dela: Glasper and Translation Lost

One of my best musical finds last year was an artist named dela. dela produces instrumentally rich hip hop songs. You might call him a beatmaker. Anyhow, I came across his album, The Robert Glasper Beat Tape, and was immediately enraptured. On his blog dela explains the concept of the album – he remixed numerous tracks from hip hop jazz pianist Robert Glasper, sampling certain phrases from Glasper’s stylings andb underpinning them with fresh beats. The result is a mellow yet sublime compilation of 9 songs that have forever changed the way I listen to jazz piano.

Before the Glasper tape, I had never entertained the possibility of hip hop piano. Conventional jazz piano, which I love, incorporates syncopation, hits on the off beat, and often cuts out of time entirely, but Glasper manages to create his own rhythmic flow that is guaranteed to make your head nod. Of course, after I heard dela’s beat tape I had to check out Glasper’s originals, and they did not disappoint. His songs are already quite rhythmically grounded, making dela’s reinterpretation seem natural, like a subtle augmentation more than a complete redux. In October Glasper came to Yoshi’s, and no way was I going to miss that show. I even spoke with him for a few minutes after the performance, I should have asked for an autograph. But hey, I follow him on Twitter now so that means everything, right?

This past week I received an email that dela had just released his latest album, “Translation Lost.” His beatmaking style remains unmistakable, although the collection is a bit more uneven than the Glasper tape. A good number of tracks are solid hip hop joints, while several (such as the title track) are more experimental in nature. Part of the album was conceived during dela’s stint in Montreal, hence the French lyrics in several tracks. Don’t ask me to translate. My favorites are both tracks on which the rapper Blu appears, and the vocoder-heavy track “West Side Story.” dela proves he has no desire to be a conventional producer, but that’s precisely why I enjoy his songs so much. If you’re looking for a relaxed, creative hip hop vibe, give dela a listen.

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