Robert Glasper is a jazz pianist with a knack for mellow, harmonically complex compositions that also reveal a subtle hip-hop influence. Since debuting as a leader during the mid-2000s, the Houston native has been crucial to the enduring relevance of Blue Note Records, blurring genre distinctions and regularly topping Billboard's Jazz Albums chart with highly collaborative recordings such as the Grammy-winning Black Radio (2011) and Black Radio 2 (2013), as well as ArtScience (2016), all credited to the Robert Glasper Experiment. In addition to guiding projects such as the soundtrack for Miles Ahead (another Grammy winner) and R+R=Now's Collagically Speaking, Glasper has contributed to dozens of other albums, most notably Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly. The mixtape Fuck Yo Feelings (2019) best exemplifies Glasper's obstinate resistance to expectations and devotion to spontaneous interplay.
Inspired to play piano by his mother, a gospel pianist and vocalist, Glasper attended Houston's High School for the Performing Arts. After graduation, he studied music at the New School University in Manhattan, where he found performance work with such luminaries as bassist Christian McBride, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, and others. After graduating college, Glasper worked with a variety of artists, including trumpeter Roy Hargrove, vocalist Carly Simon, and rapper Mos Def. The pianist released his debut album, Mood, on Fresh Sound New Talent in 2004. Canvas and In My Element followed in 2005 and 2007, respectively, on Blue Note Records.
Glasper returned to his original acoustic piano trio format with bassist Archer and drummer Damion Reid. They cut 2015's Covered live at Capitol Studios in front of an invited audience. The album's pre-release single was a reading of Radiohead's "Reckoner"; it was released in April, followed two months later by the album, which was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Jazz Instrumental album. Glasper also played on Kendrick Lamar's celebrated To Pimp a Butterfly and Maxwell's blackSUMMERS'night. For Don Cheadle's 2016 Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead, the pianist curated the soundtrack and wrote original music, which included contributions from Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Gary Clark, Jr. The album eventually won that year's Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual media. Glasper also recorded a Davis tribute album, Everything's Beautiful, celebrating what would have been the trumpeter's 90th birthday. Glasper reimagined classic tracks with an all-star list of collaborators who included Wonder, Muldrow, Erykah Badu, Hiatus Kaiyote, and John Scofield. Featuring the single "Ghetto Walkin'" fronted by Bilal, the album was issued that May.