ADRIAN BARTOS, HOST:
Hey, everyone. So this is our last show of Season 2, and as such, we need a little help from you, our audience. Please go to npr.org/podcastsurvey to take a quick survey about the show. It's going to help us learn more about our audience, so we can connect to more people like you. Again, that's npr.org/podcastsurvey.
ROBERT GARCIA, HOST:
What's up, everybody? Peace. Just heads up, there may be some strong language in this episode.
BARTOS: Ooh (ph) - some bad words.
ROBERT GLASPER: You know when I met Dre? At my 40th birthday party. I walked into my 40th birthday party in LA with Dr. Dre.
GARCIA: And this time the security guards let you in?
GLASPER: Nobody saw me. All they saw was Dre. I was like, it's my birthday.
(SOUNDBITE OF JAMES BROWN'S "CHASE")
BARTOS: Hey, everyone. This is Stretch Armstrong.
GARCIA: My name is Bobbito Garcia. Together, we are the hosts of WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO. This is our last episode of Season 2, Stretchy.
BARTOS: It is. The final - the final hurrah.
GARCIA: Ah, le boo (ph). But we have a special guest - Robert Glasper, three-time Grammy Award winner, Emmy Award winner. I mean, he's probably going to win an Oscar and Tony (laughter) before this is said and done. He actually shares that strategy in this upcoming episode. Right?
GARCIA: He has a plan, yo. He has a plan.
BARTOS: His latest project is called R+R=NOW. And he is just one of the most connected dudes in jazz and hip-hop and bridges that gap beautifully. He hails from Houston, Texas, but has called New York his home since 1997. And in that time, he has collaborated with so many people that we have a shared history with.
BARTOS: Like Common.
GARCIA: The Roots.
BARTOS: Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def.
GARCIA: One-hundred percent. Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, who have both been guests.
BARTOS: Quincy Jones.
GARCIA: Oh-oh-oh (ph).
BARTOS: And on this show, like on a few others earlier in the season, we opened up the WHAT'S GOOD hotline and asked you, the listeners, to call up and tell us about your connection to jazz music.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I'll be honest with you, I'm still trying to figure out jazz music. I mean, that's the beauty, right?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: I was actually introduced to jazz, the first time, through "The Cosby Show." Dizzy Gillespie was on there, and I had to go and ask my dad, like, who is this guy and what does he do? I just took it from there, and "Cosby Show" just opened my eyes.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: When I was about 3 or 4, my mother used to play this guy named Al Jarreau. And she would be watering her plants and playing Al Jarreau. And that's the first memory I have.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: So I actually played jazz saxophone when I was, like, 9 until I was about 19. Jazz was really the first music I actually did understand. And I think that laid the foundation for everything else.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Pete Rock introduced me to jazz, without me even really realizing what was going on. I was an elementary school kid. I started learning those jazz songs that Pete Rock sampled from, and I've been a jazz lover ever since.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: I'm actually so glad you got Robert for this episode because he was and still is somewhat of a gateway drug into the genre for me. So at some point, my brother introduced me to the Robert Glasper Trio. And that's when I finally understood the whole complexity and versatility in jazz.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BARTOS: Amazing. Amazing. Thanks to everyone who called in and shared. We really love hearing your messages. So please, when we send out the APB on the WHAT'S GOOD hotline, keep them coming.
GARCIA: Coming up next, (singing) Robert Glasper.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GARCIA: It's funny. Like, men expressing love for each other...
GARCIA: ...They usually have to, like, end it with a bro. Yo, love you, bro.
GLASPER: It got to be - you got to throw extra gangsta on it.
GARCIA: Yeah. Yeah. Love you, bro. Love you, B.
GARCIA: It can't be like, yo, I love you.
GLASPER: They be like, love you - guns.
BARTOS: Love you, guns?
GLASPER: Guns. Knives. Just start naming shit. Football. Basketball. Just name shit. Anything masculine. Just start naming shit.
BARTOS: We're back in studio with Robert Glasper.
GLASPER: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
GARCIA: Ooo-wee (ph).
BARTOS: Robert, what's up?
GLASPER: Y'all don't have a clap simulator or nothing?
BARTOS: Nah, we just...
GLASPER: That was really anticlimactic.
BARTOS: I do this, and Bob goes, aplausos, aplausos, aplausos.
GARCIA: Aplausos, aplausos, por favor.
BARTOS: We could probably add them in post.
GLASPER: We should add them in post. That'd be awesome. Yeah. I love it.
BARTOS: So you just finished a one-month residency at the Blue Note.
BARTOS: Forty-eight shows.
GLASPER: Forty-eight shows. Forty-eight shows.
GARCIA: How does one even prep for that?
GLASPER: I don't know. It was - man, look. I don't - it was - I don't know. I don't know how I got through it.
BARTOS: Was that your idea?
GLASPER: The club - I think the club asked my management. Because they do it from time to time with different - well, they've only done it, like, three times with - well, only with three artists. Dizzy Gillespie did it, like, in the '90s.
BARTOS: Heard of him.
GLASPER: So I'm the youngest person to do it, in general. But yeah, they came to us with the idea. And because I have so many - I have my hand in so many different projects, and I have a few different bands, you know. So they're like, you can do that, you know, and do whatever you want the whole month. So I was like, oh, all right.
GARCIA: So you're doing two shows a night - you did two shows a night?
GLASPER: I did two shows - yeah. I did two shows a night. So for 48 shows - 24 nights, 48 shows. And I did Tuesday through Sunday. Monday was my day off. But really, Monday was prep for the rest of the week. And we sold out 44 of the 48 shows, completely.
GLASPER: Completely sold out.
GARCIA: Props, yo.
GARCIA: Wait. Wait. Insert the clap button.
GLASPER: Clap right there. Exactly.
BARTOS: So, Robert, what are your earliest music memories?
GLASPER: My earliest music memories are from my mom. Man, I remember - because my mom was a singer and a pianist, and she sung all the genres, man - funk, jazz, R&B. She didn't sing hip-hop. But (laughter) gospel. You know what I mean? And so I remember - I literally remember being, like, 3, in rehearsals, standing against the wall, watching, and falling asleep. Going to sleep. Waking up. They still rehearsing, you know.
And to the point where - and also, my mom, you know, she wasn't a big fan of random people watching me, like babysitters. She needed to be around me. If my aunt couldn't watch me, no one was watching me, you know what I mean?
So used to bring me to the clubs when she's performing, like, during her sets. So she would have me in the back room and have the waitresses she knew - shifts - yo, walking in, checking on me while she's doing her sets. She would run off between songs and check on me.
GLASPER: Oh, yeah. I was at the club. She just didn't do babysitters. Now I understand why, you know, as a dad now, you know? You hear horror stories, you know.
GARCIA: Sure. Sure.
GLASPER: And maybe sometimes you just couldn't - didn't have the money, you know, to be flat-out, you know?
GLASPER: So you got to do what you got to do. I remember her parking the car right by the door of a club, in the back, and me having to stay in the car because I wasn't allowed - somehow, they wouldn't allow me in the club.
GLASPER: So she had to come out in between songs like that, you know what I mean?
GLASPER: And check - like, literally that happened - I know that happened one time. Probably never again. Because that's weird.
GLASPER: But that shit happened, you know? But I was always around the music and around the hustle - you know what I mean? - of doing music and needing to make ends meet, and seeing my mom had the passion for music and seeing her work other jobs. So she would work from 9 to 5 at a everyday job, you know, and then come home and change and be out the door by 7 to go to her job that's from 7 to 3 a.m. You know what I mean? My mom would go to work at 7. She said, when I come back home, you better be asleep or on that piano.
GLASPER: So if I was awake, I was allowed to be awake and play. The one thing she would not take away from me is playing. You know what I mean? So I was able to be up but be on a piano.
GARCIA: What's the first time you jumped on stage with her as a piano player?
GLASPER: Once I started driving, which was like - in Houston, I was, like, 14. You could drive. I used to drop her off at work, which was this bar called the Bistro Vino in Houston. When I would pick her up from work around - I don't know - 12 o'clock, midnight, I would pick her up. I used to have to park the car and go upstairs, and I had to play the last song with her. You know, every night when I would pick her up. The bartender knew the director of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He was like, yo, your son's really talented.
GLASPER: I can hook it up to where he can get an audition for, you know, this jazz director at the High School for Performing Arts. It's only one there in Houston, and you had to be zoned to it to go. But he was like, he needs to go there. They'll pull strings.
BARTOS: Even though you weren't zoned?
GLASPER: Even though I wasn't zoned.
GARCIA: Ooh (ph).
GLASPER: So I went there. I did an audition.
GARCIA: Crushed it?
GLASPER: Crushed it. And I ended up going there. That really pushed me, to be at that high school with that much talent. My first year of high school, I went to Elkins High School, a regular high school. And I was the piano guy at the high school. You know, they would have me play all the new hip-hop songs. I remember when "I Need Love" came out, everybody was - yo, Rob, where the "I Need Love?"
GLASPER: You know, I'd have to play that on the piano. And used to have to play all the Brian McKnight songs for the girls. You know, I was that dude. I was that dude.
GARCIA: So you can play by ear and read?
GLASPER: That's when I first learned how - I first learned playing by ear, learning Luther Vandross songs off of - because my mom and my dad played Luther Vandross...
GARCIA: Lutha (ph).
GLASPER: I used to - man, look. The reason why I play piano is because of Luther Vandross and Anita Baker.
GLASPER: And my mom. She and my mom played.
GARCIA: (Singing) Sweet love.
GLASPER: That album. That album. And yeah, bro. Like, for real. I told Anita that when I finally met her and stuff like that. I was like, yo, "Giving You The Best That I Got," "Sweet Love," certain songs just made me want to play the piano, you know. And with Luther Vandross, too, they both used real piano. Anita Baker, when - I got a chance to go in to record with her not too long ago. She never records without a piano player, a piano. When she's doing her vocals, there's a piano player playing the piano. It's not a track that they gave her, and she sings over the track, you know. So that just attracted me, you know.
BARTOS: So your mother performed under the name Kim Yvette?
BARTOS: And I think we have some audio of her singing...
GARCIA: Look at his face (laughter).
GARCIA: ...Which we'd like to play.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
KIM YVETTE: (Singing) When I needed a friend, someone on whom I could depend on. Someone who loves and cares. Somebody who'd always be there.
GLASPER: Oh, yeah. This is her Aretha Franklin vibe. You can hear it.
GLASPER: So this is her gospel recording. She started doing - she started doing gospel, like, late '90s, early 2000s. But before that, she was all, like, disco, pop, R&B. But she always was the music director at church. So she would do the disco-pop-R&B stuff during the week.
GLASPER: And then she - she was literally Whoopi Goldberg. Like, she was - she's "Sister Act." And then Sunday morning, she was the music director at church. So that's funny. Y'all are literally the first interview I've ever done where they've played my mom.
GARCIA: Ah, dope, man.
GLASPER: Never did that before, ever, in my life.
BARTOS: And now did you stay going to church...
BARTOS: ...With your mom? Your mom didn't insist?
GLASPER: No. Well, no. I didn't - No. Well, she wanted me to. So when I moved from New York - from Houston to New York for college, my pastor at the church I went to, Ratliff (ph), he made a call. And I was immediately working at a church called Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem.
GARCIA: Oh, yeah.
GLASPER: Yeah, 116th.
GLASPER: So I immediately...
GARCIA: Right off of 7th Ave.
GLASPER: Yep. And I literally - I - my first two days - when I landed, the next day, I was at choir rehearsal, you know. And I played at that church for about two years. But then I started going to tour with different people.
GARCIA: Yo, that's crazy. I used to live down the block.
GARCIA: The church joint was the jump-off because...
GLASPER: Oh, yeah.
GARCIA: ...I mean, I walked to the train station on Sunday mornings, and there'd be a lot.
GLASPER: Oh, yeah. For sure. It was poppin' (ph).
GARCIA: Like, it was like Michael Jackson performing.
GLASPER: One-hundred percent, yeah.
GARCIA: Like, not just Harlem residents, but I'm talking about like tourists from Europe and Asia. Like, yo, like...
GLASPER: Bus loads.
GARCIA: ...Around the corner.
GLASPER: Yeah, bro.
GARCIA: And you up in there like rocking.
GLASPER: I was up in there, yeah.
BARTOS: You know, we read that you lost your mother to tragic circumstances back in 2004. And you said on Twitter, my mother was murdered 13 years ago today, the week of my birthday. I turned that pain into fuel and inspiration to be better and make her proud. So you had this, like, deep musical connection with your mother.
BARTOS: And I'm just curious, all these years later, if that's something that still feels like a vital and active connection.
GLASPER: Oh, yeah, 100 percent. You know, she's always with me. She was my biggest fan. You know the moms that overly brag for no reason? You know, she was just a bragger. And she always made sure that I felt good about myself and that I was always good enough and you're great. You know what I mean? Like, as a black man coming up, you need that as a boy, you know. And especially because, you know, a lot of times I went to white schools and stuff like that. So she - I think she also felt the need to make sure I felt that. You know what I mean? And so yeah, she's 100 percent always, always there. And my son looks just like her.
GARCIA: Oh, dope. Wow.
GLASPER: And at times, he tells me he misses her. He never got to meet her. You know, he was like, I miss Grandma Kim (ph). You know what I mean? And I'd be like, wow. She's right there, you know. You don't even know, you know what I mean? So yes, 100 percent there for sure.
GARCIA: Dope. You did a Grammy Award-winning soundtrack called "Miles Ahead" for Miles Davis.
GLASPER: Yes. Yes. That was awesome.
GARCIA: That has to be awesome, but that's got to be daunting too, I would imagine.
GLASPER: Oh, my. Jesus. First of all, that's first thing I ever did soundtrack wise. And so Don Cheadle tweeted me. That's how I got the part. He tweeted me. He's like, yo, I love your music. But I was like, thanks. You're Don Cheadle. That's literally what I said back to him. And then we got to DMing.
GARCIA: (Laughter) You literally wrote that to him?
GLASPER: I literally said, you're Don Cheadle.
GARCIA: That's not a response to a request.
GLASPER: I know. I just couldn't believe it. It was my first celebrity tweet. I've never gotten one before. I was super hype. First, I went to his profile to make sure there was like - that's you.
GARCIA: He had the blue dot.
GLASPER: He had the blue check. I was like, got to be you, Don. And yeah. So I was like - we started talking a little bit after that. And then he said, hey, man, I want you to score this film. Have you ever scored films before? I was like, yeah. Yeah. So then I did it. It was hard as hell 'cause I've never done anything like that before. And I had to do a lot of it away from Don when he was in LA. I was on a tour with my band and stuff. So, you know, I had to do it remotely.
So I had to learn how to do that stuff and send him back ideas. And he would send me - and the thing is, half of the movie wasn't shot yet. So he'll be sending me what the scene's going to look like in his head and be like, I need music for that. So a lot of times, it will take me 10 tries of music for him to - for it to sync with what's in his head. Yeah, so I would have to write something. And then they would bring in actors. The actors had to act like they're playing what I wrote. And then vice versa, some things he already shot, and we would just put them on mute. And we had to make what they're doing look and sound good.
BARTOS: Yeah. Sure.
GLASPER: (Laughter) Yeah, look and sound like the best band ever, you know.
BARTOS: So I imagine, as a world-class jazz pianist, you're a historian as well. I mean, you know history. So what was it like working on a project that would obviously have to really take into consideration a lot of history and a lot of subtlety? This is Miles Davis, so...
GLASPER: It was great because - it's Miles Davis, but I already knew it because that was my...
BARTOS: No, I know you did. But what about Don as a...
GLASPER: Oh, he did, too. Well, a lot of people don't know, man, he got a scholarship to college for saxophone. Like, he's a musician.
GARCIA: Don Cheadle.
GLASPER: Don Cheadle. He's a musician, dude. Like, dude plays some bass. Like, he picked up - were in rehearsal one day going over some of the music for a scene. And he picked up the bass, started playing a tune. What the fuck you doing? Like, you know, plays a little drums. So he actually knows music theory, you know what I mean? So in a real way, we're able to talk in a real way musically.
But, you know, he actually learned how to play trumpet for real for the role. Like, he can actually play melodies and stuff like that. So it's not all fake. You know what I mean? Kion my boy Kenaan had to go over some - and, you know, make it seem like - make it - clean up some of the stuff. But a lot of the stuff - fingering's correct. 'Cause he would play - he had to play to some actual Miles recordings, you know, in the movie. But the fingering that he's doing is correct.
GLASPER: Crazy story, though.
GLASPER: About the Grammy. So Don didn't think we were going to win it. So he didn't go. He was like, bro, we're going up against "Suicide Squad," "Straight Outta Compton," the Amy Winehouse story. We're not winning. You know what I mean?
GARCIA: Those are heavy hitters and commercially successful, each of them.
GLASPER: And commercially successful. We were not commercially successful. "Miles" showed in like 3 theatres. Like, literally, I don't even know which ones they were. So I was like, we're not winning. But I was like, let's just go at least to celebrate us getting nominated. And I was like, if we win, you've got to get dressed and come down because the category was early as hell. It was like 12 p.m. So then when we won, I called him from the stage I think. I was like, yo, we won. I'm on stage.
GLASPER: So he gets dressed, and they come to the thing. So we go back out - 'cause I walked the red carpet going in. So now I want to walk in with Don. You got to walk it with Don.
BARTOS: With the hardware.
GLASPER: With the hardware, you know what I mean? 'Cause when I walked with Don, I was the mac (ph). Everybody came over to us - Rick Ross, this person, this person, you know. So we walk the red carpet. Everything's cool. And we go back into the Grammys. We try. Don went because he hadn't been in it. So they didn't scan his ticket yet. They scanned my ticket already. They scanned all my team's ticket already. So when we went to go scan again, they were like, we can't rescan. Did you leave? We're like, yeah. They're like, you can't come back in.
GLASPER: So we tried to go to the televised portion of the Grammys. They were like, no. So we're standing outside.
BARTOS: Are you holding a Grammy?
GLASPER: I should have been. They don't give it to you. It's not like the Emmys where they give it to you immediately. So I'm standing outside. Meanwhile, all these people are - the guard's like, no. Meanwhile, all these people are passing me up like, Robert Glasper, come take a picture. Congratulations on your Grammy. I'm like, sir - see? He's like, I don't care. So it took an hour for them to go get people. We had to give our IDs.
GARCIA: Dag (ph).
GLASPER: And we finally got in, but it just took an hour.
BARTOS: We touched on your residency at the Blue Note, which you switched up with your different projects.
BARTOS: So you've got your solo work. And you've got the Robert Glasper Experiment.
GLASPER: I don't do the Experiment anymore.
BARTOS: You don't?
GLASPER: I'm not doing it anymore, so.
GLASPER: I just have so many different projects I want to do. I did that for 10 years. So now, I just have so many different projects that I want to get to. You know what I mean? So I had the same band for 10 years, you know. So it's just time to move on.
GARCIA: When you're saying you have so many projects you want get to, like, what projects?
GLASPER: Oh, well one of them...
BARTOS: This is a perfect opportunity to talk about...
GLASPER: Right, perfect opportunity. One of them is a group that I have now. We put out a record. It's called R+R - It's called R+R=NOW.
(SOUNDBITE OF R+R=NOW'S "CHANGE OF TONE")
GLASPER: They did the last week of me at the Blue Note - with me. And it's like basically like a super band. It's Christian Scott on trumpet, Terrace Martin on keyboards and vocoder, on saxophone - Derrick Hodge on bass, Taylor McFerrin beatboxing and doing some keyboard stuff. And the drummer is Justin...
GARCIA: That's Bobby McFerrin's son.
GLASPER: Yep. Bobby came by the club and sat in with us.
GLASPER: Yeah. He came and sat in with us.
GARCIA: Taylor's talented in his own right.
GLASPER: Yes, he is - very nasty.
GARCIA: Cool dude, too.
GLASPER: So that's what - that's one of the groups I'm doing now. You know what I mean? And then I have the other - my other group, August Greene, with Common and Karriem Riggins. You know, so - and I have a bunch of other stuff in my pocket that I haven't done yet.
BARTOS: So August Greene, that was conceived around a Tiny Desk concert, is that right?
GLASPER: Yeah, around there. Yeah.
GARCIA: I saw the White House performance...
GLASPER: The White House performance.
GARCIA: ...Tiny Desk for NPR.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
COMMON: (Rapping) Come on. I met this girl when I was 10 years old. What I love most, she had so much soul. She was old school. I was a shorty, never knew throughout my life, she would be there for me on the regular. Not a church girl, she was secular. Not about the money...
GLASPER: That was special.
GARCIA: I'm like - you know, honestly, I'm like trying to find words because when I watched it, I was just - my jaw dropped. I mean, you know, one, it was President Obama's last days. So we were all feeling emotional about that. But then like, you know, what Common was sharing and then Bilal singing and you on the keys and Karriem and the sister you had playing a flute.
GLASPER: Elena, Elena Pinderhughes.
BARTOS: Did you get any face time with Obama after the concert?
GLASPER: Yes, not that day, but - because he wasn't there that day. But when I came...
GARCIA: You met him at the Grammys.
GLASPER: I met Obama - no.
GLASPER: No, I met him - my second time going to the White House. I went for International Jazz Day. And I performed a song with Sting and Herbie. No big deal. But..
GLASPER: Just my life every day. You know, it was just a Wednesday, actually - just Wednesday. But that day, I got to meet Obama and talk to him. And me and Terrace - Terrace was with me, too. And we went and we got a chance to talk to him because Obama's - he said it in an interview, like, his favorite hip-hop song was "How Much A Dollar Cost" - Kendrick Lamar. And, you know, and Terrace produced that record - produced that song.
So Obama sat there and talked to us about why he loves "How Much A Dollar Cost." You know, it was super dope. And I'm all over that "To Pimp A Butterfly" album, you know. So it was us just like - it was just like sitting there, like, he's talking to us about "To Pimp A Butterfly." It's amazing.
BARTOS: Incredible. Can we go back to R+R and get a little deeper with that? What's that about?
GLASPER: So R+R is reflect - the name of the band is R+R=NOW. I made it an equation. And basically it's reflecting and responding equals now. So if you reflect in real time and you respond in real time, then you're now. You're relevant. And that's what has to happen. And that's what we're doing in music. You know what I mean? We're responding to what we hear with our surroundings. That's why when you hear my music, there's hip-hop in it. There's this in it. There's this in it - because that's now, you know.
So I just wanted to get together a bunch of artists who I feel have that same thought process. And Terrace Martin, I've known Terrace since high school, really. We went to a jazz camp. He's from Compton. But we went to a jazz camp together - jazz saxophone player. Right? Soon after that, he started being - he's directing for Snoop and then started making beats for Snoop. And then, you know, he just started making beats and being that guy. You know what I mean?
So he has the jazz, hip-hop, both world things happening. And then he went on to produce, you know, stuff on all of Kendrick Lamar's albums, you know. And when "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City" came out, the Kendrick Lamar album, I was in love with that album. Like, my favorite - one of my favorite hip-hop records. I love that record. I called Terrace. I was like, yo - 'cause he did a lot of stuff on there. I was like, Terrace, dude, Kendrick's next album, you got to get me on there somehow.
GLASPER: Please. Please get me on there somehow. So push comes to shove, a few years later, I'm in LA. He calls me. Yo, you're in LA, right? Come to Dr. Dre's studio right now. Kendrick's here. We're finishing up his new album. I'm like, cool. And I went there to play on this song called "For Free" that's on there. It's like a poem, second poem. It's like the second song on "To Pimp A Butterfly." I played that song.
But Kendrick was there. He saw me playing. He was like, oh, man. So I'm killing. And then he just started pulling up all these songs from the record. Pull up so-and-so. Play what you hear. Yeah. Pull up this. Pull up that. I played on eight songs, sitting down...
GARCIA: Oh, get out.
GLASPER: ...In that one sitting.
BARTOS: When you were working on "To Pimp A Butterfly," what was your interaction with Dr. Dre?
GLASPER: Doc, he wasn't there. Yeah, when I did "To Pimp A Butterfly," it was just at Dre's studio.
BARTOS: Got you.
GLASPER: You know what I mean? But Dre wasn't there. I didn't meet Dre till this year. We had been trying to meet for a long time, for, like, two years. But timing never worked out. You know when I met Dre? At my 40th birthday party, in LA.
GARCIA: This year?
GLASPER: This year. April 6. Dre texted me. In my mind, it wasn't a big party. It was just some people coming into a club to hang out. It wasn't like people are flying in to - you know. You know.
GARCIA: And you responded, you're Dr. Dre.
GLASPER: So he heard - right.
GLASPER: He heard - look. Right? So they were like, Dre - like, what time are you getting to your party? I want to fall through. I said, probably around 10:30. I'll be there at 10:30. I pull up at 10:30. He pulled up - same time, at my party.
(SOUNDBITE OF DR. DRE'S "STILL D.R.E.")
BARTOS: (Interpolating song) Bling, bling, bling, bling (ph).
GLASPER: You heard it. I heard you. That's what I heard.
BARTOS: "Still D.R.E."
GLASPER: That's what I heard.
GLASPER: So look. Me and him chop it up outside the party for about 20 minutes, and then he walks into my party with me. I walked into my 40th birthday party, in LA, with Dr. Dre.
GARCIA: And this time, the security guards let you in.
GLASPER: This time, they let me in. But they didn't see me.
BARTOS: (Vocalizing) Ba-dum. Ba-dum (ph).
GLASPER: Nobody saw me. All they saw was Dre. I was like, it's my birthday.
GARCIA: Should've had the Grammys in hand.
GLASPER: Exactly. Exactly. So we walk in, you know, and he hangs out. And Herbie comes to the party. But while I was playing, my manager saw Dr. Dre walk up to Herbie. He came onstage - Herbie's on the side of the stage - walked up to Herbie and introduced himself to Herbie.
GLASPER: Like, hi, I'm Dr. Dre. At my party. Like, that's, like, crazy.
GARCIA: That's crazy.
GLASPER: You know what I mean? Super bananas. Super bananas.
BARTOS: Let's talk about jazz - jazz today. Jazz in 2018, I think, you know, that means different things to different people.
BARTOS: What does it mean to you?
GLASPER: I come from a lineage of different styles of music that my people gave to the world. You know what I mean? And so in my world, jazz is just a - it's a big house of many rooms. You know, black music in general, for me, is a big house with many rooms. And I can go room to room, you know. So you know, in any given time, it can sound like something, it can sound like this, it can sound like that. But it's all improvised music, you know.
It just depends on what your influence is. That's what makes it sound different, you know. Wherever you come from, that's what it's going to be. So, you know, everybody's jazz isn't going to be the same or sound alike. It's a story of a person and where you come from, your lineage and, you know, what you love in life, what you don't love in life - all these things.
BARTOS: I think for a lot of people, they think of jazz as an older generation's music.
GLASPER: They do.
BARTOS: How important is it to you to bring younger people into the fold?
GLASPER: It's important because it was always - I feel like jazz has always been the new music of its time. You know what I mean? In 1920, it wasn't old. It was new. 1930, it was new. 1940, it was new. It was the new sound. '50s, it was the new sound.
BARTOS: And the newest. It's always been the most avant garde...
GLASPER: The newest. It was on the cutting edge. Avant garde. Like, parents - people were like, what are you doing? You know, like, yeah. In 1970, same thing, you know. It just had - electronic instruments came into play and, you know, it became jazz fusion. So then that's when this separation started happening, where older jazz - where jazz musicians were like, hey, you can't use electric bass. That's not real jazz. And you can't use electric keyboard. That's not real jazz. That's where that separation started coming from. And when the electric people started playing jazz, and it started mixing with funk...
GLASPER: You know. And then it became - you know, it took on some other life and some other thing. So the acoustic straight-ahead cats are like, no, this is jazz over here. We don't want to conform and change the sound, you know. We can't play that (laughter), you know. So that's where you get those people who are like, you know, jazz is one thing. Jazz is this. But it's not. The tradition of jazz is that it always changes. So if somebody said, you got to stick with the tradition, they don't know what the tradition is. Because the tradition is it doesn't stick. It keeps moving.
BARTOS: Can you share with us ways that you maybe have attempted to endear younger people?
GLASPER: Oh, yeah. I mean, well, first of all, I try to incorporate more genres of music, you know. Because jazz is not a thriving genre of music, you know. There are, like, 10 jazz radio stations in the world, and they all play music from before 1970. So there's nothing connecting young people to the music at all. Literally, nothing connecting them. There's no reason why a 20-year-old would like music - would like jazz by listening to jazz radio. I can't be mad if they don't like it. It's the same thing if you played Cardi B right now for your grandmother. Would you be like, why don't you like this?
GLASPER: You wouldn't. Because you understand, musically and just the way life has changed - and, you know, it's just different. You know what I mean?
GLASPER: There's no connection through Cardi B and your grandmother.
GARCIA: Except for her song, "I Like It Like That."
GLASPER: "I Like It..."
GARCIA: Which is the Pete Rodriguez cover.
GLASPER: But, you know, you get that immediately. You know what I'm saying? If I play Lil Wayne for my grandmother right now, she'd be like, what the hell - what is this?
GARCIA: Yeah. Yeah.
GLASPER: She comes from real instruments. She comes from jazz. She doesn't come from a hip-hop world. So if you play - if you flip that same idea around, you've got to understand why there's a disconnect and why they don't like it. It's not a hard concept to understand. So I just try to incorporate those kinds of sounds in my music, the sounds that I like. You know what I mean?
And I'm not selling out. I'm not pulling - I'm not putting things in my music just so young people can like it, and I don't like it, too. You know what I mean? These are things that I also like. I also like different styles of music. And I also like to mix them into jazz, and do that whole thing. So when people come to my shows - if you ever come to one of my shows, you'll see how diverse the audience is. There's very few artists where you'll have an 80-year-old white lady and a 15-year-old black kid at the same...
BARTOS: That was my mom.
GARCIA: Shoutout to Ava (ph).
GLASPER: You know what I mean? But I see that all the time. Like, that's how mixed my audience is. Like, it's super mixed.
BARTOS: Which is not typical for jazz shows.
GLASPER: Not typical for any show. Think about it.
BARTOS: True. True. Indeed.
GARCIA: It's interesting because you've been able to achieve this without compromising yourself...
GARCIA: ...Or compromising jazz.
GARCIA: Which is like - that's, like, the impossible task.
GLASPER: Exactly. Because that's the thing. Normally, there's a weak link, and you can hear it if you know the styles. You can hear when the jazz musician is trying to play hip-hop. Because you hear that shit, and you're like, OK. You - you're a fan of hip-hop...
GLASPER: ...But you don't really know how to play the shit. You know what I mean? You didn't really dig in. Or vice-versa, when a cat's trying to play jazz that's not a jazz musician. I hear it the first measure. I know it.
GARCIA: Sure. Sure.
GLASPER: You know what I mean?
GARCIA: Jazz seems to lean towards a male-dominated experience. And you know, you do have Elena Pinderhughes, Esperanza Spalding.
GLASPER: Spalding. Yep. Yep.
GARCIA: You have - you have women who are prominent. The legacy of all the Ella Fitzgeralds and Sarah Vaughans and everything.
GARCIA: But where are woman in 2018 in the forward progression of jazz?
GLASPER: I think jazz is just a male-dominated sport, and I think a lot of females get run over by that. There's a lot of sexism in music (laughter), in general. You know what I mean? And so that's why I'm trying to be more vocal about - especially people that I have a musical connection with. Almost every project I do, I call her to do. You know, I called Esperanza - I call Esperanza all the time.
There's just - it's an imbalance. You know what I mean? It's not that the female jazz musician is lacking, like there aren't any out there. They're out there. And there's a lot of good female jazz musicians. Great. Great female jazz musicians. You know what I mean? But it's just one of those things where I think guys have to pay more attention and bring it to the forefront and try to change it.
It's like white people change - helping to change racism. You know what I mean? Like, it takes somebody white sometimes to be like, no, this is how - this is what needs to happen, and then people start listening. You know what I mean? It's like, oh, OK. You know what I mean? So it takes men to start saying, like, hey, bro, she's dope. Why are you not using her? You know what I mean? What's up with that?
GLASPER: You know what I mean? So I just think it takes more of that. You know what I mean? So I'm just - I'm trying to be more aware of that myself.
GLASPER: You know what I mean? And try to change that narrative, you know.
GLASPER: And not just make it about the singer all the time. You know what I mean? That's when people use females. Oh, I got a singer.
GLASPER: You know, like, they put them in that box. Like, a female don't play drums. Like, some of my favorite drummers are female. Nikki Gillespie's amazing. Kim Thompson. There's so many. There's a lot of different great female jazz musicians out there. Musicians in general, not just jazz. But you know.
BARTOS: You talked about your audience being incredibly diverse...
BARTOS: ...Both in race and age. But I don't know if that's typical for jazz audiences. I went to see my boy Theo Croker the other day perform. You know, the audience was predominantly white.
GLASPER: It's everywhere.
BARTOS: Yeah. Why do you think that is?
GLASPER: I think a long time ago, white people made jazz into, like, something you sit down and you appreciate. Like - this is - you know what I mean? Like one of those things. It wasn't Harlem...
GARCIA: Like a tennis match.
GLASPER: It wasn't Harlem - like a chess match. Yeah. Like golf or some shit. I don't know.
GLASPER: It wasn't Harlem in a dance club. There were things popping. You dance if you're having a good time. Blah, blah, blah.
GLASPER: Then they took the - the dance floor away and put chairs in it. You know what I mean? And then for a long time, we weren't allowed to go to jazz clubs. You know what I mean? Got to look at it that way, too. Black people weren't allowed to go to jazz clubs. Even the people who were performing. The artist you went to see wasn't even allowed to come in through the front. You know, they had to go through the back, and they had to eat in the kitchen. And, you know, we were treated like, you know, shit, but we were the main act. You know what I mean?
So it's not something that we're used to doing. Going to jazz shows is not something that's normal. You know what I mean? So I think it has something to do with that. And I think it just has something to do with - I don't know. I think black people just love new stuff.
GLASPER: Like, when it comes to - like, when you go to see - like, when you go to see jazz - when you go to jazz clubs, you see older white people. It's not like you're seeing a bunch of young white people. You know what I mean? So it's not necessarily that. You know what I mean? So it's - I feel like when you do something that's related to now and something the story of now, you'll start seeing more black people. You know what I mean?
But with jazz in general, I think there are just so many jazz musicians that live in the past. They're living in the past they didn't even live in. It's not even their past they're living in. You know what I mean? Like, you weren't around in 1950. Where is your story?
GLASPER: Why you telling that story? That has nothing to do with you. You know what I mean? Like, where is your story?
GLASPER: You know. And a lot of people don't have their own story. They have the story they're taught in college or something. You know what I mean? Or what they think jazz is supposed to be.
BARTOS: Academic almost.
GARCIA: Academic, yeah.
GLASPER: Yeah. They're not liberated and being themselves. You know what I mean? I remember when I got liberated. I remember the day. I saw Roy Hargrove play at my high school. I was a senior in high school, and Roy Hargrove came to my high school. And he had on overalls and Timberlands.
GLASPER: I couldn't believe it. I was like, oh, my God. You could play jazz - first of all, I'd never seen an all-black band. So this is my first time seeing an all-black band, and I'm like ooh (ph). And it's jazz, which shouldn't be like that, but that's what it was. Never seen that before. And they all were dressed like me. And they looked like me.
That inspired me to be who I am. I was like, you can be who you are right now, still have the language, practice, and be one of the best at what you're doing and still be you. You know what I mean? Most jazz musicians feel like you have to wear a suit and a tie every time you play. Because back then, when you're black, you had to wear a suit and tie to get any sort of little respect.
GLASPER: You were - you had to dress like that. You know what I mean? You couldn't - getting real respect - getting respect shouldn't have anything with what you have on. You know what I mean? And as a man, I want you to respect me as a man and who I am, not because I wear a suit. So that's why I'd never wear suits, except when going to the Grammys.
BARTOS: (Laughter) Which is often.
GLASPER: Which is often. Or we're not going to the Emmys. Whatever, we're not talking about the Emmys either.
GLASPER: But we didn't bring that up. We got to talk about my Emmy later. But...
GLASPER: ...You know, I - look. I want kids to look at me and say, wow, he looks like me - and get inspired the way I was.
GARCIA: That's happening.
GLASPER: It's always happening.
GARCIA: That's happening.
GLASPER: One-hundred percent.
GARCIA: That's not even you want. That is actual fact.
GLASPER: One-hundred percent.
GARCIA: I mean, look at you right now.
GLASPER: When you don't look like their principal, they don't - you know what I'm saying? - they don't want you looking like their principal. They don't want to be that. You want to be what you look - what you see.
BARTOS: So, Robert, multiple Grammys. You've got an Emmy for your song "Letter To The Free" from Ava DuVernay's "13th."
BARTOS: Incredible, incredible project.
GARCIA: Is the EGOT in sight or what?
GLASPER: Hey, man. Right now, I'm an EG. Common needs a Tony. We're discussing a Broadway play.
GARCIA: Well, can you tell us about that?
GLASPER: I don't know much about it.
GARCIA: EGOT is Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony.
GLASPER: He has Emmy, Grammy, Oscar. He just needs a Tony. So we're going to have that - we're going to have it in a real way, but we're definitely going to sit down and really try to do - try to do a Broadway play. I don't know any details. We don't have any details. It hasn't been fleshed out yet. But that's the next move.
BARTOS: Amazing. If you need any white people that, you know...
GLASPER: White Guy No. 2?
BARTOS: I'm in.
GLASPER: OK. Got you. Yeah. So that would be - if, you know, that would be something I would love to do anyway. But that would be the Tony part.
GLASPER: You know.
BARTOS: All right. Coming up next, it's the Impression Session with Robert Glasper.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BARTOS: It's the sound of the funky drums, and that means one thing. It is time for the Impression Session with Robert Glasper.
GARCIA: Ooo-eee (ph).
GLASPER: Oh, snap. I don't even know what this is. I'm scared.
GARCIA: Robert, what we're going to do right now is play you a track.
GARCIA: You react, as simple as that. Sound good?
GLASPER: You're going to play me a track and I react?
GARCIA: Yeah. That's it.
BARTOS: We're going to play you some music, and you can just talk about it any way you want.
GLASPER: OK. Cool.
BARTOS: And it's - this is jazz. It's free, free form. Whatever you want to do.
GLASPER: No problem. I can be pretty brutal. It's not one of y'alls...
BARTOS: Oh, no. It doesn't have to be...
GLASPER: ...Nephew's beat tapes or some shit. I'm about to shred it.
GARCIA: Wow. You might. I'm going first.
GLASPER: What the hell is this? They should be killed.
BARTOS: I might have to tell you who this is before you shred it.
GARCIA: No. No. Don't tell him. Don't tell him. Don't tell him.
GLASPER: We can edit later.
BARTOS: All right. Let's go.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALPHABET CITY")
DON CHERRY: (Singing) Homeboy, homeboy, where you been? I've been around the corner taking a sniff again. Homeboy, homeboy, you'll end up in jail. Next thing you know, you'll need some bail.
GLASPER: I feel like I know the voice.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALPHABET CITY")
CHERRY: (Singing) Having an A, having a B, having a C, having a D, ain't no E now.
BARTOS: So that's...
GLASPER: Don't tell me yet.
BARTOS: OK. Cool. Cool. Cool.
GLASPER: I'm not going to guess, but it sounds - I like the drums and percussion. Who is the lead person?
BARTOS: Can I give you a hint?
BARTOS: The lead person is also the trumpet player.
GLASPER: OK. Hold on. Hold on.
GLASPER: That sounds like late '80s.
GARCIA: It definitely is.
BARTOS: It's 1985.
BARTOS: And it's Don Cherry.
GLASPER: Oh, Don Cherry.
GLASPER: Oh, snap. I never heard that.
BARTOS: Yeah. It's from album called "Home Boy, (Sister Out)." And, of course, Don Cherry is a legend...
GLASPER: Of course.
BARTOS: ...The father of Neneh Cherry. And that song is called "Alphabet City."
GARCIA: Is he singing there?
BARTOS: That's him singing, yeah.
GLASPER: (Singing) Having the D, having the C.
BARTOS: But for me, that's like - you know, other than, I think, "Kind Of Blue," that's probably like the first quote, unquote, "jazz artist" that I gravitated to when I was already sort of an autonomous, young music collector.
GLASPER: Wow. Oh, you started really open.
BARTOS: So it's an album that - where he touches on reggae and funk and all that. And I think in that way...
GLASPER: Oh, that's cool. 'Cause my first Miles album was Miles' "Around The World." And it was when he was doing electric stuff. He was doing "Human Nature" and "Time After Time" and stuff like that, songs I knew. So I gravitated to that first, and then I got into, you know, the rest of it. OK. Interesting.
BARTOS: Yeah. That's why I picked it because, for me, it was like an invitation into - and I think that...
GLASPER: I just knew Don Cherry from Ornette Coleman, you know, did a lot of stuff with Ornette Coleman, his super out stuff like that. But I never heard that before.
BARTOS: I thought you were going to slay him for the opening rap.
GLASPER: No, I could tell it was an OG. I mean, I could tell it was early. Like I said, I thought it was late '80s. It felt like, you know what I mean? For that time, yeah...
BARTOS: It's aged well, actually, to me. I mean, I played it for Bob, and he started laughing hysterically.
BARTOS: I was like, yo, I really like this.
GLASPER: Right. Right. Right. (Laughter). Next.
GARCIA: I couldn't co-sign the verse there, but props to Don Cherry. All right. So let's get to the next song.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCK RUBBER 45S")
GARCIA: That's a woman playing the violin there. Her name is Mireya Ramos.
GLASPER: Mireya Ramos.
GARCIA: Mireya Ramos. Can you say it with a rolling R? Ramos.
GLASPER: A little piano.
GARCIA: That's Robert Glasper.
GLASPER: Oh, shit. It's the joint?
GLASPER: The first part wasn't me. The first part was...
GARCIA: Eddie Palmieri (laughter).
GLASPER: Dude, that's why I felt like...
GLASPER: I haven't heard it since the the first time I heard it.
GARCIA: Got you. Got you. That's great.
GLASPER: Oh, shit. OK. That's so funny.
GARCIA: Well, for our audience, that is the title track...
GLASPER: That's the opening - yeah, the opening song, yeah.
GARCIA: ...To a film that I music supervised, directed, wrote and produced titled "Rock Rubber 45s." And the first piano is by Eddie Palmieri, 10-time Grammy Award winner, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. And then...
GLASPER: And it goes down a few notches to me. Thanks.
GLASPER: He's like, the first pianist has 13 Grammys.
BARTOS: We just would like to end on that note with that Grammy tsunami.
GLASPER: And the second...
GLASPER: Yo, I haven't - yeah, I haven't heard it since we first heard it. That's crazy.
GARCIA: My vision with having him on this track was I want to hear him on some hard hip-hop drums, right?
GLASPER: Right. Right. Right.
GARCIA: And then for you, I kind of left it open.
GARCIA: And then you played a montuno. And for the people that don't know, that's - a montuno it's like - in Afro-Cuban music, the, you know, like the sort of - the rhythm, the piano rhythm. You blew it out the frame. But I was curious, like, what are your Latin roots - or your roots in Latin music? Because clearly, there's something there. You played that too naturally.
GLASPER: I love Chucho Valdes, you know what I mean? I love Gonzalo Rubalcaba.
GARCIA: I don't even know who that is.
GLASPER: You know Gonzalo Rubalcaba?
GARCIA: New artist or old?
GLASPER: Oh, no. No. He's older. Well, he's not as old as Chucho, but Gonzalo is probably 50-something.
GLASPER: But he's like by far probably the most technically sound pianist in the world in jazz.
GARCIA: He's from Cuba?
GLASPER: Yeah. We're both on the same label, both on Blue Note.
GLASPER: Yeah. Yeah. He's Cuban. Yeah.
GLASPER: Yeah. So I'm a huge fan of him. I'm a huge fan of those two. And I've got - I mean, Gonzalo, like I said, we're on the same label. You know what I mean? I've just watched his shit from, you know, from when I was in high school. I was such a fan. He's done duo shows with Herbie. You know I mean? He's like - he's just one of those...
GARCIA: Chick is nasty, too - Chick Corea.
GLASPER: Oh, my God. I mean, he's - yeah, definitely. I mean, yeah. But for sure. So, you know, and I went to school with one of my friends - Latino piano player, Richard Cruz, in high school. So he used to show me montunos and stuff in high school.
GARCIA: Oh, word?
GLASPER: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So that's a little bit where, you know, I'm not super deep in it, but I have these little connections where I'm like, OK, I get it. I get the vibe. You know what I mean? Yeah, for sure.
GARCIA: Good stuff, man. Maybe me, you and Stretch should work on a Latin album at some point. That'd be dope.
GARCIA: I'd love that. And my boy, Carlito Enriques (ph) - you know Carlito? He's a bass player. He plays in the Lincoln Center with Wynton.
GLASPER: Upright bass player. But we went to college together. So he was always hitting me to Latin music, like so much stuff. You know I mean? He plays with Gonzalo Rubalcaba too and just every, you know, in all kinds of situations. But yeah.
GARCIA: All right, man. I think that's a wrap, Stretch.
BARTOS: Yes, it is. That is our show.
GARCIA: Wait. But that's our season.
GLASPER: Oh, my gosh. Did I just end the Season 2 of Stretch - did I just do that? Bar.
GARCIA: Yeah. You're the closer, yo. You're the closer.
BARTOS: Yeah. We have to thank you for being - that's right - the guest on our final episode of Season 2 of WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO. Thank you so much.
GLASPER: It's a honor. It's an honor, bro. Appreciate that.
GARCIA: Word up.
GLASPER: Thank you. 'Cause they told me the rest - y'all needed some celebrity 'cause you didn't have much on Season 2. Who'd you have here? Never heard of them.
GARCIA: Lenny Kravitz.
GLASPER: Never heard of them. Yeah.
BARTOS: Black - what's his name? Black Thinking?
GARCIA: Black Thought.
GLASPER: Got nothing. Nope. Never heard of them. I'm glad I could help y'all out. I'm glad I could help y'all out and give y'all some, you know, something people can chew.
BARTOS: Robert Glasper, everybody.
GARCIA: Word up. Peace.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BARTOS: That is our show and our season. This podcast was produced by Michelle Lanz, edited by Alexander McCall, Jordana Hochman and N'Jeri Eaton. And our executive producer is Abby O'Neil.
Please remember to fill out our survey at npr.org/podcastsurvey. It will really help us out.
GARCIA: Music is provided by DJ Elly (ph) as well as myself.
And I actually want to shoutout the security in the NPR New York office. Hussein (ph) and Eggo (ph) are just quality individuals. I so look forward to them greeting us when we arrive. They're just lovely human beings. We haven't shouted them out the whole season. So, Eggo, Hussein, y'all the fam.
If you like the show, you can hear more at npr.org. And please go to Apple Podcasts and rate, review and subscribe. That's how we know you are listening.
BARTOS: And if you'd like to follow us on Twitter, we are @stretchandbob. And on Instagram, we are @stretchandbobbito.
GARCIA: What about peace?
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