Expectations: New Robert Glasper and Foreign Exchange albums

The final quarter of 2013 just got interesting! September 24, The Foreign Exchange crew will release their fourth album, Love in Flying Colors (more info) with a cast of returning, familiar featured artists. The following month, October 29, The Robert Glasper Experiment will release the sequel, Black Radio 2 (more info) with the Glasper crew serving as house band to a new cast of “supporting” characters. Each of these critically popular crews can easily be considered personal favorites, but how should we color our expectations for these coming releases?

Reinvention and experimentation is the expectation for Foreign Exchange releases now. Much like Outkast albums in the 90’s, the mixture of your favorite artist and their unexpected musical turns & twists creates a sense of mystery and anticipation before you even crack the plastic on your vinyl. Their albums always come off as sincere forms of self-expression with no regard for convention or fan expectation which is rare and appreciated in an industry where sales and money equal the bottom line. Luckily, owning your own indie label provides relief from many obstacles a major label would place on your integrity to achieve success. They have a strong, faithful fan base plus a Grammy nod for being themselves, so expectation for Love in Flying Colors is for it to be well, a Foreign Exchange album…

Robert Glasper jumped on my radar with his 2007 album, In My Element. Fusing Jazz and Hip Hop, Glasper carved out a name in the industry by performing with Hip Hop stalwarts like Yassin Bey and Q-Tip while simultaneously dropping Jazz releases. In 2012, the soulful, Grammy award winning Black Radio was unleashed to critical and commercial acclaim, much to Blue Note’s pleasure I’m sure! In a characteristic major label move, they have decided to follow the successful formula, replacing Glasper’s underground friends/associates with higher profile, crossover artists. Snoop Lion, Brandy and Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy will appear on the sequel amidst artists you’d expect like Lupe Fiasco who returns from the initial album and Jill Scott. Hidden Beach’s Unwrapped series looms large in my mind as a cautionary reminder of when a labor of love achieves mainstream success and gets milked of its original identity entirely. One can only hope these artists were chosen by Glasper to achieve his musical vision and not by Blue Note to feed their money machine.

I’ll approach Black Radio 2 with trepidation, which I hope will be quickly overcome and ends up on repeat like its predecessor. I know this may seem an incorrect, subjective approach but I love when an album exceeds my expectations and proves me wrong. Love in Flying Colors, on the other hand, will be approached in the opposite manner. There will be no expectation at first listen, only the normal insert, press play and listen until it please me or assaults my musical sensibilities.

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