Robert Glasper is no stranger to incorporating a tight jazz drum or an intricate bassline into a hip-hop song, an R&B song or even a jazz song, for that matter. His newest sonic endeavor, F— Yo Feelings, serenades listeners’ ears with a raw yet streamlined tone that’s reminiscent of a roller coaster: you never know which way the track will shift, but you know you’re strapped in tight and along for the ride.
Glasper, a trained pianist, has three Grammys and an Emmy Award under his belt, not to mention he played the piano on “These Walls” from Kendrick Lamar’s award-winning album, To Pimp a Butterfly. He further explores these chops on F— Yo Feelings, but certainly doesn’t have anything else to prove with this album.
The record begins with “Intro,” easing the listener into Glasper’s eclectic style. In the song, Affion Crockett raps, “Robert Glasper is a talented young man/ But he looks old as f—/ … F— his feelings.” The intensity is an effective setup for the rest of the songs on the album and an unapologetic ode to not caring what people think.
At 71 minutes long, F— Yo Feelings is a behemoth of an album that Glasper intends to read as more of a mixtape. With 19 songs, each packed full of lyrics informing how we should handle our perception of others, the album is a full auditory overload in the best way possible. Glasper doesn’t shy away from highlighting the improvisational aspects of jazz, and that is arguably the most admirable part of his album.
F— Yo Feelings features big-name rappers, singers and musicians, such as Denzel Curry, YBN Cordae, Herbie Hancock, Andra Day and Yebba, to name a few. These artists do an excellent job of bringing their own distinct styles to Glasper’s album — each song stands on its own, yet composes an essential part of F— Yo Feelings.
“This Changes Everything (feat. Buddy, Denzel Curry, Terrace Martin, James Poyser)” reads the most like a typical rap song, and even then, has heavy jazz undertones. “Let Me In (feat. Mick Jenkins)” has only one main verse, but it fits in perfectly with the extended jazz stylings of Glasper and is similar to most of the other songs on the album.
One of the highlights of the album is undoubtedly “Indulging in Such,” a pure, winding, experimental jazz song with no lyrics. “Indulging in Such” allows Glasper to remind the listener why he’s one of the best at what he does. The smooth piano, plucky bass and artful drums possess an air of elegance, underscored by the general chaos that comes with jazz and hip-hop.
F— Yo Feelings has songs with pointed messages, especially important in the modern day, such as “Endangered Black Woman (feat. Andra Day and Staceyann Chin).” Day’s normally soothing vocals take on a tone of power as she embodies the strong, independent woman persona. “Expectations (feat. Baby Rose, Rapsody, James Poyser)” further reinforces the notion of acceptance with lyrical mastery, saying, “Ya’ll used to talk about rap being ugly and black/ Now I am pretty much the greatest.” “Aah Whoa (feat. Muhsinah and Queen Sheba)” preaches, “You can only hate someone/ You once truly loved,” which, in context, sounds like a moving slam poetry piece.
But even though most of the words on Glasper’s record are delivered by other big-name rappers and singers, it’s worth noting that his own voice is excellent, particularly showcased in “I Want You.” Glasper ends his album with more of his own singing, collaborating with Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def, on “Treal,” a more than seven-minute-long masterpiece that flows seamlessly into the final track, “Cold.”While some songs on the record may be hard to swallow for those not accustomed to the unstructured nature of jazz music, overall, F— Yo Feelings is an album for jazz connoisseurs and casual R&B or rap listeners alike. The experimental qualities of the album work to expand the musical boundaries of a typical listener. Glasper’s sprawling compilation asserts his prowess in incorporating jazz into mainstream music and as a frontrunner in the field of contemporary music.
Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].