Robert Glasper: Fuck Yo Feelings

Robert Glasper: Fuck Yo Feelings

Throwing open his studio doors, the pianist aims for a loose, mixtape-like vibe, but the stacked guest list yields a scattershot party that only ends up overstaying its own welcome.

In the mini-documentary that accompanies Robert Glasper’s Fuck Yo Feelings, the Grammy-winning pianist and composer explains, “I want this whole thing to be mixtape vibe, so when we put it together it’s like a beat here, might be a song here, then we fuck around talking here.” To achieve this sort of free-form setup, Glasper welcomed a guest list of MCs, singers, and musicians—including Yasiin Bey, Herbie Hancock, YBN Cordae, Denzel Curry, and Audra Day—to pass through a studio in New York City and jam. The goal was to allow the artists to form organic bonds and strike up creative collaborations on the fly. But despite the accomplished cast, there’s little spark about the fruits of those sessions: Fuck Yo Feelings is a 71-minute melange of tepid sonic backdrops that lacks the vital momentum and progression inherent in any effective mixtape.

Fuck Yo Feelings begins with an almighty misstep in the shape of the nearly five-minute “Intro,” hosted by comedian and actor Affion Crockett. The premise has Crockett roasting various band members and riffing on the no-fucks-given album title over a growling bass line. It’s a cringe fest. After encouraging the listener to tell the person nearest to them, “Fuck yo feelings,” Crockett breaks into a rant: “You are welcome to fuck they feelings with my dick, disease-free fucking, yeah, fuck they feelings, nasty porno style with some cream on they god damn back.” The barbs are neither shocking or amusing—and the “Intro” completely jars against the prevailing mellow tone of the next 18 songs that follow.

The core sound of Fuck Yo Feelings brings to mind the dusky, keys-laced mid-tempo beats that the Ummah trio of Q-Tip, J Dilla, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad mined during the 1990s. Only here the loops are replaced by drummer Chris Dave’s clipped snares, bassist Derrick Hodge’s warm low-end patterns, and Glasper’s feathery keys. The players’ chops are undisputed, but the relaxed, easygoing nature of the grooves they slip into sap the MCs’ bars of energy. Sometimes this happens quite literally, like when the usually erudite Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins gets pushed out of “Let Me In” early, departing the track and letting the song amble along for another three minutes of spacey keys and tippy-tappy drums.

When Glasper ushers singers to the forefront, this style of low-key neo-soul production works. During the album’s midsection, the sultry, hushed vocals of Yebba, Audra Day, Baby Rose, and SiR seem to sink into the tracks they sing on. For a moment, there’s a seamless blend between vocal tone and musical backing. But the spell doesn’t last. Instead, the last third of the album becomes a meandering slog that takes in a four-minute shout-out track featuring Glasper’s slurry, pitched-down vocals, plus a series of free-associative musings courtesy of Yasiin Bey that, clocking in at seven minutes, sound like their own self-contained project.

The sprawling structure of Fuck Yo Feelings suffers from the same excess that blighted the hip-hop mixtape market during the 2000s, when shunting 20 or 30 tracks onto a project was erroneously seen as a smart hustle rather than something likely to exhaust a listener. Towards the end of Glasper’s mixtape, he names a track after GZA’s crime-rhyme classic Liquid Swords. This is the same learned MC who also once advocated, “Make it brief, son, half short and twice strong”—advice that would have served Fuck Yo Feelings well.

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