assume, ‘Fuck, now he’s making fun of autistic people?’ But no, the show isn’t about that. Derek probably is autistic (it is never discovered), but Gervais’ portrayal is so sincere and beautiful that you quickly put aside your reservations and start enjoying the show for what it is. Derek is not a comedy in the sense that Gervais’ other works were. Yes, there are a lot of funny moments, but Gervais’ objective is a lot more sincere this time round.

Derek is a worker at the nursing home, but he goes beyond his job description to help those residents that he cares about. Unlike Brent, he is selfless, kind, popular and actually funny. His favourite person is Hannah – a colleague and friend who has worked at the home for 15 years – who he says would be the beneficiary if he won “Secret Millionaire.” Along with Hannah, Derek also has two other best friends: Dougie and Kev. Dougie – played by Karl Pilkington – is the caretaker at the nursing home, a handy man who pretty much does “everything.” Although this role is pretty much an inflated version of his character in Idiot Abroad, we can’t look past Pilkington’s skill of portraying self-deprecating, cynical guys. Typecast he may be, no one does it better. David Earl plays Kev, Derek’s homeless friend who hangs around the home like a bad smell (literally), making crude innuendoes and shitting his pants. In some respects, Kev is a lot like Gareth Keenan: inappropriate, sleazy and just plain fucking weird. They are both sexual predators and they are both mocked by their friends. Unlike Gareth however, Kev is genuinely liked and looked up to by someone: Derek, however misguided it may be. Derek loves everybody and is proud of his infinite kindness “It’s more important to be kind than clever or good looking. I’m not clever or good looking, but I’m kind.” Essentially, this is what the show is about: human kindness and Derek is the incarnation of this.

Gervais’ portrayal of Derek is extremely moving. Everything about Derek is sweet. His favourite things are Hannah, YouTube, reality programmes, animals and frog sculptures. In a recent interview, Gervais stated that Derek is his favourite character. With his nervous flicking of his fringe, his big grin and his shuffled movements, you can’t stop looking at him. Particular adorable moments include the episode where Derek calls the ambulance in an attempt to save a dying bird and the pilot which shows a particular scene where he is cutting the toenails of a resident. His incessant displays of kindness and child-like naivety make it impossible for the viewer not to fall in love with him. Hannah – played by Kerry Godliman – comes close to stealing the show with her expressions and selfless nature. She loves Derek unconditionally and stands up for him when he is being picked on by outsiders. There is one particular tear-jerker of a scene where she stays up all night at the home to supervise the animals that have been brought in to pacify the residents. Like Derek, she’s a real sweetie and goes way beyond her job description to help and befriend those she cares about.

If you want to feel really good and gooey inside, watch Derek. It is hardly pretentious and there is no hidden motive. Gervais has delivered a really beautiful story in an attempt to highlight all the brilliant aspects of humility and kindness. According to Dougie, Kev and Hannah, Derek is the best person in the world, a person who “chose kindness” and who “hasn’t got a lot going on in his head, but what he has got going on is all good.” Where Gervais’ other shows made you cry from laughter, Derek makes you cry for real. It’s about a kind, innocent man who loves life. That’s all it is and its brilliant.

REVIEW SCORE: FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

60 minutes with JENNIFER KINGWELL

jenniferkingwell!harmony-gallery-background (2)

Originally published in Lot’s Wife.

 

Meet Jen Kingwell. Born in Darwin, raised in Canberra and now based in Melbourne, Kingwell is gearing up for the release of her first single off her debut solo EP, The Lotus Eaters, due for release early next year. “Kissing in Tutus” is a bold declaration of resistance and love in the face of war and chaos and Kingwell is only a few weeks away from releasing it at the Empress Hotel in Fitzroy. Formerly known as one-half of the indie-cabaret sensation The Jane Austen Argument, Kingwell will be joined on the night by her new band The Garland Thugs. Sitting inside her cosy flat – complete with Film Noir artworks, scattered keyboards, an overstuffed bookcase dedicated to Jazz music and an adorable black pussycat named Maceo – Jen openly discusses her new tunes, The Jane Austen Argument, her nostalgia for Casio keyboards, her fascination with Greek mythology and her upcoming collaboration with Neil Gaiman, yes that Neil Gaiman.

It all started with a Casio keyboard, you know the one, that basic beginner’s instrument with the “cheesy backing tracks.” Laughing, Jen recalls her first instrument, the first medium that really kicked off her love for music. She even wrote her first song on it: a country love ballad. How old was she? “I was six,” she cackles. How cute. After graduating from the school of Casio, Jen went on to study classical piano, a study that evolved into the dream of wanting to play professionally. After high school, Jen was accepted into the Canberra School of Music. However, halfway through her degree, she dropped out. Her heart wasn’t in it anymore and she had lost her perseverance, “I didn’t have the disposition to stay in a music room by myself for eight hours a day, pumping out classical tunes.” She then did the polar opposite and began a degree in Electronic Music and Interactive Multimedia, where she stayed until graduation.

With a degree under her belt, Jen then took her boyfriend and bike to Central Europe, where she rode the streets, sightseeing with a delicious pastry under her arm no doubt. After doing a few odd jobs here and there, she returned to Australia, moved to Melbourne in 2006 and went back to school to study a Masters of Communication.

It was at RMIT where she met Tom Dickens, a cabaret aficionado who was in desperate need of a pianist for his upcoming show. They formed a duo and started performing under the name Tom and Jen, a temporary title that was officially replaced with The Jane Austen Argument. Did the name come to them whilst arguing about Miss. Austen perhaps? Laughing, Jen replies “I’m a huge Jane Austen fan and Tom can’t stand reading her. He is under the impression that all her novels are about doilies and balls. We needed a name and Tom came up with it I don’t know if he had been thinking about it for a while or if it just came to him – but we were at the pub and he was like ‘How about The Jane Austen Argument?’ and I was like ‘That’s a terrible idea!’ but it somehow caught on.”

A blend of cabaret and indie folk music, Tom and Jen were taken under the wing of the infamous Amanda Palmer, a kinship that led to the duo supporting Amanda on her Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under tour in 2011.

After three years together which saw the release of two EP’s and one LP Somewhere Under The Rainbow (2012) which was recorded in Seattle, Tom and Jen separated with the motivation of beginning solo careers. Will we be seeing The Jane Austen Argument again? “Absolutely! We haven’t officially stopped doing stuff.” So it’s like an indefinite hiatus? “Yep, exactly.”

In saying this, Jen emphasises the importance of moving away from the Jane Austen sound in her solo release, “I wanted to pursue something that wasn’t necessarily right for The Jane Austen Argument. I want to explore different sonic possibilities and weave in electronic elements. I want to push the limits of a three-minute pop song and I want to work with other musicians that are pushing the limits of their instruments.”

So what can we expect from the single launch with new band The Garland Thugs? Jen answers with a big smile, “Apart from the audience thinking ‘That was a fucking killer show!’ they can expect killer songs, a killer band and a really intense set with real audience connection. It’s also going to have a really lush, rich orchestral feel. Chad Blaster, my drummer, brings this real hip-hop element in, so there’s a real hard groove in there.” The band also features Jess Keeffe on electric cello and Adam Rudegeair – Jen’s partner – on bass.

The single in question, “Kissing in Tutus” is an ode to radical love in the face of revolution. Jen’s poignant lyrics focus on the powerful image of love as a tool of resistance. The words are supported by a beautiful piano composition, a string section and light percussion. An anarchist’s anthem, “Kissing in Tutus” celebrates infinite, universal emotion in a chaotic and uncertain reality. The idea came to Jen when she was recording The Jane Austen Argument’s debut LP in Seattle. “We lived in Seattle for around six weeks and it was just when the occupy wall street movement was kicking off. It was really inspiring to see this totally like, complete grass-roots swelling of resistance. I was really fascinated. The single came to me because I had the idea of this power of people who come together to resist something and want to change something rattling around in my head.” When she was at University, Jen was also a radical cheerleader for the G20 protests, another image of resistance that inspired the theme of the single. One particular image of the G20 protests stands out, “A while ago, I discovered a photo – which I haven’t been able to find since – of me and my partner at the time kissing in the street in our tutus. I just remember one of the cheerleaders saying that that was her favourite moment from the whole thing.” The beauty of “Kissing in Tutus” is further solidified by this deeply personal recollection.

While “Kissing in Tutus” sees its official launch in a couple of weeks, Jen’s debut solo LP The Lotus Eaters teases us a little more with its release date. Expected in March, maybe even early April, The Lotus Eaters takes its title from a much-loved story which Jen discovered as a child. The Lotus Eaters, a short retelling of Homer’s original story of the same name from his classic the Odyssey, tells the tale of what happens to Odysseus’ men on a small island dominated by lotus plants. These plants are narcotic and cause the men to become stoned, happily content in their apathy. By using Odysseus’ men as a metaphor, Jen’s EP is fundamentally about overcoming obstacles and temptation, avoiding indifference and lethargy and being enlightened about a specific purpose, “waking up from a dream that is keeping you down.” Funnily enough, most of the tracks off the new EP came to her in a dream, hence the essential themes of the record: Dreaming and awakening.

Before we round up our interview, Jen lets slip of a little teaser that is only mildly exciting, “One of the tracks on the EP is going to be an instrumental improvisation to a spoken word piece that I wrote and which Neil Gaiman will narrate.” Seeing as Mr. Gaiman is married to Jen’s good mate Amanda Palmer, this collaboration really doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Oh man, March/April is too far away, what a tease.

 

Jennifer Kingwell will be launching her brand new single “Kissing in Tutus” at the Evelyn Hotel on Friday October 25. Her debut EP The Lotus Eaters will be released next year. Tickets for the show are available via http://music.jenniferkingwell.net/album/kissing-in-tutus-single.

ALBUM REVIEW: ROBERT GLASPER EXPERIMENT, Black Radio Volume 2

BlackRadio2Artworkpic

Originally published in The AU Review.

 

Delivering an equally remarkable and innovative second chapter to 2012’s Black Radio is the Robert Glasper Experiment, a trio that continue to push the boundaries of jazz music further and further away from its tradition.

In 2012 Robert Glasper – the commander of this electric post-bop vessel, composed a brilliant album which completely defied Genre, fusing Jazz, Rnb and Hip hop as a means of stitching together every aspect of contemporary black radio to create one singular vision. Ironically, Black Radio was awarded Best Rnb album at the 2013 Grammy Awards. Glasper’s success in breaking down the barriers of genre was completely disregarded and instead, this masterpiece, was interpreted and labelled as a single generic form. With a primal focus on lyricism and theme, Black Radio also featured a collection of prominent guest-vocalists, including Lupe Fiasco, Erykah Badu and yasiin bey. In Black Radio Volume 2, Glasper continues to shine a bright light on the illusion of genre importance, an illusion that hopefully next year’s Grammy’s will cotton on to.

The overrated importance of genre is only one of Glasper’s messages throughout Black Radio 2. Like its predecessor, this record includes an impressive group of vocalists. Lupe Fiasco and Lalah Hathaway return, joined by newbies Brandy, Snoop Dogg, Jill Scott and Norah Jones, just to name a few. Singing and rapping over the top of Glasper (keys), Derrick Hodge (bass), Mark Colenburg (drums) and Casey Benjamin (vocoder/sax) are vocalists earnestly reflecting on primitive themes and real issues. Unlike the endless supply of self-indulgent, disposable contemporary urban music which often focuses on hedonism and vulgarity, Black Radio 2 brings its listeners back down to earth with the importance of autonomy, love, enlightenment, friendship, acceptance and resilience.

Immediately introducing all that refreshing rawness is the opening track, “Baby Tonight.” Divided into two introductory parts, the Experiment welcome its listeners to the “Robert Glasper show.” The first part is dominated by a delicate key composition, subtle percussion and a vocoder manipulating “Baby tonight/On your radio/Black Radio.” The second part is a wonderful idiosyncratic introduction orchestrated by the guest vocalists. They each greet their audience and the best part is when you hear “We never get to do shit like this.” This is exactly what defines Black Radio: its originality and audaciousness. It’s brilliant.

The second track, “I Stand Alone” is led by Common and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump and condones autonomy and the power of one. It could also be a stab at mediocrity in contemporary music, validating the importance of one to stand alone and do something completely different. Like Miles Davis and other fusion pioneers before him, Robert Glasper is that one; a leader of musical experimentation. But it is the latter half of the track that is really interesting, featuring an anonymous voice-over highlighting the demise of black individuality, “Where has all of that gone?” The omniscient poet reflects on the “mind-numbing sameness” that pollutes contemporary music.

“What Are We Doing” is a funky track, with Brandy reflecting on a futile relationship and its inevitable breakdown. “Calls” is a personal favourite, introduced by a melodic key arrangement and Jill Scott’s organic vocals. Scott sings to her lover, “You always answer my calls/When I call/You come.” Both Scott and Glasper perform with such lightness, using their different instruments to suggest fragility and create space.

“Persevere” features Snoop Dogg and Lupe Fiasco rapping about resilience and the importance of perseverance in a world that is almost impossible to comprehend. “Somebody else” sees Emeli Sande fantasising about escapism and identity.

The final track “Jesus Children” is simultaneously heartbreaking and reassuring. Dedicated to the memory of the 20 children that were killed in the Sandy Hook shooting last year, Lalah Hathaway and poet Malcolm-Jamal Warner reflect on the afterlife of the deceased. Hathaway’s vocals are incredibly emotive and sombre when she sings “Hello children/Jesus loves you.” MJW closes the moving track by commemorating the children and their place with God, “20 children standing there/beaming bright and angel light as they take flight.”

Black Radio 2 fails to fall short of its predecessor. It is a remarkable second interpretation of black radio and genre. It builds its own pedestal in the former and laughs in the face of the latter. Absolutely brilliant stuff.

Review Score: 9.6 out of 10