Miles Davis and Robert Glasper feat. Phonte - "Violets"

by PopMatters Staff

8 April 2016

"Violets" is an excellent jazz-hop single to honor the great Miles Davis.

Emmanuel Elone: Robert Glasper really does a fantastic job with Phonte on his new Miles Davis tribute album. “Violets” is a song of contrasts; the soft piano stands in opposition to the punchy percussion, and the steady rhythm of the instrumentation only makes Phonte’s jazzy, rambling flow even more prominent. Taken as a whole, the differences in the track’s individual elements keeps the song dynamic and interesting, even though it is a light piano ballad at its core, making “Violets” an excellent jazz-hop single to honor the great Miles Davis. [8/10]

Chris Ingalls: Eh. I love Glasper, and if Miles were still with us, a collaboration between the two of them sounds like a terrific idea. Jazz and hip-hop have worked together over the years with varying levels of success, but here it sort of falls flat. Didn’t anyone learn anything from Doo-Bop, that failed attempt to fuse Miles with rhymes? Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t actually hear Miles anywhere on this track. Further research shows that Everything’s Beautiful, the Glasper album that this track is from, is actually Glasper collaborating with a variety of contemporary artists and using Miles as an “influence,” and although this is done in total cooperation with Miles’ family, it seems a bit exploitative, especially given the fact that Don Cheadle’s Miles biopic is currently in theaters. I’m sure everyone’s heart is in the right place, but something still seems off. [5/10]

Jordan Blum: The mixture of hip-hop, jazz, and soulful female singing instantly reminds me of what Janelle Monáe does on her records (specifically, The ArchAndroid). It’s a very chill vibe underneath the surface, yet the dominant rapping contrasts it with vigor and depth. It feels both retro and fresh. [7/10]

Pryor Stroud: Excerpted from Glasper’s forthcoming album of Miles Davis reworkings, reinterpretations, and reimaginings, “Violets” is an even-tempered jazz-hop experiment sprawled out over an ever-circulating piano motif and reverberating vocal samples. “Close your eyes / Envision the calls for freedom / But when they open / It’s a struggle to carpe diem”, guest contributor Phonte raps, offering a perfect image to understand the song’s ethos: while it’s laid-back groove may coax your eyelids down and your body towards a deep mellowness, its lyrical potency wakes you up to a stark social reality. [6/10]

Chad Miller: The piano and the beat seems like they never clicked rhythmically. So basically everything just sounded a little off to me. I mean the piano and the melody sounded pretty, but I wasn’t sure if it all belonged together. The second verse seems to do a lot better job keeping everything together though, especially when it sped up. It was a really good verse, and that was just the cherry on top. [6/10]

SCORE: 6.40

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