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Producer QMillion interview : inside Robert Glasper’s « Black Radio 2 »


Black Radio 2, the latest Robert Glasper Experiment album is out today. Producer/mixer QMillion tells Funk★U about his colaboration with « Rob' » and his many featured guests (Lalah Hathaway, Erykha Badu, Jill Scott, Snoop Dog, Norah Jones…). Interview.


FunkU : QMillion, can you introduce yourself ?

QMillion : My name is Qmillion Riddim. I am a producer/mixer based in Los Angeles for the last twenty years.  A large portion of my upbringing was in Minneapolis. That is also where I have my musical beginnings. I began playing music when I was In elementary first on saxophone, then keyboards. My brother and I formed a band in 6th grade with our neighbors. By Junior High we were touring the school system. In High school I was playing Bass in the HS Jazz band and Saxophone in the Concert Band, while my brother and I were playing keyboards in nightclubs behind Taja Sevelle who later signed with Prince. My second year at the University of Minnesota I joined Jesse Johnson’s Band. (from The Time, most recently touring with D’Angelo). All of the records I did in Minneapolis I wrote and produced with Jesse Johnson.


Can you tell us about your professional carreer before meeting Robert Glasper ?

I have been blessed to have a career that involves more than one roll, because each aspect deepens my understanding and appreciation for the other. I have been a tour musician with Jesse Johnson, The Time, Billy Preston. I have produced and written records for After 7, Paula Abdul, Juelz Santana, Kurupt, Brownstone, and I have and still provide music for feature films like The Sweetest Thing, The Five Heartbeats, to tv shows like Glee, Greek, Blue Bloods, etc.

What are your inspirations and your favourite albums in your record collection ?

I love so much music. I listen to everything, Hip-Hop, rap, Pop, EDM, but I have to say that when I am not listening to music for work purposes, my favorite is to put my Fela collection in shuffle and let it hit me.

Are you just a mix engineer in studio or do you also do some live mix ?

I have mixed live. Don’t do it much these days. I toured with Mint Condition as FOH, and have also mixed Toni Braxton Live in Vegas. It has its own set of challenges totally different than the studio.

When and how did you meet Robert Glasper and his band ?

I first met Rob in Brooklyn in 2008 for the recording of the electric side of Double Booked. How I got the gig was through Chris Dave. I have known Chris forever, like when he first left Howard to play for Mint Condition. Chris and I had been working together on various projects over the years and he convinced Rob that I should come to Brooklyn and track and mix the project.

What was the creative process on Black Radio 2 ?  Does it differ compared to the first opus ? What about that particular sound ?

The creative process that I witness at the studio is pure genius. Robert, Derek Hodge, K. C., Chris and now Mark Colenberg are all masters at their craft and have been playing together forever. These guys have incredible ears, sensitivity, and sensibility. So when you read that almost all of the songs on Black Radio 1 and 2 were first takes. The energy that is exchanged is never duplicated because it is fluid, subject to change. As far as the sound…I don’t know. Rob is a hip-hop head, I’m a hip hop head, and I love bass and for things to be phat. I guess I have the memory of making records on tape all those years that I’m always trying to bring that warmth and solidness to my mixes.

How much time did the mix took on Black Radio 2 ? Can u compare it with the first opus ? Which instrument is the most difficult to mix ?

Both records took about a month to mix each. There are a lot of songs on both projects with bonus songs in different territories etc.  I spend 2-3 weeks with it at my studio, then Rob comes and we spend a week together. I enjoy this process because it gives me time to explore and experiment. Also when you consider that many of the tunes ended up going to radio, they are competing with songs that have been up on a board for 3 days, you don’t want to feel rushed or limited.

How does it feel to work with Lalah Hathaway, Erykha Badu, Jill Scott, Snoop Dogg, Norah Jones, Bilal, Common, Emeli Sandé, Dwele, Anthony Hamilton, Eric Roberson, Lupe Fiasco or Ledisi ? Did they all record at you lab in L.A ? Can you tell us some anecdotes about these great personalities ?

Working with the illustrious list of musical greats on Black Radio 1 and 2 was like a dream come true! Nearly everyone who participated was present at the sessions, so one day you have Macy Gray coming in, Eric Roberson is there finishing, the next day its Faith Evans blowing your mind only to have Common come in and do the same. It was amazing. Black Radio 1 we had Stokley, King, Lalah and Bilal all in the studio together vibing. Weeks like that don’t happen every month or even every year. All of BR2 (with the exception of a couple vocals) was tracked at Westlake Studio in D where Michael did Thriller. For Snoop’s vocal I went to his studio to track. Let me say that to partake in Jah gift with Uncle Snoop was a highlight.

What are your projects now ? Do you work with foreign artists ? Can u tell us who ?

I do a lot of work with foreign artists. I recently mixed Bo Saris’s new album, he’s from Holland and the single is #1 this month. He lives in London now and his album comes out next year. Also Dreamon, a rapper from Norway, I mixed the lead single from his new album. Hyleen Gil, a french neo soul singer, is on her second project and I worked on both. And I literally just finished mixing Seun Kuti’s next release due out next year as well. Projects I’m working on now are Unseen Lab Recordings is having its Ten year anniversary and releasing compilations with work I’ve produced and written for Beenie Man, Wayne Wonder, I-Octane, E-Dee, Ms Triniti etc, so I’m wrapping up new songs for that project. In addition I am completing production on a singer-songwriter, Jillian Speer.

What do you think about the current music industry ?  According to you, are BR1 and 2 groundbreakers in Afro-american music ?

Well, there are good things about how music is right now and there are challenges as well. What I am excited about is the way that Black Radio is being accepted it makes me feel like people are connecting with the organic realness in the music.  I think people feel the kind of magic that happens when a group sits down and plays together. Real music by real musicians.  It may be to early to say if BR1 and BR2 are trendsetting, but hopefully it will open more doors for artists to follow.

Interview : Jim Zelechowski

Robert Glasper Experiment Black Radio 2 (Blue Note/Universal).

QMillion (site officiel)